It’s an age-old adage in marketing: “be where your buyers are.” As society shifts, be it through transportation, technology or cultural morays, brands must shift their focus as well. Sometimes brands can reach large swaths of target audiences (aka, potential buyers) through certain influential individuals or platforms. It’s true that these influencers come in many forms and communicate in many ways. However, the word “influencers” has really come to be short hand for online influencers, digital influencers, or bloggers.
Early bloggers were a hybrid between ham radio broadcasters, experimenting with this new-fangled thing called ‘the internet’ in their basements, and citizen journalists reporting on what they observed around them. They have certainly evolved, and being a successful blogger is big business and a solid career. Some people who already had notoriety have used social media to parlay their brand into the digital sphere to become an even bigger voice – take Ashton Kutcher, who went from playing the goofy Kelso on That 70s Show to being one of the biggest (and earliest) key influencers on social media. If only Screech had used the same plan…
All this is to set up that these people have incredible followings of people, who could quite possibly be potential buyers of your brand. Influencers reach customers on a trusted level that direct communication from the brand often cannot (much like traditional news media, but without rigid journalistic ethics). By including influencers into your overall marketing strategy, content can be promoted on your behalf to increase conversions, awareness and build trust within a targeted community.
Understand the relationship
Influencers serve three purposes for brands. They:
- Can act as portals to target audiences
- Can offer third party validation to a brand
- Can be brand ambassadors and potential drivers of new business
Not only does influencer marketing support brand marketing objectives, it also helps the influencer create more relevant and engaging content for their audience while building a partnership with the brand. A happy and entertained audience is a win-win for both parties involved. Influencers can be engaged for short-term campaigns as well as ongoing partnerships that can grow into long-term brand advocacy.
As influencer marketing becomes more popular, it is now more important than ever to have a defined approach and evaluation method for online influencers. With so many people claiming to be experts in specific industries, it is critical to know:
- which ones will reach the audiences you want to reach;
- which influencers match your brand’s values;
- how they will position your brand in their communications;
- and the ROI related to each influencer.
At Jackson Spalding, we help clients select the partners that align best with their content marketing goals. Frankly, some online influencers are hacks and are only in this to grab money from uninformed marketing managers. We’ve learned some of the red flags that indicate a blogger is a shyster. Regarding the good ones, influencers we select can change based on specific objective needs, shifts in a client’s business goals or purely through analytics and campaign optimization.
Measure the influence
A specific content marketing measurement plan should be created to compliment your digital marketing strategies. It is important to know what is working so you can create similar opportunities in the future or utilize current data to optimize as you go. Having specific analytics (impressions, click-throughs, conversions, traffic, etc.) around the influencer’s properties you partner with can help you forecast benchmarks. Use these along with the campaign metrics to measure against key performance indicators (KPIs), such as site visits, registrations, email sign-ups and inbound calls after a site visit.
Find a partner
Don’t feel you have to go this alone! There are digital marketing agencies out there that specialize in this sort of thing (eh-hem, like Jackson Spalding) and you can tap into their experience and expertise to ensure you don’t waste time and money figuring out best practices the hard way. There are also some great influencer network companies out there that can facilitate connections to large swaths of bloggers and influencers with just a little oversight. We’ve used a number of them in our work with clients.
If you’re having that “the more I learn the less I know” feeling, don’t worry. Digital marketing is a space that changes constantly and even after a decade of doing this, I still learn new things every week. Reach out sometime – happy to let you what’s changed since I wrote this.