Influencer marketing is the hot-ticket item on every marketer’s wishlist for 2017. Using social media, it makes “word-of-mouth” more powerful than in-person endorsements. Anyone who can be interesting can grow a loyal following, and people with big followings have followers eager to earn their attention by engaging. Used wisely and it’s a marketing bonanza for you, potentially returning $11.20 for every paid media dollar spent. Used improperly, and it’s just a waste of your budget.
Marketing methods have evolved. The old chestnuts of marketing, product, place, price, and promotion are out. The new guiding principles are: preference, personalization, performance, and promotion. That’s exactly what makes influencer marketing so powerful. Good influencers know what their audience wants, and delivers in a way that’s highly personal. Their appeal is in their performance, and they are all about promotion. In a nutshell, influencers are the perfect delivery system for today’s market.
Mistake #1: Being Seduced By the Numbers
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that the more followers or friends an influencer has, the better return they’ll give. Or, that a bigger profile equals a higher level of authority, and a greater chance of engaging with and influencing the general public.
When getting into bed with a top-level influencer – those with 100K+ social media eyeballs – we should exercise caution. The sheer volume may look impressive, but especially in the case of celebrities, a lot of those followers will fall outside your target audiences. You’ll be paying money to have your message shown to people who have zero interest in what you’re trying to sell.
Furthermore, research indicates engagement levels actually fall dramatically as follower numbers rise.
So a single influencer with a significant following is not usually the best option. Instead, we would be wise to identify exactly who we’re hoping to reach – the oldest trick in the marketing book – and use a number of smaller, “low-level” influencers to reach them.
These lower profile influencers will typically be non-celebrities. They are experts more interested in their field than in self-promotion, packing a small but devoted and – most importantly – trusting group of followers. Engagement levels per follower are typically higher, and their relationships more intimate than those enjoyed by influencers with huge fanbases.
Mistake #2: Automatically Paying
You’d like an influencer to talk about your product, so you get in touch, draw up a contact, write a check and off they go.
Congratulations – you’ve just paid for something you might have been able to get for next to nothing.
Influencers tend to gain status as experts through just using or experiencing things in their everyday life, then talking about them in ways that feel natural and authentic to their followers.
For example, take a classic car enthusiast with 20,000 YouTube subscribers. He or she almost certainly goes out and buys tools, parts and accessories just like anyone else. Sure, you could pay to endorse your must-have accessory – but maybe you wouldn’t have to.
If your product is awesome and you gave them a free sample, they might rave about it for nothing.
Others influencers are for sale for the right price to any bidder – celebrities in particular, and those with a strong awareness of their own brand value.
But for many of them, influencing is just a side-effect of a hobby they’d be doing anyway. Don’t assume you need to part with cash. If what you’re selling is high quality, a free sample might be more than enough.
Mistake #3: Failing to Track ROI
Tracking the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing can be tricky, especially if you’re running a number of campaigns at the same time.
If you only look at basic data – revenue increase, site traffic, conversions or brand mentions for example – it will tell you the health of the overall operation, but not the details you really need to know. You may be paying 20 influencers and only receiving a tangible benefit from one of them. Or, you might have one particularly effective message and five that aren’t pulling the crowds.
To get a full picture, pay close attention to the data generated by each post; not just the impressions but also the engagements, likes, shares and link-clicks.
And on the topic of link clinks, don’t just distribute the same link to all your influencers. Provide each with a different, trackable link so you can keep track of exactly where your traffic is coming from.
A little bit of extra work could slash your outgoings in half.
Mistake #4: Failing to Disclose
In most of the western world, advertising is regulated. Influencer marketing does not escape the eyes of the legal profession. Businesses operating in the United States must abide by Federal Trade Commission guidelines or face potentially severe consequences.
The primary issue for influencer marketing is that of disclosure. If a post or image is an advertisement, it must be clearly labeled as such. The FTC provides a quick explanation on its website:
*From the FTC’s perspective, the watchword is transparency. An advertisement or promotional message shouldn’t suggest or imply to consumers that it’s anything other than an ad.
* Some native ads may be so clearly commercial in nature that they are unlikely to mislead consumers even without a specific disclosure. In other instances, a disclosure may be necessary to ensure that consumers understand that the content is advertising.
Here’s an example from Doug the Pug:
— Doug The Pug (@itsdougthepug) December 23, 2016
Ads that look like spontaneous endorsement are powerful, but disclosure is required – and the business, not the influencer, will be held responsible if it isn’t.
The good news is that – perhaps surprisingly – engagement doesn’t necessarily suffer.
Mistake #5: Providing Insufficient Guidance
Sometimes your relationship with an influencer will be a one-shot affair; they’ll make a single post or video, and that’s it. Other times an influencer may shower love on your product without the need for compensation.
When you arrange something more long-term – perhaps a brand advocate deal – they’ll need enough information to interact meaningfully with their followers regarding your product. Unfortunately, many companies fail to provide the info necessary for an effective campaign.
Some influencers acquire knowledge of your product through ordinary use, and will need only limited assistance primarily relating to the brand itself. For example, how to contact you, the way you’d like to be spoken about and your core message or talking points.
Others, typically those who aren’t that familiar with your product, will need to be taught about it – the USPs, how it works, what it does, how to use it and some basic troubleshooting tips for those followers who may encounter difficulties.
Mistake #6: Putting your Influencer in a Straitjacket
Brands spend a lot of time, effort, and money developing a brand image they feel best suits their goals. High-end vacuum cleaner company Dyson aims for a slick, Apple-esque image, while Innocent drinks are positioned for a playful, irreverent appeal.
Smaller businesses also employ brand strategy. Most independent coffee shops have their own unique style and selling points, for example. Tradespeople tend to build their marketing around a personal touch and competence.
Your image is who you are, and it can be disastrous to deviate from it. When dealing with influencers, we should remember that they also have a certain image they have developed. Forcing them to move away from that come across as fake, which will damage whatever message they’re trying to send on your behalf.
Posts written by someone else, or using different language and tone, won’t look like the real thoughts of the influencer.
By all means, provide guidance as we discussed above, but don’t try to zip influencers into a corporate straitjacket. You’re paying for an authentic voice – let them use it.
Influencer marketing is about authenticity – natural-sounding recommendations from real people to build your brand’s credibility. The followers you’re trying to reach are familiar with how the influencer speaks, interacts and behaves; the way they go about their social media adventures is the reason they have people paying attention to them.
Photo source: geralt via Pixabay