Wield the Power of Your Influencer

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The very young discipline of influencer marketing has instantly become a vital tool for many marketers looking to capitalize on current media consumption habits—as in, mobile and social. And it may have gotten a significant boost in potency from Facebook’s recent algorithmic changes.

The truth is, influencers wield a lot of power. Consumers choose who they want to follow – signaling to marketers those followers have bought in to believing. Taste-makers, style makers, news makers also offer more than just facts, they can convey inspiration and passion—important sentiments for marketers to tap into. Finally, influencers are often willing to let their followers be a part of the conversation, sharing their thoughts and providing feedback. And after all, who doesn’t want to be heard? Marketers that don’t harness this opportunity run the risk of missing out on a powerful brand-building proposition. And with Facebook’s recent move to downplay publishers’ content on its feed, influencers now have even less competition for eyeballs on the world’s biggest social platform.

As with everything on social media, tapping influencers should be approached with discipline and strategic rigor, and an eye toward the long play and authenticity. There’s a lot of homework to be done before one dives into a partnership with an influencer, from researching and ID’ing the right partners, determining what you hope to get out of the relationship, to setting up the proper KPIs. In the end, it requires a balance of art and science.

Based on our success, here’s what can help brands evaluate, execute and get the most out of influencer marketing.

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Don’t influence in a vacuum

Influencer efforts work most effectively when they’re part of a broader marketing effort. Think to deploy your campaign across social channels, at point-of-sale, in your PR efforts, maybe even in your traditional messaging. Host events using your influencer. The more you use them and generate more content, the more authenticity you build.

It even helps to sell the use of influencers internally—because we all know conservative clients who may not be familiar or comfortable with the tactic.

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Be in it for the long haul

If you’re going to commit to working with influencers, err toward developing longer programs that don’t expect immediate results. A one-and-done approach will rarely if ever come across as authentic. In fact, it runs the risk of coming off as pay-to-play, which will turn off a majority of a brand’s customers. Authenticity is the lifeblood of influencers.

There’s also financial value in taking the long-tail approach, with efficiencies achieved, trust gained with the influencer, and the possibility of value-added thrown in if the influencer is willing to go beyond the strict confines of a contract.

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Focus on quality, not quantity

It may sound counter-intuitive, but in this field, engagement is more important than reach. How engaged is the community an influencer has cultivated? Compare Kim Kardashian, she of the 104 million followers on Instagram, to Bevcooks, a humorous foodie blogger, with a modest 73,000. Kardashian may have the greater reach by far, but her engagement isn’t going to be anywhere near Bevcooks, who has a more focused POV and an audience that’s seeking out her type of content.

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Look beyond the familiar

Don’t limit yourselves to influencers who are an extension of the brand. Say your brand is bold, colorful and messy—you don’t serve yourself well finding a personality that’s just like you. Influencers usually possess their own carefully cultivated aesthetic, and so do brands. They could clash with each other, and even if they don’t, well, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. And opposites often attract. So, keep your mind open when seeking out a partner.

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Good times ahead

The future is bright for influencer marketing, but over time these partnerships will take on more of the standards and structure of paid marketing tactics. And a few other hurdles will need to be cleared. For one, transparency is necessary–there still isn’t a lot of standardization about how influencers disclose their relationships with brands. We should expect to see more rigor around how influencers approach this.

The same goes for measurement–big brands ultimately will demand that influencer programs be measured more like other marketing channels. We may see more metrics like CPM being applied to influencer partnerships. This is good and bad. While it legitimizes influencer marketing and makes marketers more comfortable with it, it’s important not to lose that authenticity that exists right now. If it feels too formal and formulaic, consumers will start to tune out brand messages from influencers.

While not every brand is a candidate for success with an influencer marketing program, the power of influencers can be game-changing for many brands. If you’re strategic, disciplined and committed for the long haul, it might change your game, too.

(Original article