Influencer Marketing Strategy

Influencer marketing has become a powerful strategy for brands looking to entice new audiences. And judging by the $2 billion market share it claimed last year, it’s a trend set to get stronger in 2017. Despite this, not all influencer campaigns are created equal. While it would seem that the larger the following, the better, evidence shows that vanity metrics—such as the number of followers—don’t provide enough information to make an educated decision about who best to activate for maximum ROI.

Any brand engaging in influencer marketing campaigns would be doing itself an injustice by overlooking (or *gulp*, ignoring) the elemental role that audience data has in the influencer selection process. Would you buy ad space on a publication without asking who reads it?

By leveraging it wisely, audience data can be your secret weapon to discovering and activating the right influencer for your organization and campaigns. Here are 3 ways to go about it:

Understand Vanity Metrics, Reach Your Target Audience

Like every form of digital marketing, the purpose of partnering with influencers is to engage with an audience that is likely to take interest in your offerings. Knowing your audience well is step one. For maximum ROI on your influencer investment, you want to make sure that any influencer you engage with has a relevant following.

Now that influencer marketing is more mainstream, there’s meaningful data available to help marketers make educated decisions. Audience analytics such as gender, location, ethnicity and interests allow brands to efficiently activate influencers with a following that aligns with the target demographic—leading to significantly better engagement and conversion rates. Today, you can rely on tools that allow you to easily search and discover influencers that are best suited to speak to that audience.

Don’t Be Seduced By The Big Names

Achieving a high ROI—from a monetary and brand-awareness perspective—ultimately depends on activating high-quality influencers.

A common mistake is equating high-quality with big-name influencers. Instead, be strategic with your selection: partner with influencers that are key opinion leaders in their field. There can be high costs associated with working with the big names (not to mention having to deal with their agents, lawyers, and managers). Activating them, without understanding if their audience is the right audience for you, may mean that you are engaging in a “spray-and-pray” approach because a part of their often diverse audience may be irrelevant or unlikely to be interested in your brand. This isn’t to say that engaging big name influencers is a bad strategy, but rather it’s bad if they don’t match your audience or objectives. In fact, you may find that activating 10 or 20 similar, but smaller influencers is a more effective strategy.

For example, a health-and-fitness company enlisting Kim Kardashian for a product geared towards a female audience. She has an enormous following but her audience is extremely diverse, loosely connected and only a small portion can be considered health-and-fitness fanatics. Half of her followers are men, and more than half don’t live in the United States, where the product is sold. Wouldn’t Lee Hersh be a much better fit? Though she’s not as well known, that means it would cost a lot less to incorporate her into the campaign. More importantly, she reaches a highly relevant audience: 73% female, strongly interested in health and fitness, and almost all based in the US. In this case, 10 or 20 other similar influencers would be a much better strategy. (Hint: it would, and every influencer has multiple “twins” on social media today).

An Influencer Campaign Is A Partnership

Building a real relationship and generating trust with the influencer is paramount. When approaching influencers, drop the selfish mindset. Influencers receive endorsement opportunities often; it’s in your interest to deliver value in return. Whether you activate the influencer for a one-off campaign or enlist them as a more permanent brand ambassador, the goal should be to establish a long-term relationship with the influencer, not just for the campaign period.

To facilitate better relationships with influencers, add a personal, genuine element to outreach. Ensure that every partnership offers something of value to the influencer, and invest time in cultivating the relationship.

Influencers know their audiences well, so collaborate with them on campaigns, as opposed to dictating the content they create. There must be a balance—modern customers are savvy enough to recognize an ill-fitting, shoddily constructed campaign when they see one. Keep the campaign honest: I have analyzed hundreds of thousands of influencer posts to show that disclosure and honesty about a brand relationship wins time after time.

Influencer marketing offers brands a real opportunity to gain maximum ROI if campaigns are executed strategically. Marketers must look beyond vanity metrics, and delve deeply into audience demographic data to effectively target the right audience. The level of credibility and authenticity that comes with a tight influencer partnership simply can’t be beat.

How are you building measurement and data into your influencer marketing programs? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.