How to Build an Influencer Marketing Strategy that Works
According to author Ted Coin, influencer marketing will be the leading form of marketing by 2020, where it will also reach being worth a $10 billion industry.
As marketing and communications professionals today, it is imperative that we know how to create an influencer marketing strategy that impacts our bottom line. This is easier said than done, though, so we partnered with Marketing Director of Reebok India, Kanika Mittal, for an online webinar where she shared insights on How to Build an Influencer Marketing Strategy that Works.
Kanika is an ideaprenuer, a story teller and a passionate digital marketing professional.
Under her leadership and role as Marketing Director, Reebok, she repositioned the brand into a fitness brand in the premium space from a mass sports brand.
She also disrupted the industry with a women’s first approach and her campaigns – Fit to Fight and Girls Fight have left an indelible mark on women consumers. Her campaigns featuring top celebrities and sporting icons like MSD4India and Live with Fire have received tremendous social media engagement and positive press.
She is also responsible for the digital transformation of the brand and has delivered results across PR, Go To Market Strategy and Implementation, Communications, Social Media, Business Goals and other mandates. She features in the top 50 brand leaders of Asia and is passionate about public speaking on matters of her interest like digital marketing, influencers, CRM, content marketing etc. She is a mentor and strategic advisor to start-ups in the Tech, Lifestyle and FMCG space. An alumnus of MICA, she started her career in telecommunications and went on to lead a retail brand and turned around it’s positioning, image and brand equity while spearheading marketing advisory for start-ups on the side.
The Return of the “Prosumer.”
Influencer marketing today heralds the return of the “prosumer.” The prosumer is the advanced consumer – they pick up trends early, try new products before it’s in the mainstream and give feedback to organisations. Considered the “holy grail” of consumers, companies tapping into their ideas and insights and often let them shape product development, design or price. But in the last few years, “prosumers” became increasingly more difficult to identify and tap into.
Now, with the rise of Influencer Marketing, it’s safe to say the prosumer is back.
How Influencers Were Identified: Then vs Now
Typically, the choice of an influence was determined by one’s celebrity status, beauty and fame. The fitment of the celebrity’s brand with the company’s brand and the following of the celebrity were two of the main criteria. As early as two to three years ago, organisations were limited to cinema, entertainment, sport and music industries to find their brand ambassadors.
Today, however, brands have realised that they actually have a plethora of influencers to choose from. These are people from a variety of backgrounds and industries, that could be any one of us or people that we can easily relate to. They may not be on the cover of magazines or get massive paychecks, but through sheer hard work and passion for what they do, they have risen through the ranks to be identified as an online influencer. They’re not just in entertainment – but work in fashion, food or fitness industries, or even niche markets like gaming, education and tech – and have built up enough online engagement and authentic influence to be trusted by a community.
The question now is – how did they build up this community and how can brands tap into it?
3 Fundamental Steps to Building an Effective Influencer Marketing Strategy
- Identify: You need have a robust identification process for choosing your influencers. This links to knowing and understanding what the core proposition of your brand is and ensuring your influencers fit in with that. Are you trying to manually identify them, or are you using an Influencer Management tool like the one Meltwater offers? Regardless of your technique, you need to spend time on it – don’t just pick the top three or five listed on any website.
- Create: The second step is to co-create magic with your chosen influencer(s). What kind of content is going to be fun to create, that your audience would love to consume, that will keep them coming back for more?
- Amplify: There’s no point in creating amazing content with your influencer that doesn’t get amplified effectively. You’ll need to decide if you’re going to do this by boosting posts on social media, sending it out to the press, or any other unique method of amplifying that content, whether through online, offline, digital or press, or any other innovative way.
10 Steps to Bringing That Strategy to Life
1. Define the role
When it comes down to identification process, there needs to be a robust plan in place. First, you need to define what role the influencer will play in your overall brand strategy.
In the case of Reebok, is this influencer someone who’s going to “be more human,” which is the tag-line of Reebok and the core brand philosophy? Or would they be promoting athletic footwear or training apparel? This is important to highlight because the influencers that are identified for brand promotion, could or should be very different to those influencers who are chosen to promote the product. And sometimes, it’s not even the brand or the product, but an event or experience that the influencer is promoting.
2. Focus on identification
Although there are a plethora of different types of influencers out there today, broadly speaking, there are three categories:
- Advocates: These are people that are extremely loyal, speak with a lot of passion and evoke trust in your brand. Generally, advocates do not interact with the competitors at all and speak out about your brand from a very loyal and authentic place. They may be very few and far in number, but produce extremely valuable content.
- Key opinion leaders: These people might not be complete loyalists or have a sufficient following on social media, but they are very well-regarded in a particular industry. Key opinion leaders are trusted in the industry, seen as experts in their field, and great to have on your team as they are powerful word-of-mouth influencers.
- Social capital: These influencers have a high number of followers on social media, and also get a high level of engagement with those followers. They are posting and sharing a lot of content online daily, and receive a lot of traction on it. Social capital are important because they provide you with a certain reach as soon as you tap into them.
Each of these three categories of influencers is valuable in their own right. Advocates bring loyalty, key opinion leaders bring positive word-of-mouth, and social capital brings engagement, reach and buzz.
3. Categorize to Communicate (e.g. Lifestyle)
It’s vital that you are categorizing your influencers – this helps with how you communicate with and build relationships with them, and how they will be communicating your brand to everyone that they come in contact with.
If we take the industry “Lifestyle” for example, we can separate influencers into these four different categories:
- Fashionably fit: This is the influencer who is combining passion for sport and fashion – and they could talk about products that look great to workout in, or look great in a gym.
- Trainers: The second type of distinction is the trainers or key opinion leaders. They are trusted in their field and bring credibility and expertise to the brand.
- Mini celebrities: This is an influencer who might have come from the entertainment or sports industry, that have a high online following and fan-count. Because celebrities automatically have to live a healthy, fit lifestyle, they can often be organic lifestyle influencers.
- Moonlighters: This is someone who is relatively ordinary – they have a full-time day job – but they are passionate about fitness. The spend time in the gym before or after work, enter races on weekends and are happy to share their workouts or results on social media. They probably don’t have the expertise or technical know-how of the trainer, but others like to follow them because they are relatable.
4. Work Together to Create Magic Together
The key to creating content that performs is to work together with your influencer to create it. Here’s how:
- Co-create: If you are aiming to be authentic at all, you cannot expect your influencer to share exactly what you have handed them – word for word. You should be co-creating content that their followers will enjoy and that resonates with your band followers. You shouldn’t even want an influencer who blindly reposts everything without making it their own – consumers can see right through this.
- Co-publish: Influencers should always post their unique content first, followed by the brand’s reposting it. The idea of co-publishing is to decide with your influencer how to publish your pieces of content so that it can reach more and more people.
- Co-promote: Once you and your influencer have created and published the content as a team, it’s time to co-promote it. The essence of content creation with influencers is to work on it together, be creative together and boost it together.
5. Snackable Content
- On-Trend: A few months ago, it was memes and gifs, but today, 5-second videos are what’s trending and it’s expected that ephemeral content will have a major impact next. Keep up-to-date with sharable trends so that you’re always at the forefront of what audiences want to see. (This will depend heavily on your consumers, product, location and, of course, time – but the most important thing is that you’re putting thought into what goes out, instead of just churning out pictures and videos out of habit).
- Emotional Triggers: Content with emotional triggers, which refers to any strong emotion from laughter to tears, have a higher chance of being shared and engaged with.
- Innovate: Always try to be innovative and something new. As another example from the fitness industry, people used to be shy about sharing their fat-to-fit stories and felt ashamed about it. Recently, some brands decided that it might be a good idea to show the journey instead of just the end result, so began allowing and sharing customer’s fat-to-fit stories, which were very well-received and opened up another entire section of an industry.
6. Build Long-Term Relationships
Now that we understand the importance of creating magical content with influencers, we need to grasp just how important relationship-building is in doing so. To put it simply, brands should allow influencers enough freedom, authority and creativity in order to work to their best ability (much like any employee, actually).
These are some of the ways to ensure long-lasting relationships with influencers:
- Mutual Respect: The relationship between a brand and an influencer is based on mutual interest but grows with mutual respect. Both parties should have the utmost repsect for the other’s time, creativity, passion and success.
- Rewards: Sometimes unique rewards go a long way in appreciating influencers, further than money can. For instance, in the fashion industry, it might mean the world to an influencer to be invited to a front-row seat of a fashion show, or to meet an icon of theirs.
- Experiences: This can include taking them to the Headquarters of your company, that can also encourage social media stories and posts.
7. Offline to Online
Most influencers today are online influencers, which means that when you are activating them, you’re largely tapping into social and digital media. But it can also be beneficial to engage with them offline. Here are some ideas on how you can do this:
- Fun with Press: Organsie the press and your brand influencers to be in the same room – but keep in more light-hearted and less like a press conference. Press and influencers together have the ability to inspire some great stories and content generation.
- Community Building: This refers to getting several influencers together for an occasion that the brand has organised for them. Depending on your industry and brand, this could be a brunch, group run or outdoor yoga session – something that is specially created and includes all of your influencers. It’s also a really great way to show that you care about your influencers, creating magical content and to position yourself as a thought leader.
- Consumer Events: This can include inviting your influencer to your physical store or office or organising a meet-and-greet and immersing it with your consumers, so it’s a win-win-win: for your brand, the influencer and the consumer.
8. Use Each Platform Differently
Some platforms by default post the same content to other platforms – don’t make this default your strategy. You should be well-aware of how each platform works and what type of customer is on each. Encourage your influencers to use the strengths unique to each platform and leverage them best. Don’t copy-and-paste the same content across all mediums.
As a general rule of thumb:
- Facebook: Video content goes down well on Facebook.
- Instagram: Instagram is popular not only for photo-sharing but also for AMAs (Ask-Me-Anything).
- Twitter: For topicality. On Twitter, discussions often revolve around what’s trending.
9. Boost Smartly
There are many ways to share and promote your content, but the key is to “boost smartly” – this refers to knowing your platforms, working with your influencer and understanding your customer, and not just promoting the same thing everywhere. Here are two key tips for boosting smartly:
- Track and keep yourself updated with algorithm updates: Social media platforms are changing their algorithms often and it’s imperative you’re on top of these updates. You can then plan your social media marketing spend accordingly and boost your content effectively. Chat with your agency about this too – they should be updated themselves too.
- Create exciting social media calendar: This will determine which influencers are posting when, at what frequency, on which platforms and what they’re promoting, when. Ensure the content has been co-created and is fresh, unique, snackable content. A social media calendar will help with keeping your content structured and organised, will be a more pleasant viewing experience for your audience and, in time, will give you a better overall social media score.
10. Do The Math
The final step and probably the most-asked question is: What is the ROI when it comes to influencer marketing?
Just like everything that marketers do, influencer marketing also dovetails into salience and profitability. These are three of the most important ways to determine your return on investment for influencer marketing.
- Shareability: Although numbers will always be lower than likes and interactions, shareability is an incredible metric to use as it really gives you insight into whether the content is exciting your end consumer or not. The important thing here is that you’re looking at organic shares to get a solid understanding of how well its really been received.
- Sales: If influencers are promoting a certain product, over time, the sales of this product will increase. (Note: Do not view this in the same light as you would a big campaign or other performance marketing-led projects. Sales will always vary – there are so many other factors – and this is certainly not something to look at in the short-term – give yourself one year, at least, to really see the impact).
- Salience: Brand salience asks the question, “How well did your brand resonate with your audience then and now?” Before beginning your influencer marketing strategy, determine which indicators matter to you, and once you have a group of influencers, key opinion leaders and advocates working with you, you should see these social indicators increase and improve.
If you would like to learn more about how media intelligence can help you deliver a knock-out social influencer strategy, contact Meltwater India today. Alternatively, sign up for your free demo of our Social Influencer Tool now.