This week’s content is the first in a series of “deep dives” into strategies and tactics for 5 Marketing Trends to keep an eye on in 2020, which I posted about last week. If you happened to have missed it, check the link for the post and video. Trend #1 looked at how influencer marketing would continue to grow at an accelerated rate in 2020, but also mature in how it is managed and measured.
Influencer marketing matures in 2020
Influencer marketing has gone relatively unchecked since its inception. In 2020 that will all change. Influencer marketing is set to become much more accountable. Measurement will be less about follow counts, likes and engagement rates, and shift to a more detailed analysis of audience demographics, reach, actual impressions and engagement that leads to conversion. An influencer’s creative output will be scrutinized too, with greater control of message targeting along with reporting and metrics to ensure transparency. If you think that all sounds a little more grown up, and more aligned with traditional marketing approaches, you would be correct.
Let’s look at some strategies and tactics for dealing with this, from both the perspective of hiring influencers, as well as being an influencer yourself.
1. Highly vet influencers
It will become very important to know if you are dealing with someone who has a legitimate audience who they have grown and engage with, or someone who has purchased followers, uses automated engagement or otherwise misrepresents what they can achieve for your business. A couple things to look for:
- Audience demographics: Do their followers match your target audience? You can get a pretty good feel through photos that follower shares, the type of content they share, or what their interests appear to be. Look to see if there is some consistency of recurring people commenting, sharing and engaging with content.
- Engagement rates: Engagement is actually more important than numbers reached, and the ratio of engagement should be relative to the overall audience. A large audience with little engagement would be a red flag for fake followers in the mix.
- Tone and relevance: Ensure the content shared is relevant and that the tone is one that your audience would identify with. It’s really important that a potential influencer be credible with your target group.
- Audience purchase: Does the influencer have a history of enticing people to purchase, or at least become a genuine qualified lead? Since ultimately, you’re likely selling something, this is an important question to ask.
- Previous collaborations: Do they have a history of working on previous projects or partnerships? Compatibility could be verified with some reference checking along with getting a sense of their ethics.
- Use agencies and AI: There are agencies that list and help vet influencers by category and audience, and use artificial intelligence to help identify those with better engagement, fewer fake followers, and overall likelihood of higher ROI. Influence.co is one example, but this post from Social Media Marketing World has several others to consider: 4 Tools to Find and Manage Influencers
- Micro influencers: Consider using multiple micro influencers (those with 2,000 – 10,000) or even Nano influencers (those with less than 1,000 followers) instead of one large influencer with 250,000+ followers. The rationale is the smaller numbers are more likely to be highly engaged and well targeted.
2. Hire a multi-channel “content creator” not a single platform influencer
Not only do you want to match their audience with your target, but you also want an influencer with clout on multiple platforms. For example Instagram, Snap Chat and Tik Tok might make sense as a combo for an audience of 15-20 year olds targeting fashion. Facebook, plus a blog or podcast and an enewsletter might be great for an audience reaching baby boomer travel. Or Someone with a loyal following on Pinterest and Instagram, with a heavy use of Stories and IGTV might be great for targeting fitness or home decor to women 35-45 years old. Multiple platforms will ensure content is shared in a variety of ways (images, video, written) which can expand creative approaches. A content creator comes to a project as a story teller through various media. They’ll see it more like a written journalist, videographer or audio broadcaster, framing content in a creative way, which they know will work on the particular platform, and resonate with the audience they have built trust with there.
3. Have a creative brief
Creative briefs are common in the advertising industry, since they help the creative team understand the parameters of the project in a short 1-2 page document. Your brief for an influencer should outline something similar:
- Target audience
- Key challenges that campaign aims to resolve (objectives)
- Primary message
- Brand values
- Market positioning
- Communications channels
Having influencers work within the parameters of a creative brief also ensures that messaging is congruent with other elements of the marketing mix. But the last thing you want to do is handcuff an influencer into creating content under too much of your style direction. Remember – they need to have some freedom to ensure their content looks like something their followers would expect from them. The whole idea is to hire for their authentic connection. The creative brief sets parameters and tone, and an influencer then works within that to interpret content to create. By all means nail down expectations for the number of posts, videos, mentions in articles, stories, hashtags and timing though, since you will want to ensure these work within the context of other promotional efforts you may be doing.
4. Budget for paid amplification
Although paying to promote or boost an influencers content might seem counter intuitive (isn’t reach what I’m paying THEM for?) it actually makes a lot of sense for monitoring and measurement. Paid amplification allows you to pay for guaranteed reach, but the bonus is the analytics that are generated, and the ability to understand if the campaign is working and a good ROI. As influencer marketing matures, it will be more important to employ someone for their audience relationship. Overall reach numbers will be secondary. Paid amplification will also enable the creation of custom lookalike audiences from micro influencers base reach.
5. Seek out Longer term relationships
The goal of influencer marketing is to find an authentic advocate that resonates with your audience, and seek ways to continue to nurture the relationship over time through multiple campaigns. This could include co-creating products or royalty arrangements. Many influencers have celebrity status within their target audience, so looking for inspiration from the traditional celebrity endorsement arrangement might make sense.
If you’re hiring influencers in 2020, these are some pretty solid actions to take. And if you work as an influencer yourself, you should likely assess your own practices and the way you position and measure your services, so you will be better aligned with what clients will be demanding.
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