Harness the Power of Influencer Marketing

Is 2021 the year you launch your brand’s influencer marketing campaign? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone!

This year, brands are expected to spend $6 billion on influencer marketing. Why? Because teaming up with the right influencer can help you shatter your business goals by introducing your brand to new audiences, fast-tracking customer loyalty and linking your public image to a well-known thought leader.

That being said, many marketers don’t quite know how to break into the influencer marketing game. That’s where the American Marketing Association Chicago’s Influencer Marketing Power Panel comes in.

At this recent event, we learned from some of the brightest minds in the industry:

Keep reading to have all of your burning questions about influencer marketing answered, from how to identify the perfect influencers for your brand to how to measure influencer marketing ROI and more.

What does influencer marketing mean to you?

Thomas explains that influencer marketing gives you the privilege to, “borrow someone else’s audience with the intent of sharing your [brand’s] experience to make meaningful connections.”

In other words, you can put your brand on the fast track to recognition and audience engagement minus the grueling task of building your follower base from scratch.

Gandhi adds that influencer marketing is, “the practice of working with experts and insiders who have active networks with the personas you’re trying to reach to help you drive measurable business results.”

Her inclusion of measurable results challenges the common misconception that influencer marketing efforts can’t be measured.

Finally, Formost builds on this point by adding that influencers, “take a shortcut to someone’s audience’s trust. The most effective influencer marketing campaigns are those that allow brands to convey a sense that people can trust them because this influencer, who is a trusted expert, trusts that brand.”

Trust is a cornerstone of customer loyalty, but it’s not easy to come by, Foremost said. The right influencer will signal to their followers that your brand can be trusted right off the bat.

How do you find the right influencers to represent your brand?

Finding the best influencer for your brand can be intimidating. The internet puts thousands of influencers at your fingertips, all with their own unique audiences, but which influencers are best for your brand?

The panelists recommend a combination of approaches, from good old-fashioned Google to third-party services and the “human eye” approach. 

Thomas points out that your influencers may already be right under your nose in the form of customers.

At Southwest, Thomas and her team will first approach existing customers before seeking influencers elsewhere.

“We’ve been lucky that a lot of our influencer sourcing has come from people who already want to work with us as opposed to people we’ve had to discover,” Thomas said. “Our customer base is so diverse—it’s everything from family travelers to business travelers to older retired couples, so we’ve been fortunate enough to create this arsenal of customers who have an influential following that we can tap into.”

Ghandi emphasizes the importance of approaching the influencer sourcing process with a “human eye.”

She explains that, “there are a lot of Google lists out there of any kind of influencer you can find. But then you also have to look at the influencers and do vetting.”

Finding a match between influencer voice and brand voice is key, otherwise, you may wind up with someone who is political, controversial, or simply doesn’t share the same values.

In addition, some influencers may look great on the surface, but a deeper look at their social media presence could raise red flags. Ghandi recommends asking questions like:

  • Are people commenting?
  • What are they saying?
  • Are they creating the right kinds of conversations?

The answers to these questions will help you narrow down the right influencers for your brand.

How can you safeguard against “influencer fraud?”

When scouting for the perfect influencer to represent your brand, it’s important to keep in mind that not all influencers are made alike.

In fact, some aren’t actually influencers at all. Influencer fraud is a practice where a random person on the internet creates a fake influencer persona.

Fraudulent influencers will waste your time and money, and potentially tarnish the image you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. That’s why it’s critical to approach influencer sourcing with a discerning eye.

When sourcing new influencers, Kombol follows a five-point alert system. For example, an influencer who has gained a ton of followers in a very short period of time or who has a very low post-to-follower ratio is probably not who they claim to be.

Formost cautions against relying solely on technology when sourcing influencers. Detecting influencer fraud is best performed with a human eye.

She recommends taking a close look at what kind of content they’re putting out and what kind of engagement that content is receiving. It’s usually fairly easy to detect inauthentic activity and bot followers.

Some platforms, like Tagger, use a vetting process that assigns each influencer an authenticity score. This helps streamline the process of vetting your influencers and takes some of the uncertainty out of sourcing influencers.

Three tips for launching a successful influencer marketing campaign

At Southwest Airlines, Thomas uses an influencer playbook with three-parts:

  • What is influencer marketing?
  • What do I want the influencer marketing strategy to look like for my brand?
  • What will the influencer process look like in terms of recruiting, vetting, onboarding, measuring, and reporting?

“This should be a fluid document that changes as your company goals change and as your teams change,” she said. 

Gandhi builds on this by saying that in addition to having your strategy laid out, you need to know the answer to “why are you doing influencer marketing?” And the answer shouldn’t be “because it’s the latest buzzword!” Once you know your “why,” you need to move onto who you’re going to partner with.

It’s this three-part approach of what-why-who strategy that Gandhi uses to approach all of her influencer marketing campaigns.

For companies that are small or brand new to influencer marketing, Gandhi also recommends starting out with a pilot program for only two or three influencers. That way you can test the waters and scale-up as needed to minimize pressure and maximize opportunities for learning and improving.

Formost stresses the importance of hiring influencers with the appropriate size audience for your goals and budget.

  • If your goal is to drive action and engagement, a “micro-influencer” with an audience-reach of between 10,000 and 50,000 followers is perfect, because they tend to have higher engagement rates.
  • If your goal is developing brand awareness, then select a mid-to macro-influencer with a larger audience, between 100,000 and 1 million is key.

How Can You Accomplish Diversity in Influencer Marketing?

Thomas recommends starting with a close look at your customers and their demographics. At Southwest, it caters to a diverse group of fliers. Its customers span the full gamut of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and more.

“Every travel story is different, and we want to make sure we’re telling stories through our influencers that not only matter but are relatable to everyone,” Thomas said. 

With that in mind, it’s important to identify influencers who are speaking to a diverse audience, as they have the best ability to reach customers from all walks of life.

Thomas also emphasizes the fact that putting diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of a business “has to be a top-down initiative, it’s not something that just one segment of your company can focus on.”

How Can You Get Creative With Influencer Content Briefs?

Listen to your influencers—don’t approach the campaign with a script in hand and expect your influencer to simply read a set of lines.

While it’s great to go into the process with a marketing campaign in mind, Gandhi suggests talking to two or three influencers and seeking their input.

You may discover that your campaign has already been done before, or that it needs some serious tweaks before it’s audience-ready.

As marketers, we naturally have a biased view of our campaigns—we think they’re the best thing since sliced bread.

Influencers, however, are “sitting in the outside world where they see other things from other brands, so they can really help you and be a guide,” Gandhi said. “You want to get that feedback loop going so they will be comfortable telling you that because that will make your program a lot better.”

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