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There's something you need to know about influencer marketing

Author: Philip Brown
Date published: 04.04.2017

Psh! I’m gonna tell you a secret – give you a little piece of information that hopefully will help you navigate through the wild-wild-west of influencer marketing.
    
If you’re not familiar with my piece on why the smash & grab approach is turning infuencer marketing into a straight up shit show, make sure to give it a read. Anyway – let’s get this show on the road. Below image, shows how most (not all of you, please don’t be insulted) perceive and approach influencer marketing.

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Campaign-based, smash-and-grab influencer marketing approach often focuses on one-off / campaign specific content creation in order to deliver a KPI that is often measured in terms of sales/downloads/traffic/clicks, etc.

The original version of this article was written in 2017 and while always-on programmes are much more common, it's by no means a given within the industry. What also still holds true is that the majority of people choose outreach tactics to engage influencers versus engaging existing brand advocates, extending this, most brands don't have infrastructures in place that leverage brand advocacy that is generated as a direct result of influencer marketing campaigns. 

A positive example however is Adidas. They have built an invitation style product purchase mechanic. Adidas provides a small group of users with the ability to use their influence and give their friends the opportunity to purchase a unique football shoe. Tapping into the football community and providing something that only specific users can get their hands drives brand advocacy. In addition, they communicate with their users only through dark social. 

The inspiration for the my home-made chart below comes in the form of an article by Rand Fishkin (CEO of Mozrank) from 2014, talking about how content marketing is being approached the wrong way. 



"They [consumers] essentially grow this memory about your brand, about what you do, and they build up kind of what I'd call a positive bank account with you. But that bank account, there are not coins and money in there. There are experiences and touches with your brand. Those content touches, and those social media touches, and those touches that come through performing a search and seeing you listed there, those build up the capital in the account."

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Consistent Great Content

I say consistent because I think smash & grab is not sustainable. You need to implement a long-term strategy that is built on influencers (IGC) and brand advocates (UGC) creating authentic content for at least 6 to 12 months. This is where the above quote comes into account. Audiences engage frequently with influencers, and they need to see consistent pieces of great content that they can relate to.

We have to bear in mind that it's naive to think that one piece of content will generate a myriad of sales. We also have to think about trust. Having an influencer create a piece of content for your brand with a #sp or #ad mention - after which the brand disappears completely from the influencers timeline. I argue it can - and should - be much more effective.

Another point here (that's not in the model) is the importance of an engaged audience. Content that is being broadcast to an audience that's not listening or engaging, will not contribute to an increased brand consideration. Smaller influencers and communities that are close to their audience tend to provide higher engagement rates, and thus a more engaged audience.

The other element is impact, high engagement rates are great, but if you want to influence at scale, you will have to drive absolute engagements and views, without this, your influencer marketing strategy may still be very successful on a smaller level, but will more than likely miss the audience volume to make a real difference to your bottom line.

Consistent great product / brand experiences

Providing influencers with experiences that go beyond content is extremely important. Keeping influencers close should be a no-brainer, but I don't see many within the industry taking this element very seriously. Let's be honest, most influencer relationships are primarily transactional, here is where you can make a real difference.

This also applies to your influencer marketing campaigns. I've seen examples of big name brands that send out product to influencers in plain, unpersonalised boxes with a few instructions. Too many brands don't even try to forge a long-term relationship. I would urge to think more about these things from a ''shared-value'' perspective. This way you can build a strategy around influencers where both brand and influencer can grow together. Here's a must-read Lululemon example.
Extending this principle and making sure that your customers have the best possible brand experience is also extremely important. Online, as well as offline.

Brand Consideration

I don't hear this term often enough within influencer marketing.

Consistent content increases brand consideration. While it may be appealing to change brand messaging and hashtags to match the various different campaigns throughout the year, I would recommend allowing influencers creative freedom and allow them to weave the brand into their existing narrative. Make sure a few key items are consistent, and allow frequent content to increase consideration.

Rand explains in his article that every time a consumer sees a piece of content they like (and preferably engage with), or when they have a great brand experience, they deposit an imaginary pound/dollar/euro into their brand account. Consistent, great experiences and content that resonates well will allow for the consideration-purchase gap being bridged. 

Brand Advocacy

A long-term, knock-on effect that is not very often discussed within the industry. The thing about brand advocacy is that it fuels itself exponentially.

Back when I worked for Come Round, we saw that those that consider themselves brand advocates are "somewhat, to fairly likely" to influence their first-tier connections and help drive sales based on their recommendation. This metric is extremely challenging to measure without having an advanced programme in place.

This is also a metric that most of us are very familiar with, because we do it ourselves on a day-to-day basis. I'll share a real-life example (it's not an ad, I promise).

I’ve been using Monzo for a while and have recommended it to 5 people I thought would benefit from it. I know that all 5 of them are now using the app, and I know that all 5 of them have gone on to tell their friends about it, too. I'm quite vocal about my support for the app. They had a referral programme in place that worked through the app and delivered cash incentives.

The point I'm trying to make is - there needs to be a strategy in place to harness brand advocacy. It is able to drive direct ROI based on an excellent product experience, not content.

This is a part of influencer marketing that many don't have an infrastructure for - and as such are missing out on incredible value.

Sales

Influencer Marketing has the potential to generate sales - and with the right infrastructure in place, you can find out who is generating sales, and how to leverage the influence of those who are buying your product. There needs to be a long-term strategy in place that will use the above model and will generate sales & brand advocates automatically. Remember; an influencer marketing campaign doesn't stop once the sales target has been reached. It travels.

The Takeaway

Influencer marketing goes beyond content creation, and setting up an infastructure that encompasses the elements in this article will allow you to deliver a sustainable, cost-effective, long-term influencer marketing strategy.