Marketing has always been about people; about influence. That’s never been truer than it is today.

We could give you the hard facts:

Only 1 percent of millennials actually trust mainstream advertising. However, nearly half rely on trusted influencers to make purchase decisions. Over two-thirds of U.S. marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget next year, and for good reason: the average influencer campaign offers a 500% ROI in terms of earned media value.

Or we could tell you how cross-industry leaders from Apple to Crayola, from Tencent to Victoria’s Secret to Aston Martin all rely on Viral Nation to get their messages across to the right audiences. No matter how you look at it, one thing is clear: influencer marketing matters, and it needs to be a part of your marketing budget. What exactly is it? How does influencer marketing work? What goes into the perfect campaign that takes you viral?

In this blog post, we’re going to start at the top and break it down for you. This is influencer marketing. This is what we do here at Viral Nation, and this is how we can help you succeed.

 

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Your brand is defined by those who experience it. This insight by Altimeter analyst Brian Solis perfectly summarizes what influencers do: they market the experience of using your product. Mainstream advertisements sell dreams and possibilities. It’s no wonder that only 1 percent of Millennials actually trust them.

Influencers, on the other hand, share experiences. They educate audiences about how your product or services makes everyday life that bit better.

Influencer marketing is about leveraging social media influencers with their own audiences and brand value, to advocate your product. Influencer marketing is built on trust. Audiences place immense trust in the influencers that matter to them. This trust is transferred to your brand and your products when influencers advocate them.

The idea of leveraging people to influence opinion isn’t exactly new. Santa’s been promoting Coca-Cola as the North Pole’s drink of choice for the past 90 years. What’s different now is that influence is no longer limited to celebrities and icons. Social media platforms let hundreds of thousands of people, across different niches and geographies, build communities around themselves.

Influencers today can be anyone, from Kylie Jenner to a pet squirrel named Jill. Unlike celebrities, social media influencers build audiences across a wide range of niches. What does this mean for brands? Well, instead of broad audience targeting with celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing helps you reach specific, highly engaged, and relevant audiences. Influencer marketing takes your product to the people that matter, through channels they trust.

 

Are Influencer Marketing And Word-Of-Mouth The Same Thing?

It’s easy to draw parallels between influencer marketing and word-of-mouth: they both focus on user experience and endorsements. But there are key differences. Word-of-mouth marketing is more or less organic. It happens when customers use your product and advocate it to the people around them because of a positive (or negative) experience. While there are strategies to promote word-of-mouth, it boils down to customers being vocal about their individual product experiences, on their own initiative. This makes it very difficult for brands to control or measure the impact of word-of-mouth, or even to be in charge of the messaging.

Influencer marketing, on the other hand, is a collaboration between influencers and brands. Influencers aren’t necessarily regular users of your product. However, they will likely have expertise and influence in your particular product niche. A video game streamer on Twitch might not play your game day-to-day. However, they will have a focused, highly-engaged gaming audience, including a large number of potential buyers. Unlike word of mouth, influencer marketing is deliberate. As a brand, you decide to work with influencers, you set targets and parameters, and find the right influencers to work with. Influencer marketing has many of the advantages of word-of-mouth, but it ensures you’re in control of the message.

 

How To Kickstart An Influencer Campaign That Delivers

At a strategic level, you need to treat influencer campaigns the same way as your other marketing approaches: set clear, time-bound objectives, decide on KPIs, and budget for success.

Plan Out Your High-Level Objectives

The first step here is to decide on your objectives. What do you hope to achieve through your influencer campaign? Nearly all marketers surveyed in the State of Influencer Marketing report listed one of the following three as their main campaign objective:

● Increase brand awareness
● Drive sales growth
● Build user-generated content about the brand

Whichever objectives you pick, it’s essential to establish clear criteria for campaign success. “Increase brand awareness” isn’t an objective by itself, and neither is “Drive sales growth.” Set clear targets based on KPIs like engagement figures, referral traffic, and audience growth on your pages.

Pick The Right Influencers To Work With

There are three key stakeholder groups in any influencer campaign: your brand, target audience, and influencers. You know who you are, and you know your audience. But what about influencers? Who are influencers, and how do you find the right ones to work with? An influencer is someone with experience and brand value in a particular niche, with a dedicated audience of followers. When you’re looking for the right influencers to work with, considering these questions:

● What kind of reach do they offer?
● What niche are they in?
● What kind of brand image do they project?

Influencer Reach

Numbers matter in influencer marketing. However, this doesn’t mean that the largest influencers are the always best bet for your brand. For instance, mega-influencer with 500,000-plus followers deliver 30 percent or lower ROI on average, compared to their mid-tier counterparts.

When it comes to overall reach, influencers fall into one of four categories:

● Macro-influencers (500,000-plus followers)
● Mid-tier influencers (50,000 – 500,000 followers)
● Micro-influencers (10,000 to 50,000 followers)
● Nano-influencers (2,000 to 10,000 followers)

Influencer reach doesn’t just determine the number of people your message will reach. It also impacts the kind of content created, budget outlays, and engagement rates with followers. More prominent influencers tend to have greater reach, meaning more people overall can be exposed to your brand and product. However, engagement rates tend to be lower since few followers build a personal connection with them. Moreover, higher-profile influencers tend to have more general audiences — your product might not be relevant to many of their followers. Bigger influencers also tend to cost more, limiting their usefulness – unless you have a huge budget.

At the other end of the spectrum, nano and micro-influencers build very tight, personal communities around themselves. Because of their lower reach, nano, and micro-influencers have the bandwidth to interact one-on-one with their followers. To their audiences, this makes sponsored posts seem more like recommendations from a friend than advertisements. Smaller-scale influencers also tend to build specific niches. If your product aligns with their area of influence, you have the potential to reach a highly engaged target audience.

Influencer Niches

With the exception of celebrities and some macro-influencers, most influencers build their audiences around a particular niche. When picking the right influencer to work with, you need to be aware of their niche and their audience. For instance, if you’re a tech brand, it doesn’t make sense to collaborate with a fashion influencer: there isn’t much overlap between your target audience and their niche. Understand what your niche is, first, and the audiences you expect to sell to. Then discover influencers who can connect you with exactly the right people.

Influencer Brand Image

An influencer’s brand image often (but not always) aligns with their niche. Influencers project brand images that their audiences aspire to. If your target market doesn’t overlap well with an influencer’s audience, their brand image and approach might not align with your values. Before you start a conversation, vet potential influencers. Look beyond their overall reach and assess the kind of content they produce. Work with influencers whose brand image and values align with yours. This will ensure that influencer content is on-message and in line with what your target audience expects.

Decide On The Platforms You Want To Target

Different social media platforms target different audiences and support different formats. This makes selecting the right platforms for your campaign a crucial step. Instagram is, by far, the most important influencer platform for marketers. Nearly 80 percent of all influencer campaigns last year ran content on Instagram. However, newer audiences are shifting to different platforms. With over 800 million users, TikTok is quickly catching up to Instagram in terms of its user base. We expect influencer marketing spend on emerging platforms to increase substantially through 2021.

Numbers aren’t the whole story, though. Different platforms address very different demographics. If you’re a cybersecurity provider, your target demographic will be older decision-makers and business owners. Working with LinkedIn influencers would a great way to get new sales prospects in your pipeline. On the other hand, if you’re an eSports equipment brand, collaborating with Twitch streamers will help get your products in front of the right audience. You will want to spread your influencer campaign across multiple platforms, but understand where most of your audience is and prioritize accordingly.

Build A Content Strategy And Workflow

Once you’ve set clear objectives and picked the right influencers to work with, it’s time to build your content strategy. Unlike your in-house marketing efforts, influencer marketing is a collaborative approach. You need to sit down with your influencers and chalk out a detailed content plan for the campaign’s duration. What goes into a great content strategy? Great content. How do you plan that out? By aligning your brand or product message with audience expectations and the influencer’s capabilities.

Work with your influencers to understand the kind of content they’re comfortable creating and what their audience expects to see. If you’re working with a fashion influencer, for example, the audience expects to see the influencer modeling great outfits. Plan a series of photoshoots and specify which items from your lineup you want to see on their Instagram page. If you’re a tech brand, you might want to send your influencer a unit of your product and plan an unboxing video, a review, and photosets.

Leverage Technology To Amplify Your Campaign

As influencer marketing campaigns and budgets increase in scale, it can become more challenging to manage everything on an Excel spreadsheet. Software innovations make it easier than ever to track and monitor objectives, schedule content and communicate with your influencers.

Viral Nation’s Influsoft platform combines a robust CRM, campaign creation tools, and influencer communication solution with granular analytics and tight API integration across almost every key influencer platform. As an end-to-end solution, Influsoft helps you manage your campaign at every stage: set goals, communicate with influencers, deploy your content strategy and monitor success.

Influencer marketing should be just as process-oriented as other parts of your marketing strategy. By bringing all of these key functions together, software platforms like Influsoft help you integrate and systematize your influencer marketing strategy.

 

Viral Nation and Twitch: A Case Study On Influencer Marketing Success

Twitch is currently the world’s largest live-streaming platform, with users over 1.5 billion hours of content every month. Viral Nation’s Twitch Q1 campaign played a crucial role in generating awareness, driving user retention, and pushing viewership to new levels, and the numbers bear this out.

We set clear, KPI-based targets for Twitch user engagement across Q1 2019. Then we activated a network of 30-plus Twitch streamers, who played the top six most-viewed games on the platforms, resulting in an aggregate of 40 million social media impressions. From cosplays to sponsored streams to collaborating with a celebrity chef, our content strategy leveraged influencer strengths to deliver precisely the kind of content Twitch’s target audience was looking for. The Q1 campaign exceeded expectations: we partnered with Twitch again for a Q4 awareness campaign that replicated its success.

 

In Closing

Influencer marketing is the future. For marketers, it’s not a question of if or even when – the time to get started is right now. The key is understanding how to integrate influencer campaigns with your overall marketing strategy and business goals.

Over the past six years, we’ve driven hundreds of millions of brand engagements through targeted campaigns, perfectly aligned with overall business goals. By connecting audiences to brands through the right influencers, we’re helping people across the world discover what matters, straight from the people who matter to them.

We only do marketing that works.

Work with us →

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