Most everyone today knows the one-to-many, brand-consumer dynamic has undergone a dramatic shift, with consumers now firmly in control of when, where, how, and even if brand engagement will occur. It’s become more and more difficult for brands to control their own message, as consumers who trust each other for advice, opinions, and recommendations have their ear. Smart brands are now turning to trusted, well-connected influencers to keep their audience informed and their messages delivered.
The influencer is at the pinnacle of social advertising. When spun correctly, the words of an influencer carry more weight to their followers than traditional posts sponsored by brands themselves. These modern influencers hail from all walks of life – industry and topical experts, activists, celebrities, bloggers, academics, YouTube producers, etc. – and are leveraging the Web’s connective tissue (along with consumers’ longstanding preference for word of mouth recommendations), to build, inform, engage, and influence dedicated populations of followers.
Consumers voluntarily and openly follow the interests, outlets, and influencers who are most important to them. Influencers facilitate this process by building passionate, informed and, in some cases, brand-focused followers. Influencers and their followers generate great volumes of data that can be used to better understand and engage them. Capturing and analyzing this data through a social business cloud and its complex algorithms, this data can be used to identify and influence brand-relevant influencers.
According to an Augure study on The State of Influencer Marketing in 2015, 93% (over 600 marketing professionals from around the world) of those surveyed said that their current relationship with influencers brought them real profits.** Influencer marketing is no easy task. Brands need to forge a true conversation and relationship with an influencer before asking them to speak on their behalf. It’s all about authenticity. The process of identifying, engaging, and partnering with influencers requires strategy and patience.
How do we reach these influencers?
Given the power of influencers, marketing and PR professionals have an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, so, how do we reach these influencers? The Influencer Marketplaces are a good place to start. These online hubs pair marketers with influencers. Some do it according to niche, others do it according to type of content. Many of these marketplaces will also extend the service to help brands with influencer campaigns and tracking results.
One of the best ways to capture the right influencer is through social listening. Gathering insight on mentions, reviews, and forums, a solid social media business cloud can reveal deep insight into influencers and their various social profiles. This powers the brand with opportunities to begin forging relationships. A social media business cloud can also help prioritize investments by comparing influencers to each other including key metrics such as volume, reach and impact.
It is critical to look beyond mere keywords and social metrics and examine the metadata that defines these influencers, their relationships and networks. Humans are dynamic creatures, constantly evolving, learning, growing, and changing. Smart influencer marketing takes this into account and seeks to capture and mine the informational subtleties that will better explain influencers, their followers, and the relationships between them.
Top 5 influencer attributes
Relevance is the degree to which an influencer’s messages, posts, comments, and other social mentions align with your brand’s most important keywords and interests. The more precise your company’s understanding of these connections, the more easily you can rank and prioritize the particular influencer relationships you wish to pursue.
Brands also should consider the influencer’s potential reach – which is the total number of followers, fans, subscribers, etc., who are connected to the influencer across different media channels. Popularity alone does not equal influence. Instead, brands are advised to consider less obvious but more substantive expressions of an influencer’s reach, such as the number of followers actually engaged on a particular subject or the influencer’s credibility on a topic. As social media strategist Julia Cantor writes, the influencer a brand may really want to engage is “someone who has regular conversations with their audience and engages their followers in particular ways.”
Impact measures the number of followers who interact with an influencer’s brand-relevant posts as well as the number of interactions generated by a particular social mention. Impact can be gauged across the entirety of an influencer campaign, including:
- Ranking influencers during the selection process
- Measuring audience interaction
- Determining whether those interactions translate into direct brand engagement (i.e. does an audience member actually buy or otherwise make contact with your organization)
Quality takes into account the number of followers interacting with an influencer and, more importantly, gauges their relative value. A weighting formula gives credit proportionate to the quality of the interaction, meaning that a retweet is going to rank lower than a reply but higher than a Facebook like. The deeper the degree of audience engagement, the more relevant the post and/or influencer. In other words, the more effort put forth by the follower, the more likely the influencer’s post is resonating with he or she. A single-click action is not going to rank as high of a response to a blog post, for example.
Activity tracks where, when, and how often your influencers post. This information is important not simply for determining the ideal intersections with your own brand goals, but also will enable you to monitor their posts and follower engagement once your influencer campaign has begun. For example, your influencer campaign might kick off by establishing measurement benchmarks for what an influencer said, where and when they said it, etc., then compare with the same data collected during and after your campaign. This is particularly important given the constant evolution in the kinds (and popularity) of channels, devices, content types, and influencer outposts. Each influencer uses one or more combinations of social channels to communicate, foster conversation, drive engagement, and interact with an audience and it is imperative that your brand be in the right place and right time to have the best chance of driving brand-friend activities.
Measuring the impact of your influencer campaign is more than just the growth of a follower base. Engagement, sharing of content, reach of content, referred traffic from the influencer, and of course conversions are all good metrics to determine the efficacy of the campaign. Test out different content and influencers to define the most efficient course of action.
*** Bloggers are arguably the strongest spoke in the wheel of influencers. A report from Technorati shows that 86% of influencers also operate at least one blog. One of the bonuses of targeting bloggers is that they almost always are active across many social media platforms. ****
Influencers gain more notoriety, trust and sway when the timing, content and messaging are right. Not to mention, they get paid. It is common for influencers to forge business relationships with brands, however, your most valuable social assets will be those influencers who trust your brand based on their personal history, and who want to create and share positive experiences with others.
- ** http://www.augure.com/blog/state-influencer-engagement-20150618
- **** https://blog.kissmetrics.com/guide-to-influencer-targeting/