Influencers have become an integral part of the social media ecosystem. At a time where platforms like Instagram and Facebook have seamlessly become part of people’s lives, influencers call the shots. It has reached a point where social media users trust influencer opinions and recommendations above formal brand messages.
While up until a decade ago, this was a niche space, the influencer marketing’s impact on brand adoption and consumption has exploded in recent years. According to a 2021 study by Edelman, 62% of consumers claimed to trust messages from people more than those from brands.
A Forbes study further revealed that 49.3% of respondents admitted to buying products based on recommendations from social media influencers. It’s hardly surprising that brands have realised the potential of influencers in promoting their products and tapping into the target market segment. At this point the influencer marketing industry has evolved to the size of USD 7.68 billion in 2020 and is growing at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of more than 30%.
Influencer marketing entails using social media influencers to endorse a brand’s offerings to their followers and promote brand adoption. Influencers can have a varying size of influence, with those having less than 10,000 followers considered as micro-influencers. While influencer marketing is the trend currently, brands have also had to develop strategies to identify the ‘right’ influencers whose content and messages are aligned with their own.
Once this association is established, it can be cultivated in a structured manner to sustainably achieve brand objectives. But to begin with, a good influencer strategy has to be devised and followed to achieve concrete results.
So, what is a good influencer strategy?
A good influencer strategy should serve as a roadmap and guide the brand’s association with all its influencers, every step of the way. Therefore, it has to be meticulously designed with the following aspects chalked out:
- Brand goals to be achieved
- Target audience or market segment to be tapped into
- Type of influencers to be associated with
- Type of association to be established
- The brand message to be pushed through influencers
- Budget and timeline
The process of defining your influencer marketing strategy should begin with defining clear objectives. These can be:
- Brand Awareness: Influencers can improve awareness and educate the target audience about a brand’s core value proposition. While customers may have little patience with a brand’s advertisements, they can happily spend hours consuming unboxing videos, product usage, and reviews from their trusted influencers.
- Lead Generation: As influencers discuss your product with their followers, they can also motivate them to seek more information or explore your brand deeply. More often than not, social traffic can be routed to your account or website through influencers’ accounts and generate viable leads for you.
- Sales: Influencers can also drive active sales by giving their followers an easily accessible platform to buy your promoted products. The sales funnel can become much more efficient and target customers can quickly graduate from the awareness stage to the action stage.
- New Market Development: Social media also becomes a powerful platform to introduce completely novel concepts and brands to consumers via influencers. Furthermore, if you want to reach new target audiences or cultivate secondary markets for your product, influencers with a niche group of followers can help you do that.
Once these objectives are defined for your brand, you need to then develop an influencer marketing framework to efficiently execute and achieve concrete results.
Devising an Influencer Marketing Framework
An influencer marketing framework can have four core steps that can be repeated iteratively to achieve optimal gains from influencer association. These are:
- Define: Start by defining the target audience that you wish to reach through influencers. After identifying target market segments to reach via social media platforms, you can develop descriptive customer profiles. This step is critical to not only position your product properly but to also find the right influencers for your brand.
- Discover: With your target audience defined, you now need to discover influencers who can add value to your brand. You can look for them via keyword search, topic, or domain search on a given social platform. You can also search for trending content and backlinks in your particular domain and identify the content creators behind it. The influencers, thus discovered, can be nano or micro-influencers, social media influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers, celebrities, thought leaders, or domain experts. Ultimately, their audience and message should be relevant to your brand.
- Engage: Having identified the right influencers to partner with, you next have to budget for an effective association with them. Based on their follower base and whether they have to produce content for you, each influencer partnership can cost you differently. Payments can be made in terms of -
- Free products or samples to try and recommend
- A fixed price for each post
- Retainer agreement for various promotional activities for a given period
- Freebies plus payment upon achieving certain sales target
- Percentage of profits generated from the leads provided by them
- Co-create: Once the influencers are empaneled, you can then co-create content with them or give them the freedom to promote your brand in their voice. Co-creation can ensure consistency of brand message across channels and multiple influencers. At the same time, some influencers have a unique way of engaging their audience and giving them creative freedom can add value to your brand.
Measuring and achieving brand objectives
Following an influencer marketing framework makes it easy to design an influencer strategy and seamlessly execute a campaign. While your target audience may not change for each campaign, you can monitor the performance of every influencer partner and content format used to promote your brand.
Every time you design a new campaign, changes can be made to your influencer network, level of association, content quality, and message. Whatever content drives the best results can be recreated. Similarly, the influencers that perform the best can be considered for deeper association and more rewarding payouts.
But to know what should be measured, you must revisit your brand objectives and goals. Based on the influencer marketing objectives that you started with, you can define some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or use performance monitoring metrics. For measuring brand awareness and customer engagement, for instance, you can track KPIs like website visits, page views, unique users, social mentions, shares, likes, comments, etc.
To measure leads and sales generated by the influencers associated with you, you can track opt-ins or sign-ups, new sales, and revenue realised after each influencer campaign. A measured approach ensures that you collect and use relevant data to assess the effectiveness of your influencer strategy. With each subsequent assessment, you can modify your strategy and roll out subsequent campaigns with a more potent message and intent.
In conclusion, a good influencer strategy is based on the foundation of clear brand and influencer marketing objectives. It has a definitive understanding of the target customer profile and knows what kind of brand message should be shared with the audience.
Furthermore, what makes a brand’s influencer strategy truly effective is the identification of the right influencers and partnering with them to generate mutual value. If the influencers feel that they can endorse your brand’s offerings to their followers without losing relevance and credibility, they can be inspired to collaborate and drive better results. At the same time, if they are fairly rewarded for their efforts, then long term collaborations can be cultivated for sustainable returns.
Finally, a good influencer strategy can never remain static and must always evolve with the changing brand needs. That is why regular monitoring of influencer actions, customer reactions, and achievement of brand objectives is important. By measuring key performance metrics and indicators, you can track how well your influencer strategy is doing and adapt it to reap rewards.