Influencer marketing – what is it, how to do it, and how to measure it.
by Rebecca Roberts
Content and influencer marketing, for many of us, is effectively the new way we talk about advertising when it was decided that advertising wasn’t really as effective as developing more of a conversation with consumers – and breathe!
Whilst many feel ‘influencer’ campaigns are the latest bandwagon to clamber and conquer, let’s not forget that people have always been heavily influenced by other people, the difference today however is that we can use a whole new sphere of communications to do this and increasingly, can measure its results.
As with any other advertising (content marketing, PR, etc, etc, etc) it’s not always an exact science when it comes to saying seeing X piece of content made me buy Y – however, we are able to get a better grasp on the indicators, sometimes explicit, sometimes part of the puzzle, so let’s firstly talk about how to set out the objectives and measure an influencer campaign.
How do we measure?
What action are you after?
· If it’s purchase/transaction then you can line up discount codes or affiliate links, whereby sales can give kick-backs to influencers who promote them – it’s a quid pro quo. Amazon offer this on pretty much their entire product range. You can lose an element of control over what it’s appearing next to but if its volume you’re after combining it with generating more content from the right influencers is worthwhile.
· If you’re looking for more of a campaigning, supportive voice from your influencers you have to work out how you’d measure the success of this. Creating assets like digital badges, pledges, a selfie-support aspect for instance, could give you some metrics, as would encouraging people to share their story or sign a petition. This can give you some genuine engagement opportunities and the ability to measure it, plus the wider reach it can then have.
· Awareness? Don’t fall foul on this one. If you’re using influencers to add some content to a broader campaign with other elements then it might just be a content strategy, and that’s fine. However, you may also want to actually demonstrate an increased awareness; creating landing pages with relevant information and calls to action might help you track this, as would linking to other data – maybe you’re wanting to boost social media sign up, or specifically contribute to sales. Think carefully about whether you want something in exchange or you’ll miss the opportunity to make the most from it and you’ll have massive drop-off rates or as I like to call them ‘dead-ends’ to a campaign (I’m always after a nice journey that has an actual route and purpose).
· Bigger life choice – like University? Maybe it’s too much to expect an influencer to totally change a life decision, like a choice of university, but it could prove a really valid part of the research process. Influencer campaigns amongst people who have no connection to a University would feel uncomfortable, so mobilising your army of students in a way that makes it easy to find out more and connect with the institution is perhaps better to measure and doesn’t disguise the process of decision making beyond what it should be.
Check out Bournemouth and Cambridge, who do this really well. This would also be a really viable approach for engaging prospective employees – trust ratings are likely to be much higher with other ‘people like me’ than from those at the top when making big decisions.
· Content & Engagement: Christian Ronaldo reportedly charges an eye-watering £310,000 per Instagram post and whilst you may have budget for a headlining influencer, you also need to be mindful that the content they will provide and share is more likely to be shorter/limited than a smaller influencer so maybe don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. I think a headline star or two can work really well but increasingly combining these with so-called ‘micro influencers’ can give you an effective top-down and bottom-up approach whereby you’re getting a good breadth of content that people easily find if they’re inspired by a bigger name, plus smaller audiences are often very engaged on a personal level with the bloggers they follow. Make sure you ask influencers what kind of content they’re able to produce, let them contribute to the creativity, type and breadth of it before over-stipulating that you need three tweets, an insta post and a blog…. You may miss out on something better they can offer. You can then use the usual social metrics to see how the content works out, get positive message ratings and be sure to encourage links back to you and promote the fact they are #ads (just so everyone is clear and also not to breach advertising standards).
Who’s an influencer and how much will it cost?
Aside from constantly being asked to nab Zoella (as lovely as she is, I’ve not had the budget or relevant campaign so far!), it can take a little time working through who the right talent is for your campaign. Ultimately this will come down to budget so here’s my pennyworth on how to approach this.
· Budget: if you have a few thousand or more and want one or more headline celebrity types to endorse/support and add influence to your campaign then you need to spend some time thinking about the ‘fit’ they have with your campaign. What would they say about it, are they the right person who is likely to have used your product anyway or will it seem weird? Whilst you spend time having a think yourself, you may also want to contact a few talent management places. For the ‘normal’ celebrity there are heaps and heaps of agencies to choose from but for the social influencer I’d recommend Gleam Futures. If you’re after a team of micro influencers too you might be able to offer them a product, experience or personalised gift (I’ve seen personalised jackets, personal packs, freebies and vouchers for example) and finding time to brief them properly about your campaign to help them connect (and when) will make the most of their involvement.
· Lack of Budget: So, the good news is there are still a few options for you if you’re lacking on the budget front, but the cost here is time. Discount codes and aggregated links can still offer a sales incentive for the micro influencer, and even bigger names if the fit is right and they want a free product anyway, but searching for the right targeted influencers and coming up with the best approach for them can be well worth the effort. Really fitting content for often a very niche but engaged group, could be worth far much more than a broader catch-all approach.
· Who? It’s worth casting an eye over your current followers and network; do you have existing customers who are already brand ambassadors and who could have a bigger impact? Searching for related hashtags to your products and services can also help you find associated budding influencers who could be worth approaching. You don’t have to do this manually – you could look at listening tools that searches through profiles, or a platform that helps you measures and scale up campaigns – for example Upfluence, Blogfoster, Buzzsumo, Traackr, Onalytica amongst others. This is frequently called ‘IRM’ – influencer relationship management (basically inspired by CRM, but designed to target relevant influencers). Then, there are agencies who can do this for you – of all sizes, but again this comes down to time and budget.
Is it worth it?
So as with many ‘new’ hip and wondrous things in marketing, there is still a mixed approach to impactful influencer campaigns, with the majority of feedback being that measuring ROI is the biggest challenge (see more stats below). Plus, there’s no doubt a fair bit of experimenting is happening to work out what works for different brands, and lots of requests for Zoella and ‘awareness’ to boot.
But, there are some demonstrable developments that influencers are continuing to cut through the usual ‘advertising’ and is more trusted – so it’s here to stay (for now at least). As long as it’s seen as a valid contributor and not the sole answer (remember how we all through that digital stats sounded too good to be true?).
A nice little example of why influencer campaigns can have a significant impact here from Iceland, who made the decision to drop the celebrity endorsements in favour of micro-influencers and the results have proved effective for brand profile and customer engagement.
Glossier, the Manhattan-based beauty start-up recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2017, has established a cult status (seemingly overnight) to their ever-expanding network of micro-influencers and super-fans. Instead of big names, they too have relied on “regular women” to spread the word (let’s remember Avon did this impeccably door-to-door once upon a time!). Their recent referral program enabled their more influential followers to offer product discounts and other incentives.
Sperry Shoes (no, me neither, I don’t buy much male footwear) is a boat show brand who began working with more than 100 micro-influencers at the end of 2016 on Instagram to create content for their followers. They did this by looking at who were fans of their brand already sharing high-quality photos, and started inviting them to develop visual content for their official Instagram.
· Over 80% of marketing and communication professionals expect to begin an influencer marketing campaign within the year (eMarketer)
· However, 78% of marketers say that determining the success of influencer campaigns is a top challenge in 2017.
· Influencer campaigns have proven effective for over 80% of marketers who have tried them
· Customers acquired through word-of-mouth (such as influencer marketing) are retained at a 37% higher rate than those acquired through other means (Deloitte)
· When social media is part of their buyer’s journey, customers tend to convert at a 129% higher rate. They are also four times as likely to spend significantly more than those without a social component.
· Reading or writing social media reviews and comments will influence the shopping behaviour of 67% of consumers
· For more Influencer stats check out the State of Influencer Marketing 2017 by Linqia
Rebecca Roberts is founder of Thread & Fable
image via The National Library of New Zealand