The appeal of influencer marketing as a scalable, authentic and cost-effective strategy is not new – but it does have new relevance as we navigate beyond the pandemic.
As brands and marketers are looking for ways to relate to consumers whose lives have been turned upside down over the past year and a half, there is a collective anxiety around what life should look like now and in the (hopefully) near future. People are being thoughtful about their decisions, asking what’s safe and what’s fun, meaningful and worth their time.
Influencers are the real people consumers are turning to for advice, recommendations and an example of post-COVID living – and they’re the perfect collaborators for brands to reach their audiences, especially now.
To help you make the most of these partnerships, here are 5 tips for growing your influencer program to reengage consumers in a post-COVID world.
Leverage analytics to prove value and track ROI.
Many budgets were cut during COVID, so a key question when selecting marketing strategies will be, “What’s the return on investment?”
Influencer marketing often plays at the top of the well-known marketing funnel, in the awareness stage, which is absolutely important. However, it’s also possible for influencers to drive measurable lower-funnel results, moving critical audiences into the consideration stage and, finally, converting to sales.
One of the benefits of digital influencers is that we can measure those results by using UTM codes and tracking URLs. UTM codes integrate with Google Analytics to tell you where people are coming from to visit your site and what actions they take once they get there. With these measures in place, you can track lower-funnel results including clicks, leads, sales and revenue.
Leave room for flexibility when natural opportunities arise.
No one likes a plan more than me, but if you follow a plan to the extent of ignoring other opportunities, you could miss out on influencer gold. Seizing the moment with spontaneous and timely outreach can result in valuable exposure for your brand – and deepen your relationships with influencers in your space.
To monitor for organic opportunities, keep an eye out for profile tags of your brand on social media. Social media moves fast, especially stories that expire in 24 hours, so assign a team member to stay on top of these interactions. Then, once you see a potential moment for your brand to connect – act quickly.
A recent example comes from our work with Orkin Pest Control, when we noticed an influencer post about a pest problem in her new home. Though we didn’t have a previous relationship, we moved fast and sent her a DM offering to help. Our quick action paid off, as the influencer posted a screenshot of our message, praising Orkin. From there, we sent her a housewarming package, treated her new home for pests and ended up partnering with her to share about her experience.
The influencer’s followers, who had been invested in her pest journey since her first story, responded very well to the sponsored content. One follower commented, “This brand relationship development has been the most iconic thing I’ve witnessed.” Another added, “I have them coming next Friday.”
Don’t ignore influencers because you don’t have compensation budget – but set expectations accordingly.
You do not have to pay influencers in order to work with them. If you have another perk or experience to offer, that may be incentive enough. But you cannot require anything of influencers you are not contracting – not a number of posts or any posts at all or the chance to review content before it’s published.
That said, you may still contract them if what you’re providing has a monetary value, like a hotel stay, vehicle rental, etc.
To successfully partner with influencers when you can’t afford compensation, you need to create an engaging, exclusive experience for them or offer them something intangible that they cannot get elsewhere. The upfront, creative brainstorm process is crucial to creating a campaign that influencers will want to be a part of and that your audiences will remember.
For example, we executed an unpaid influencer campaign for World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. We invited 12 local influencers to capture and share photos that represented the theme #ShareaCokewithATL, then we took those photos and created a physical gallery at the downtown attraction. Although we did not pay the influencers, we offered them a unique opportunity associated with an iconic brand and the chance to showcase their work to more than 1 million guests. The activation resulted in 957 social media posts and 98 traditional media placements for more than 340 million total impressions.
Play the long game by nurturing relationships.
At JS, we refer to influencer marketing as influencer relations because of how important relationships are to the success of our partnerships.
Our approach is to move beyond the transactional and get to know influencers on a personal level. Often, we initially establish a relationship through unpaid campaigns when they’re nano- or micro-influencers, then it leads to paid campaigns as their followings grow.
Repeat partnerships also communicate trust in the brand to followers and are more impactful than a one-off post.
Nurture these relationships by following influencers from your personal accounts, liking and commenting on their posts and, if in the same city (or if you visit the city where they’re based), taking them to lunch or coffee.
Think beyond the single post and give content multiple lives.
Although the ROI from the posts themselves can be enough to justify your marketing spend on influencers, there is more potential value to their content than you may realize. Don’t let a post just be a post.
First, a great way to increase the impact of your paid influencer posts is to boost them. A small paid media investment on top of what you’ve already spent in compensation can double or triple the impact.
When contracting influencers, you should also include in your terms the right to reshare their content from your brand, at a minimum – and ideally also negotiate the rights to repurpose their assets in other channels: website, e-newsletters, digital ads, print, OOH, internal comms and more. Even if you aren’t paying influencers initially, you can purchase their images for other uses. You should always attribute the content to the influencer when sharing.
Although so much has changed in the past year and a half, the significance of relationships has not. If anything, the personal connections we form have become all the more valuable to us. As many of those connections are being made online, brands in virtually any industry have an opportunity to tap into influencer marketing to engage authentically with their audiences.