Influencer Marketing: 7 Key Questions Answered by Industry Experts

The voice of the customer has always been one of the most powerful marketing channels and social media has fundamentally changed the way brands and their audiences communicate.

Interestingly, marketing-inspired word-of-mouth is now believed to generate more than twice the sales of paid advertising and smart, flexible businesses have learnt and adapted to that.

The beauty of influencer marketing is its cost-effectiveness and freedom to experiment with different strategies. Marketers can afford to experiment with new ideas, adjust and refine their process. They can try a variety of influencer identification tools, outreach platforms or analytics apps, whilst figuring out the best way to engage and build relationships with these influential groups of people.

Discovering the perfect approach can be time-consuming, so we thought we’d ask seven industry experts to answer some of the questions marketers tend to struggle with.

1. What is influencer marketing?

Mel Carson – Founder & CEO, Delightful Communications

Influencer marketing is the practice of brands seeking out people within your target audience that are mavens of quality content and diverse discussion in order to build an authentic, useful, relevant and actionable relationship with them.

Influencers generally have a proven track record of success in your niche, they write and speak frequently on the topic, and they have a loyal following who trust them to be imparting the very best opinion and information. The idea is to build a relationship that has a beneficial effect for both parties.

For the influencer, the benefit might be to get an early sneak peek at a product or service and be able to be part of the ideation process. For the brand, they get quality feedback from a trusted source to help build a better product and, hopefully, some public endorsement from the influencer across their followers on social media or through writing or speaking about it in a positive light.

Influencer marketing can be a very powerful part of any brand’s promotional armory but it does take time to build quality and effective relationships. Businesses need to budget for longer term programs and not expect an overnight success every time.

2. What is your definition of an “influencer”?

Meagen Eisenberg – CMO, MongoDB

An influencer compels others to take action – whether it is to investigate or buy a product or change a behavior or opinion. As a marketer, we hope to recognize, inform and elevate the influencers in our space.

By forming a relationship with the industry influencers we hope that others will learn from their advocacy and leadership and be open to investigating our solution. We know for most software purchases the number one influencer is our peers.

So, more than ever, we need to increase the presence of social proof in our actions, channels and marketing. The value of a successful customer and influencer is priceless.

3. What are the key benefits of influencer marketing?

Misha Talavera – CMO & Co-Founder, NeoReach

Influencer marketing enables brands to break through the noise and connect with millions of consumers in relatable and entertaining ways.

We live in an age of fleeting consumer attention. Broadcast TV is almost dead, 45 million Americans use ad blockers, and the competition publish more content than ever before, leaving most marketers scrambling to stay relevant. Meanwhile, YouTube stars, bloggers, and Instagram celebrities have millions of fans hanging on to their every word. Savvy marketers are quickly catching on and plugging big dollars into partnering with these influencers and launching influencer marketing campaigns.

The benefits? Millions of consumers learn about your brand/product through captivating social content created by modern-day role models they trust and admire.

The results? A whopping 6:1 expected ROI, predictable viral engagement, and addictive branded content.

4. What’s your top tip for a successful influencer marketing campaign?

Viveka von Rosen – LinkedIn Expert, Author & International Keynote Speaker

LinkedIn Publisher is a great platform for increasing visibility and engagement on your content. And one of the best strategies for getting your content amplified on LinkedIn is doing an influencer marketing campaign! Because LinkedIn supports various media (image uploads, YouTube and Slideshare) you can easily repurpose influencer content you have already created.

Have you interviewed an influencer on your podcast in the past? Were you on a Blab or Periscope with an influencer? Great, save the interview to YouTube and embed the link in your post. Transcribe it (I use and pull out the highlights to add some copy. (Posts with 900 – 1400 words get more views.) Use the ‘quotation’ feature to really make the salient points stand out. Add links back to the interview, wherever you originally posted it.

Here’s the key to success: once you have published, make sure to tag (@mention) the influencers in your update. And then share the post as an update regularly (on Twitter, Facebook and G+ as well as on LinkedIn) mentioning the influencer each time. By tagging them you are not only informing them of the share, but you make it easy for them to reshare your content. And that means more visibility, more engagement and more business!

5. What is the biggest mistake marketers make in influencer marketing?

Ron Sela – Content Marketing Strategist, Dapulse

As a marketer, you are probably always looking for new and innovative ways to reach your target audience to attract more leads for converting them into sales. Moreover, while this sounds simple enough, plenty of marketers tend to make erroneous mistakes that put their brands on the back foot in their quest for moving forward.

Many marketers believe that reaching out to customers requires the use of third-party influencers with a good online following. While this is true, the biggest mistake in influencer marketing is confusing it with the dappled tactic of paying people to share, comment and like their messages.

Influencer marketing requires brands to identify influential people in their field who will genuinely recommend their products and services in a credible manner that convinces them about their efficacy.

Partnering with bloggers and influencers to build awareness and create online buzz will certainly drive sales, if undertaken in the right manner. These online influencers have the potential to reach a wide number of people because of their robust online followers.

The problem arises when marketers look for shortcuts where they use shady services that help them identify influencers looking to make some big bucks. Brands then end up paying these influencers to reach out to their target audience. Once readers begin to question the authenticity of the blogger’s or influencer’s claim, the brand will have a hard time recovering its reputation.

6. What are the top 3 must dos for a successful influencer marketing campaign?

Kristen Matthews – Marketing Director, GroupHigh

Successful influencer marketing campaigns reach consumers that brands cannot reach on their own. I usually see this happening when brands embrace an ongoing or relationship building approach to influencer marketing and therefore the critical elements of a campaign that I advocate for speak to this goal of network building.

The first thing marketers need to do is to focus and build lists by influencer quality over quantity. So narrowing influencers down by topic expertise before consulting numerical qualifiers like traffic or social data.

Second, a good influencer marketing campaign must have a strategy in place that works with each influencer’s strengths. Creative ways to work with influencers to integrate your brand organically into their lives is key.
Third, I would say all influencer marketing campaigns should embrace the entire digital footprint of their influencers. This allows a brand to work with one influencer on many channels if they plan ahead for blog posts, Instagram posts, have a hashtag, etc.

7. How do you measure the ROI of influencer marketing?

Martin Jones – Social Media & Content Marketing Manager, Cox Communications

When it comes to measuring the impact of influencer marketing, you can’t simply look at the financial or revenue based ROI (return on investment). The true return for your business is more than that. You must also consider the VALUE that the influencer brings to your brand. If you only focus on how many visitors they drove to your website, or how many prospects converted to leads and how many leads converted to sales, you may miss measuring the real value influencer marketing brings.

Influence isn’t just about having a large number of followers. It’s also about a person’s expertise, their credibility and the trust that has been built over time with their followers.

In the eyes of the consumer your message is seen as more trustworthy and believable when it’s delivered by a third party they already trust, rather than the brand itself.

Influencer marketing extends the reach of your brand, increases the credibility of your company and helps build brand awareness and trust. That may be difficult to factor into your ROI calculations, but its value to your organization should not be overlooked.

Want to learn more? Read our guide to influencer marketing.