HOW TO BOOST YOUR INFLUENCER MARKETING STRATEGY
Most influencer marketing (IM) activity (please, correct me if I'm wrong) still heavily sits within the paid media spectrum, and whilst paid media plays an important role within the influencer marketing mix - we should consider it part of the strategy. There is more to take into account, after all.
I think that a true, long-term influencer marketing strategy should leverage the power of earned, owned and paid media. As explained below:
1. EARNED MEDIA.
Hubspot classifies earned media as per the below:
"Quite simply, earned media refers to media exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth"
So - how can you make influencer marketing part of your earned media strategy?
- First, make sure to differentiate between earned and paid influence. A paid for sponsored advertisement recommendation / piece of content should not, and cannot be classified as earned media. Why? Simply because it's paid for, and it's not earned.
- Existing brand advocates are earned; either based on relationship, product, experience or perhaps some other reason. I make earned influence a vital component of all of my influencer marketing strategies - and I think they will rise in importance after all the ''fraud'' news that's been coming out lately.
Most importantly, earned influence is more trusted and more authentic than paid influence. Bear in mind that influencer marketing is a long-term game, and you will not become a #1 brand without utilising, harnessing and leveraging the power of earned media and word of mouth. Most existing IM strategies focus solely on paid influence - and most have no strategy in place to leverage the power of earned and existing influence. If given the option between an existing brand advocate who has been purchasing your brand for the last three years but only has 3,000 followers - or a content creator with no loyalty and 100,000 followers - most agencies will advise you to go for the latter, and dismiss the former due to their follower count.
My advice? Utilise both and mix reach (paid) with advocacy (earned).
- Always combine UGC (unpaid & user generated content) with paid IGC (influencer generated content). Give your existing brand advocates, brand fans and potential consumers a reason to create content around your product/brand that is organic and not paid for.
For most, influencer marketing revolves around paying (or gifting) influencers to generate content - even though UGC is much more authentic (doesn't require advertisement/sponsored) - and with the right strategy in place, also costs much less. Kellogg's have recently launched their #MyPerfectBowl campaign; mixing UGC with IGC. (I just hope the 4/20 lovers out there don't turn this into this into a fail...)
- Reviews: a form of earned influence that is greatly under-appreciated in the current influencer marketing landscape. Encourage current and new customers to leave honest and authentic reviews in order to help you generate additional listing.
Now - enough of my ranting about earned media... ;-)
2. PAID MEDIA
Brandwatch defines paid media as follows:
"Paid media is the simplest to understand of the three channels, consisting of any marketing that you pay for. Traditionally this would include TV adverts, radio spots, and print advertising."
So - how can you make influencer marketing part of your earned paid media strategy?
- Engage paid influencers. (Duh!) An incredible vital part of your influencer marketing strategy - and definitely a paid advertising/media approach. When it comes to generating awareness and content for your brand, this is the 'go-to' solution within the influencer marketing mix.
I would suggest to try and generate earned media on the back of paid influencer activity (influencer pods are not earned, by the way - nice try). You want people to start a conversation as a result of paid content. Why not get an influencer to engage their audience to create organic content for your brand instead of just getting likes & comments on a paid for post? I barely see organic shares/re-grams from content created by influencers (unless it's a competition). Sponsored content created by influencers does not often travel far.
- Think long-term - please stop with the 'smash and grab'. If you have teamed up with an influencer, engage them for at least five pieces of content so their audience can identify a level of familiarity and trust between the brand and the influencer. If the audience sees the same brand pop up every month - this helps build trust and increase consideration.
- Create influencer communities. Build a relationship with a few influencers that you trust and have vetted rigorously and work with them for a prolonged period of time. This helps build trust between you and the influencers - and it also opens doors to a more organic and potentially an earned relationship in the future.
- Promote IGC. Once an influencer creates content and they've reached their audience - you can then put paid advertising behind that content to give it another awareness boost.
- Do your research, please. There are plenty of tools out there (I won't promote them here) that help you identify how genuine the influencer is and whether they show signs of bot-usage or even purchasing-behaviour. Please, don't just work with an influencer for the god-damn sake of ''reach''. If you're trying to reach a female audience in London and have no clue that most of your influencers' followers are male, and are located in Brazil and Russia - you're doing it wrong.
3. OWNED MEDIA
Brandwatch defines owned media as follows:
"Owned media consists of the content you create and publish on a channel you own. This includes your website and blog, any ebooks and white papers you publish, and the content you distribute on your social media channels."
So - how can you make influencer marketing part of your owned media strategy?
- Influencer marketing starts with customer service. Here's a great example of a brand using their Instagram channel as a customer service point. Great customer service adds to a great brand experience - which means you can potentially turn existing customers into brand fans. A great way for brands to turn their owned channels into a portal where customers will come to for help - this has the potential to revitalise owned social channels.
- Owned media is a great way to identify existing brand advocates. Paid media / outreach is not the only, and most certainly not the only option available within the influencer marketing mix.
- You can leverage earned and paid media on your owned media channels. Whether it's UGC or IGC - you can share this great content directly with your brands' followers - engaging and reaching another audience.
- Use owned media channels to generate organic shares from influencers. When we worked with Morphy Richards, they created a dedicated owned page around our campaign, showcasing content from everyday well as paid influencers - those involved were more likely to share this organically as it featured their content. This tactic is often used in B2B marketing. If one of your articles is featured in a ''weekly roundup'' on a website, you're probably going to share it, and you're effectively generating awareness for those that choose to feature you. Influencers work in the same way - they'll happily organically share something if it makes them feel important.
A successful influencer marketing strategy utilises earned, paid and owned media. By taking this approach, you can combine the different levels of trust, reach and awareness in order to build a robust, but more importantly, integrated strategy.
Remember, influencer marketing is most effective when it's part of the overall marketing mix - instead of being treated as stand-alone advertising solution.