Admit it: you’re getting downright cynical towards ads and advertising, aren’t you? Well, who can blame you? Ads rear their heads in every facet of our lives, make farcical claims and crowd everything else out. But endorsements from friends and family can reverse those feelings. This is why advertisers have begun using social media to peddle their wares. The ad world has discovered that when they can encourage folks to recommend their products online they gain a unique advantage over their competitors.
“Influence marketing isn’t just about having followers,” says Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee, Inc., and a member of Forbes 30 under 30. “It’s also driven by expertise and credibility on subject matter and the relationship between the influencer and his or her followers. A deal is arranged – some form of payment – and the influencer uses their various properties to release media in favor of a specific brand message. They’re not brand advocates and ambassadors. Influencers are at the top of the hierarchy, and in the past this usually included niche celebrities, personalities and well-known stars. But today there is a wave of everyday consumers that can have just as large an impact.”
5 Steps: How to Develop an Influencer Marketing Plan
Building a high-quality influencer marketing program is no mean feat. I’ve broken the process down into five straightforward steps so you can use some or all of them as you build your company’s template depending on where your marketing objectives, priorities and resources lie:
- Remember to first define your online audience: Influencer marketing begins with identifying your target customer and understanding who impacts how they’re discovering, evaluating and deciding to buy merchandise.
- Find the right influencers: Influence is subjective, so you’ll need to search for people who produce and share content that impacts your business or your customer’s decision-making.
- Monitor influencers for opportunities: Listen to your specific influencers and track their content. Ask the questions—what topics do they write about, what are they sharing, what questions are their audience members asking?
- Take action and engage: Start building relationships through simple actions like following and sharing their links, get to know them, build trust, then plan actions that will enable you to work together.
- Measure your outcomes: Keep track of the relationships you’re building and how they’re converting into concrete events like visits, introductions, mentions and eventually leads.
In the last few years, increasing numbers of brands and agencies have brought their influencer marketing in-house, including Nokia, Jaguar and Abertis Infrastructure.
There are benefits—building an internal team to run your influencer campaign means an increased number of influencer relationships, transparent pricing and a company structure that yields better content and returns. But running campaigns in-house can be hard.
A report by eMarketer says 75 percent of influencer marketers struggle to find the right influencer, and another 25 percent have a hard time automating their campaign management. While this is true to an extent, the benefits outweigh the risks. By building their own expertise and relationships today, these buyers will ultimately earn the greatest ROI.
Influencer Marketing SaaS Companies
Influencer marketing SaaS companies can help buyers run their own influencer campaigns. In a nutshell, they’re software firms that charge a software license and offer companies an alternative. These companies focus on building software for brands and agencies to run their own influencer programs.
Some SaaS platforms provide one application while others provide an end-to-end solution. Specifically, we can break up the different applications into several categories:
- Influencer discovery: Finding, vetting and connecting with influencers.
- Campaign management: Creating campaigns, approving posts, signing contracts, issuing payments, etc.
- Performance tracking: Tracking campaign performance and measuring ROI.
- Influencer relationship management: Tracking, nurturing, and sharing your influencer relationships.
“We expect that the entry of SaaS influencer marketing companies will help brands improve these coveted conversions they need to achieve string results across the social properties and within their respective sales funnels,” Wong said. “When a brand can acquire and convert individuals into brand advocates and ambassadors, it accelerates their growth. With this kind of optimized software, a brand’s social metrics capabilities are advanced, their content burden is reduced and all social promotion becomes more powerful as a collective whole.”
In the last few years, increasing numbers of brands and agencies have brought their influencer marketing in-house, including Nokia, Jaguar and Abertis Infrastructure. There are benefits – building an internal team to run your influencer campaigns means an increased number of influencer relationships, transparent pricing and a company structure that yields better content and returns.
“More directly, this means a decrease in the barrier to influencer marketing, larger active communities for the brand, better sales and reliable promotional strategies that have a fairly predictable dollar outcome for accurate marketing budget management,” Wong said.
YouTube and Influencer Marketing
YouTube is the second largest search engine and has a monthly user base of just over one billion. Studies indicate that the video platform has the best ROI when compared to other social media platforms.
YouTube sponsorships are one of the top-ranked customer acquisition tools. YouTube has always been the gold standard when it comes to persuasive messages and achieving high conversion rates. Couple this with powerful messages delivered to existing audiences by much-loved influencers and you have a recipe for success.
For example, Marriott many other travel brands are integrating top YouTubers into their marketing campaigns. Marriott’s “#itpaystobookdirect” campaign was one of many such influencer marketing campaigns that proved successful in educating travelers on the benefits of booking directly on Marriott.com versus third party sites.
“YouTube is the most effective platform for influencer marketing as it emulates face-to-face influence, enhances storytelling for sales and is better at prompting action from viewers,” says Wong. “I find that YouTube as an influence marketing platform works really well for products and services that require a little more education and explanation. The impact has been higher reach, stronger sales returns and a ‘video influencer grab’ by brands.”
Influencer marketing gives folks an end-to-end solution that enables a company’s marketing team to deliver on its revenue goals while simultaneously enhancing the relationship with your patrons. Shoppers are out there asking questions and collecting information through avenues of their own choosing. At this moment millions of shoppers are forming their own opinions and if you’re not there in the conversation you’re gonna lose—and many do.
Has your brand embraced influencer marketing yet? Do you plan to do so? Let us know in the comments!