Why creating impactful influence programs starts with strategy

It’s not new news that more and more brands have already or are looking to incorporate influencers into their marketing mix. According to LINQIA Report, The state of influencer marketing 2018, “39% of marketers plan to increase their influencers marketing budget in 2018” . The relevance and popularity of influence marketing has had substantial and continued growth over recent years.

The challenge for those who work in the space is no longer convincing brands that its needed, but in helping them navigate the landscape and understand what makes an influencer marketing strategy effective.

Because influencers come in all shapes and sizes, there shouldn’t be a “one-size-fits all” approach – the many levers of influence need to be considered to truly get the best results.

Success starts with strategy

Influencer marketing, just like all other marketing channels requires thoughtful planning.

Brands must seek experts in the space because selecting the correct influencers shouldn’t be on followers alone. When identifying and selecting influencers, you must assess the criteria needed to deliver set objectives, carefully planning out tasks the influencers need to deliver on, as well as the right technology to measure their efficacy.

Problems with influencer campaigns begin when influencers or brands create inauthentic partnerships. When brands are either poorly guided, or worse, receive no guidance at all, with self-serve platforms promising to deliver only on quantifiable media numbers that fail to paint a holistic picture when it comes to a brand’s perception and alignment or the strengthening of the overall brand story.

Influencer marketing strategies are better placed than other media to deliver results. An influencers’ follower is already engaged and more open to receiving a message from that specific source, but as marketers, we easily forget that due to the same “trust”, they are quick to pick up on disingenuousness or inauthentic alignment.

“The influencer space is also one that will quickly become cluttered, brands need to have the foresight to consider developing long-term relationships with key influencers.”

Maria Casas, Social Soup

The expertise is needed not only in the careful vetting of the influencers, but in also having the skill to deliver those influencers a very tight strategic brief that in turn allows the creative freedom the influencer has built his or her following on.

And beware fads or temporary popularity. Brands must also consider all the levers on a case by case basis. If we consider 2018 as an example, the discussion in the industry has been around the power of the micro-influencer versus a celebrity. Although I would never argue with the fact that consumers have a higher likelihood of adopting information from small but very relevant influencers as a general rule, it’s important to consider the objective, the particular message and of course the end consumer every time. For example, if a brand’s objective was to highlight the benefits of a new toddler milk formula, I would certainty consider that getting real mothers who have great influence in their very tight networks (Mums groups) would hold most of the influence and credibility with that audience and would be the perfect people to relay the message.

But if a business were trying to launch a fashion forward brand, needing mass awareness, I would then argue that having a handful of celebrity trend setters wearing the label, it may help them reach their goals faster.

While these are very specific scenarios, the point remains the same: a strategy that considers all tiers of influence and the many levers, is a must.

The influencer space is also one that will quickly become cluttered, brands need to have the foresight to consider developing long-term relationships with key influencers. Building partnerships will deliver not only a consistent, but a more authentic message. The longevity of a collaboration between an influencer and a brand will most certainly strengthen the credibility in the message.

There’s no fudging strategy. The work must be done up front, using careful consideration and expertise to form a long-term strategy for all influencer marketing efforts and brands should be sure to consider the following six levers:

  1. Consumer level of interest in the product/ message (high or low involvement)
  2. The influencer’s credibility to deliver the message to said consumer (likelihood of information adoption)
  3. The level of alignment between the brand and the influencer
  4. The single most important objective to deliver against and how it will be measured
  5. The ROI on the activity as a whole to the business (eg. is the organic reach from the influencers enough or do you need to consider an amplification strategy for the results to be fruitful?)
  6. Any relevant partnership opportunities