Influencer marketing is both a powerful and complex game. While some speculate that we are on the verge of an influencer marketing bubble (subscription required), nearly 65% of marketers are reportedly planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets this year. When done right, there is no question in my mind that influencer marketing can be among the highest-performing marketing channels in terms of both return on investment (ROI) and brand engagement.
Many other brands are finding success with this marketing tactic. Take Revolve, a Los Angeles-based retailer that is widely considered a leader in influencer marketing. Influencer marketing reportedly drives almost 70% of the company’s sales, and the word “influencer” was used 79 times in its initial public offering (IPO) filing. Another example is Target, which has launched many Instagram influencer campaigns over the years, from vertically integrated campaigns that saw influencers actually design clothing to socially driven campaigns around body positivity.
Our team at Intrepid Travel recently received the Gold Stevie Award at The American Business Awards for our vegan influencer campaign. With a deep focus on value and product alignment, this proved to be one of our most successful campaigns in 2018. And in the summer of 2019, we worked with eight diverse women with strong voices on gender equality and empowerment to tell the story of our new Women’s Expedition, a tour range aimed to break down gender barriers in countries where women are often marginalized and fighting for equality.
Whether you’re a marketer for a travel company, a small lifestyle brand or a massive corporation, elements of influencer marketing can be deployed to drive a strong return into your business.
Here are five important considerations to drive successful influencer marketing campaigns (specifically when working with influencers who have 50-500,000 followers).
Genuine Brand And Value Alignment
It’s time to leave the pay-to-play model of influencer marketing behind. Consumers can easily spot a disingenuous product placement with no real alignment or purpose. You should really home in on the story you want to tell and find people who are equally passionate about it.
I would suggest doing some research on your existing customers to find who they follow and where they seek inspiration from. Approach conversations with influencers not from a pay-to-play perspective, but rather, ask what value you can add to their audience. Genuine brand alignment means there will be inherent value for everyone involved.
Clear KPIs And Expectations
For both brands and influencers, clearly defined goals and expectations are keys for success. For example, if you are trying to drive website traffic, be sure to provide measurable tracking links. If you are trying to attribute direct conversion or purchase, consider a special offer code linked to the specific account or influencer.
Quality reporting will require transparency on both ends — the business should be able to share analytics reports, and the influencer should be willing to provide screengrabs of metrics and engagement stats. Brands may need to invest in additional reporting, such as a brand sentiment analysis that can help measure brand lift within a specific locale or demographic.
It’s important to consider every customer touch point when running a large-scale influencer marketing campaign. The brand story being told on your owned social account should not be different from the one in your email newsletter and the one on your company’s homepage. Influencers have a unique ability to quickly accelerate the volume of conversation around a product or topic, and it’s important that brands take advantage of the heightened interest by making that story available on all channels.
Consider the customer journey. When they see something on an influencer page, the first thing they will likely do is go to your Instagram page. You should have a relevant photo, story and bio link to help facilitate the connection. From there, they might visit your website, at which point strong merchandising to ensure the product or service you are pushing is top of mind will be key.
For our Vegan Food Tour launch, we had five global influencers on our pilot trip in India. We launched with a dedicated email send, a summary blog post introducing the influencers, a full takeover on our owned Instagram platform, plus site merchandising. We even hosted an in-person event with two of the influencers after the tour. The effectiveness was truly elevated by having a singular message across so many customer touch points.
A strong influencer marketing campaign also needs a post-campaign plan. For example, for a major Instagram influencer campaign, consider how you are going to onboard the thousands of new followers, eyes and audience members you’ve just received. They’re likely brand new to your brand and have come via a specific product line or brand story — but have you delivered the big picture?
Consider a “welcome to our community” post to give them a quick rundown of your product or service, or even a call to action to have them join your newsletter so you can bring them further down your customer funnel.
Influencers As Long-Term Ambassadors
Some of the most successful influencer campaigns are vertically integrated. When Target worked with influencers to design a unique clothing line, the influencers were involved from product design to distribution to actual sales. The effectiveness of an influencer partnership will come from a frequency of messaging and not a one-and-done execution.
Remember that an influencer’s audience is often growing at a faster rate than a brand’s, so you shouldn’t be wary of doing multiple projects over several quarters and years. If resources allow, you can even build out an ambassador program that creates a consistent dialogue with your most aligned and engaged influencers.