Influencer Marketing is the new King — here is how not to fail at it

A guide on why and how to create your strategy.

You probably wonder why I chose to spend time researching and writing about Influencer Marketing… well, a recent survey reveals that 84% of marketers plan on developing at least one influencer marketing campaign during the next 12 months. How about that.

As a « Millennial », part of the « Y generation », or « internet native », I used to consider that Influencer Marketing was probably as natural for brands as it was natural for my generation to follow, like, trust and engage with online influencers.

But in reality, Influencer Marketing deserves to be defined as a true marketing strategy and deserves to be properly explained, since it has oh so smoothly radically changed the way brands need to talk to their audience, and since a bad comprehension of the basics can have the opposite effect of what you wish to communicate.

Welcome to my take on digital influence:


A VOICE NOT ONLY HEARD BUT LISTENED TO: 100% DIGITAL + 100% HUMAN → WHAT IS AN INFLUENCER?

Let’s start by defining what is influence: it is where reach (access to an audience) + relevance (of content) + resonance (of values, trust) meet in the middle!

More concretely, if I had to define what was Influencer Marketing, I would illustrate by an example:

« Imagine yourself back to your teenage years. You’re in high school. You walk down the hallway on your own to join the next class. Suddenly, you stroll past the popular squad of girls. Metaphorically, they’re Victoria from Inthefrow on Instagram (British beauty & fashion influencer, 792K followers). When passing, you hear Victoria tell her best friend « I love my new Swarosvski sunglasses, you know the round ones with the purple lenses! They have just gone straight to the top of my eyewear collection». Instantly, you feel like you know something that was not meant for everyone to know, you’ve heard an insight, an advice on trends given in trust, a discrete recommendation from Victoria to her crew. You know what she considers fashionable, what she considers to be cool. And now you want it. »

Actually this is what happened in real life. Victoria has partnered with Swarovski, hence the #ad. On her Insta post about it, she gathered approximately 24 500 likes and many, many comments. The conclusion is simple:

I found what I needed to be as trendy as her. She loves the Swarovski sunnies, I trust her good taste and adore her style, so maybe I should as well buy them. After all, it’s almost summer!

Big wow to the power of association. That is why brands, even small niche brands, are willing to pay a lot to be featured in posts or videos from social media influencers (mostly on Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat).

Sure it is about the exposure. But it is mostly for the association you make -as a consumer- between the brand, the influencer and you, that is so interesting and desirable.

All in all, Influencer marketing is the grey area where official testimonial and subtle mention of product meet.

WHY DOES THIS WORK WONDERS?

When Victoria from Inthefrow — or any niche influencer with engaged followers — posts about a brand, the brand gets visibility to a targeted audience, one already interested, a potential right kind of consumer, who will more than likely pay attention.

And this is exactly the opposite of traditional channels of advertising such as TV spots where commercials have just become the annoying breaks in between your favorite tv show that you consider as a background noise.

And if you’re thinking « there’s sill room for traditional advertising on the internet », think again, as 47% of online consumers use ad-blockers, making this strategy way less effective than before.

BRANDS NEED TO FIND THEIR WHISPERERS

Today, what brands need is not necessarily to create new advertising from scratch.

What they need is to incorporate their products into a content that is already being consumed, into a content that already attracts consumers’ attention.

Brands need to find the whisperers who are going to whisper in the ear — or in the Insta feed — of potential consumers.

WARNING: AUTHENTICITY WANTED

But be very careful. As authenticity and trust are key elements for Influencer Marketing to work, you need to give freedom to your influencers. Find the right balance between the brand’s guidelines and their own tone of voice which is known to be appreciated by their followers.

Nothing worse -for both the brand and the influencer’s image- than followers having the feeling they’re being fake, paid-off to say whatever the brand wants in order to get a paycheck, like the Scott Disick Instagram incident (see article, it’s funny).

If I buy from an influencer recommendation, it’s because I trust their opinion. I want to hear their voice, not the brand trying to force a disguised ad. That is all the difficulty, the subtlety of this fundamentally human marketing approach.

Influencer Marketing must be led by the influencer’s voice, and by the brand building a genuine relationship with them. It is absolutely not a rebranding of a celebrity endorsement. The confusion is dangerous as the effects can be opposite.

WHATEVER YOUR BUDGET, WHATEVER YOUR SIZE, WHATEVER YOUR TARGET

What’s great is that small businesses can benefit too, as there are also « micro influencers » going from 1000 dedicated fans to 100 000, who align with the audience you are trying to reach but who are also genuine and trusted by their followers about the recommendations they make. This is basically what Kevin Kelly’s essay 1000 True Fans is on.

No need to target the Jenners or Chiara Ferragni immediately. Your strategy can be very successful by partnering with only a few well-chosen micro-influencers, whatever your budget, whatever your size, whatever your target.

There are influencers for everything, from beauty to cooking to gardening. So why not use this great tool to enhance your brand credibility? Especially since according to the Edelman Trust Barometer your audience needs to hear about an information (your product) 3 to 5 times to believe the information about it is true.


CONVINCED? HERE IS A HOW-TO GUIDE TO DEVELOP YOUR STRATEGY

  1. DEFINE YOUR ONLINE AUDIENCE, think about who is your target customer and who impacts and influences them.
  2. DISCOVER THE RIGHT INFLUENCERS who create content that can influence your customer’s decision to purchase, and whose passions or interests are in harmony with your brand’s offerings. Try and understand the community they have built.
  3. LISTEN TO YOUR INFLUENCERS: when they film a video or write a blog post, what is it about? What do they tend to share? What is the feedback they get from their followers in the comment section?
  4. ENGAGE WITH THEM! Follow, share, like their content so you can really start to feel like you know them almost personally. Then, get in touch, build trust, and think together about what you could do to collaborate. It can be way more fun that basic sponsored product mentions. You can create experiences with them, host an event, organize a long-term project that really fits to their personality and interests! Not only will they be more likely to share authentically about the great time they spent with your brand, but it will also build trust between you overtime.
  5. MEASURE YOUR RESULTS: how do your partnership translate into tangible events (visits, mentions, leads…) and numbers.
  6. LEARN AND ITERATE :)

Now, time to shine!

“Influencer marketing is not evolving as quickly as it should because many brands don’t understand the role it plays in their marketing mix. Influencer marketing is a different production model, but many treat it as a media channel. The future of influencer marketing has to be built upon the notion of content creation.”
Sources : Tracer & Lewis PR ; Digiday ; acorninfluence ; Forbes

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