We all know influencer marketing is growing rapidly. With an estimated $6.5B in marketing investment for 2019 and with Instagram-based influencers alone generating more than $7B in earned media value, it’s clear that marketers are passionate about this sector and want to maximise its effectiveness.
Working in customer success, I spend a great deal of time researching best practices for this channel. I’m convinced that 2020 will be a “second tipping point” for the sector, with lots more brands getting on board with influencer marketing. As you start planning your strategy for 2020, consider these ideas for making influencers more accountable and effective at building your business and ROI.
- Think trust first
Trust is the currency of an effective influencer marketing program. Great influencers bring credibility to a brand through their endorsement. The search for credibility is just one reason why many brands focus primarily on “micro-influencers” – people with notoriety in a particular category – versus uber-popular celebs. While micro-influencers, by definition, have less than 100,000 followers, brands can count on their fans to be attuned and with a high composition of prospects.
Trust is also essential in a brand’s relationship with its influencers. Many influencers leverage their audiences as their primary income source, so things like prompt conversion approval and payment are essential. Also, make sure you focus your efforts on influencers that are a great brand fit. That alignment tells the influencer that you value them and also helps them drive more traffic and sales to your doors.
2. Measure business impact
In 2019 many brands likely set key advertising objectives like building awareness (85%) and reaching new audiences (71%) for influencer campaigns. Driving sales comes in third (64%). I’m convinced that this will change in 2020 as marketers of all stripes start measuring direct ROI from this channel. This is because so many brands are moving influencers from the charge of the social team, over to the demand generation folks.
Marketers are under increasing pressure to drive ROI from every marketing investment and the ability to leverage technologies, such as partner automation, enables us to directly attribute ROI for influencer marketing. Move quickly to get such measurement in place. Then explore ways to offer performance-based influencer compensation or hybrid payment models that combine flat rates for activity and reward per sale.
- Consider new target audiences
Many brands use their traditional media targeting approaches for digital planning. For example, a brand that targets women aged 18-49 on TV often aligns digital buying against the same demographic. That’s fine, but it can be limiting since digital affords unique opportunities to cost-effectively target consumers in different groups and by very specific criteria. Digital can be precise as well as on mass.
Influencers can be a great way to grow your sales among groups with an addressable need but with characteristics outside of your traditional target audience. Influencers can bring their audience connection and credibility to your brand so that people are more willing to give your product or service a try. Recent research suggests that people trust influencers almost as much as their friends when it comes to product recommendations.
- Use influencers to build long-term loyalty
When many brands think of influencer marketing, they do so in the context of customer acquisition. In fact, influencer programs are the fastest-growing customer acquisition tactic. It stands to reason. Among the most popular influencer content types are reviews of new products. But just as an influencer can have trial credibility, they can also persuade people to keep buying an item.
In my view, leading brands should try and cultivate long-term relationships with their best influencers – ones that help retain awareness and prevent other brands from poaching their prospects. That requires a fundamentally different way of thinking about the channel – moving from a short-term campaign mindset toward more of an enduring approach. Ongoing programs as well as periodic promotions.
Influence, like all marketing channels, is evolving, moving toward greater accountability and data-driven strategy. Make 2020 the year that you expect more from this incredibly dynamic and impactful channel. As influencers’ total share of marketing spend increases, it’s critical that you make it as accountable as your other partnership programs.