As marketing channels and services expand, companies are finding new ways to leverage brand ambassadors to reach large audiences. Chances are you’ve heard of “influencer marketing.” At a thousand-foot view, the influencer model is a modern take on traditional sponsorships and spokespeople. But with more screens, savvy devices and consumption than ever before, there’s no better time to onboard crafty content producers with committed followings to broadcast your brand.
There’s an art to influencer marketing and building a proper sandbox that allows creatives to produce what they do best, but we won’t get too deep into that with this post. Today, our focus is a bit higher as we dissect what makes an influencer and how they might be used to help your brand reach the next level.
What is an Influencer?
This question depends largely on your goals, but the best influencers fire on all cylinders for an integrated approach to marketing.
From the top, influencers are people with substantial and engaged followings on a given channel. They may have built a network on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, their blog, podcasts or a niche forum. Depending on your budget and goals, there are even tiers of influence and what the industry refers to as “total celebrity,” “micro-influencers” or emerging talent.
The beauty is that this digital age lends insight into authorities in nearly any space. And while “influencers” often connote social-first individuals of the millennial variety, this certainly is not the only option. Your brand might call for a travel photographer or a post-grad professor. Your audience might connect with an action sports athlete or a mommy blogger. Your goal might be increased traffic to your site or simply more views on a new video. You may be pushing a hashtag or trying to drive sales. Perhaps it’s a bit of everything.
Your audience, the interests of those you aspire to reach, and the actions you hope they will take, all help define who you dub a worthy influencer.
So pause for a moment if you will and cast away any notion of vanity metrics like total fans, followers, likes, comments and shares. These have their place and will vary respectively by vertical. Fundamentally, companies need to connect with individuals who embody their brand aspirations or campaign goals in genuine, believable ways.
Ask yourself, does this person already align with my brand, or would I be putting a square peg in a round hole? If you have trouble buying the connection, you can bet your audience will, too.
Influencers and Content Production
Campaign goals will determine your ideal relationship with authoritative content producers.
- Write blogs
- Test products
- Create branded videos
- Takeover social accounts
- Attend PR events and seminars
- Produce art
- And much more
Generally speaking, campaigns that perform best play into the strengths of the influencers involved rather than contracting people to produce deliverables outside of their comfort zone. This typically calls for a major detour from any hard-scripted or prescribed content.
Influencers draw a following of their own by doing whatever they do best. The trick is tapping into that magic rather than force-feeding an alien concept. The relationship should be an invitation to brainstorm and co-produce rather than a contract to purely execute X, Y and Z.
Influencer Amplification and Syndication
Whether you’re producing content in-house or contracting outside talent, you’ll undoubtedly want your message to make its rounds. And while you can blast that content in your immediate circle and owned channels, you can take it much further when you leverage a team of influencers.
In elementary terms, this approach is not unlike paid media. You’re licensing the readership (views, fandom, interest, etc.) of a “vendor.” Historically, this is also where many brands fall short. If there’s no genuine magnetism between an influencer and a brand, the exchange is purely contractual - 3 posts, with this copy, at this time.
It’s a billboard that might flop.
With careful planning, creative marketing and collaborative content production, the exchange is explosive and compelling in the eyes of their followings. Whether it’s the launch of a new splash page, a product relaunch, a social contest or anything between, influencer marketing turns niche content producers into new-age brand advocates.