How to Build a Successful Influencer Strategy

graphic image of athletic track with social media icons and people running towards finish line
graphic image of athletic track with social media icons and people running towards finish line

You’ve heard about influencer marketing, but you may not be sure how to build a campaign. While the notoriety of internet personalities is appealing, you can’t simply chase after campaign success by partnering with someone who happens to have a large audience.

Understanding how to find the right partners and map content back to business goals is essential. That’s why building a successful influencer strategy that—along with your other campaigns—will increase brand recognition is crucial.

Using YouTube for Show and Tell

YouTube is second only to its parent company, Google as the web’s largest search engine. Billions of hours of video are viewed around the globe every month by audiences looking for images that are entertaining, inspiring, or educational.

Michelle Phan, the platform’s renowned beauty influencer, is a prime example of how brands can build awareness on this channel. Phan rose to fame with beauty tutorials that taught makeup enthusiasts how to perfect their favorite looks. In 2010 Lancôme took notice, they made her their first video brand ambassador, and have, since then, partnered with the Youtube star to supply her with products to use during filming. As a result, Phan’s loyal fan base began to pay attention to a brand they may have otherwise passed over, simply because they trust Phan’s endorsement.

Clubbing Look by Michelle Phan by Lancome USA

Apart from tutorials and how-to videos, the platform works best for stunts and vignettes that provide entertainment, making the brand memorable. When sourcing influencers here, brands need to look beyond subscribers and views, studying sentiment in comments to find YouTube stars whose influence translates to impact. A media intelligence platform can come in handy to research how certain keywords and trends are evolving over the course of a few months. Someone who’s able to generate sustained glowing dialogue (and positive sentiment) is more valuable to a brand than someone who can simply garner views.

Inspiring with Instagram

Dave Burt is the founder behind the @london account on Instagram, which provides wanderlust followers with a daily dose of sights, sounds, and happenings in The Big Smoke. That’s why branded content from Eurostar, the train service that connects London to Paris, chose to work with Burt and his London handle. The sponsored content shows the ease with which Brits can hop on a train to live out their French getaway fantasies. And conveniently, Instagrammers are offered an opportunity to plan their own trips in a similar fashion while perusing the @london Instagram feed. The aspirational becomes immediately accessible enough to lead to action. (Or at least that’s the hope.)

Keep in mind that the evolution of IG has created new ways for influencers to reach audiences. While photo and video posts are still the standard, carousels and Instagram Stories are also available. What’s more, these changes have shifted many influencers from Snapchat to Instagram, who find the platform easier to work with.

“If Snapchat would just open up the lines of communication with creators and help us understand the platform better so we could work [more easily] with brands, we’d probably focus more on posting our best content on Snapchat,” said influencer Shaun McBride, known as “Shonduras” on the platform.

Convincing and Educating with Editorial Content

Blog editorial content, the original influencer marketing, still remains the beating heart of any program today. Kelly Mindell, known as Studio DIY, first built her brand by sharing colorful and fun projects on her blog. While the brand has grown into an empire over the last few years, blog content still sits at the center of her bright universe. Brands like HERSHEY’S tap her to educate readers on the potential of products like Cupcake Kisses, which Mindell baked into an on-trend, sweet Valentine’s treat.

pink background with hands forming a heart

Whereas channels like YouTube and Instagram provide quick hits that capture attention, blog editorial content allows in-depth examination of products, services, and experiences. Usually, the longer someone spends considering, reading, thinking about a piece of (branded) content, the more likely they’ll consider buying a product or trying a service.

A blogger’s content speaks for itself, so when sourcing editorial influencers, make sure you read up and do your homework. An influencer database will come in handy here, since you’ll be able to research the topics they cover, as well as drill down into keyword searches, and get information about their social profiles (and what type of audience engagement they inspire).

Look at Other Social Channels

Channels like Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook play a role in influencer marketing but often function as secondary avenues for distribution. Links to blog posts are shared, tutorials are pinned, and discussions are retweeted. However, creative activations that are linked to specific platform functionality (like a Facebook Live event) can go a long way, if your strategy is able to accommodate them.

No matter what channels you decide to source for influencer content, you should browse social media channels the same way your audience will. In this way, you’ll understand where discovery, consideration, and decision all happen for your brand.

Takeaways for Success

The best influencer marketing campaigns leverage a creator’s unique point of view, audience, and style to do something a brand can’t do on its own. No matter what you’re hoping to accomplish, here are a few things to remember:

  • Collaborate instead of dictate. Influencers are their own creative directors. While it may feel uncomfortable relinquishing complete control over an idea, it’s important to remember that influencers have worked hard to cultivate their audiences and personal brands. Kick off campaigns with briefs that allow partners to brainstorm their own ideas for how to reach audiences with your brand’s goal in mind.
  • Disclose the relationship. The FTC has updated its guidelines surrounding sponsored content, requiring most influencer promotions to be labeled. Brands who fail to do this risk costly fines and other legal consequences.
  • Ask for exclusivity. Negotiate contracts so that an influencer can’t work with a competitor right after working with you. Periods of 6 months to a year are the most common.
  • Know the ROI. You will most likely be relying on an influencer’s owned channels to host content and the resulting engagement. Make sure you have data access or a reporting cadence established so you can attribute every new follower, hashtag, site visit, or purchase to your campaign.

Hopefully now you should be able to identify the platform where your audience engages, research the influencers making the most impact, and understand how influencer marketing can be a win for your brand.