No matter how much you scale your marketing strategies and outreach, there will be a limit to who and what you can influence. Thanks to mobile devices, consumers and audiences now decide when they are going to consume content and how much. That includes marketing materials and promotions, video, infographics and much more. You can put it all on the table, but you’ll only make a dent if that audience or target demographic you’re after is engaged. That’s where influencer marketing comes in handy.
It differs from other forms of marketing because you’re actually enlisting outside or third-party help to get the word out about your products and services.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Traditionally, your marketing efforts target a group or large audience. With influencer marketing, however, you are focusing on key leaders instead. The goal is to either encourage, hire or pay — in some form — influencers to spread the word about your brand.
For example, sending review units to a popular YouTuber so they can create content for their audience is a form of influencer marketing. They test the product, create a review and share their experience with their audience. Their review either influences others to purchase the product, or at least puts it on their radar.
Because of its nature, influencer marketing often goes hand in hand with social-media marketing and content marketing. A YouTube reviewer, for example, is creating content and then sharing it on social networks, along with their audience and followers. Both of these practices are part of alternate marketing strategies, even if you may not be the one doing the actual engaging.
Sometimes, a brand or team will produce the content for the influencers. You may write a preview of one of your products and then solicit popular blogs to have it published, for instance. Other times, the influencer may create the content themselves, or they may even collaborate with you directly.
The key component is that you are taking advantage of influencers and celebrities — if you will — in a particular industry or area. Of course, that does bring up a valid question: How is this different from word-of-mouth marketing?
Word-of-Mouth Marketing: What’s Different?
If you are reaching out to key influencers to inspire their audience and bring in potential customers, influencer marketing is the vehicle, and word-of-mouth marketing is the steering wheel. Because that analogy may still be a little confusing, let’s break it down into simpler terms.
Word-of-mouth marketing is the act of communicating or sharing information about your products and services. It then spreads, through word of mouth, to friends and family, colleagues and even acquaintances. When you create a word-of-mouth marketing strategy, the goal is to spread the word as quickly and efficiently as possible.
While influencer marketing is similar, you are not focusing on an actual audience, but instead key leaders. So, you are actually using word-of-mouth marketing to do your bidding, and so is the influencer — however, that’s not the form of promotion you are relying on.
You are speaking directly to those influencers, and the “word-of-mouth” stuff is happening on their end.
Wait, What About Advocate Marketing?
Isn’t advocate marketing the same as the other two forms? No, it’s not, and here’s why. Advocate marketing is about incentivizing loyal customers to share their love of your brand or a product you offer. One of the most common forms of advocate marketing is to adopt a customer rewards program or system.
With influencer marketing, on the other hand, you are going after influencers, authorities and popular individuals directly. Make sense?
How You Can Improve Your Influencer Marketing Techniques
Now that you have a solid understanding of influencer marketing, we can dive into improving your strategies. Step one, of course, is building a solid relationship with influencers in your industry.
1. Building a Relationship with Influencers
The first thing to understand is that influencer marketing is not traditional in the sense that it runs via a timed campaign or focused efforts. Instead, it should be ingrained as part of the customer journey, which in itself is always on. That means your influencer marketing efforts should always be on, too.
Taking a look at the customer journey, your audience will interact, leave or continue along a route largely influenced by touchpoints. For example, adding items to a virtual shopping cart is one step. Choosing the “checkout” button and going through an online purchase is another. In marketing, we learn to create various components along this journey that push or encourage a customer to do what we want.
If someone abandons a shopping cart with items still in it, for instance, you might send them an email reminder or push notification about it.
To achieve the best results with influencer marketing, you must build a solid, consistent and reliable relationship with your influencers. Influencer relations should be a priority, just like maintaining those relationships.
Come up with dynamic, reactive contact techniques to both stay in touch and reach out to influencers whenever necessary. If they say something negative about a product, don’t just hammer them until they change their opinion. Work with them to remedy the issue or come up with a valid solution. One thing that’s important to remember is that even though they are influencers, they are still customers of your brand and products. Foster that relationship and make sure they are just as happy as an average customer would be.
Old Navy executed a perfect influencer marketing campaign by building a relationship with popular social media influencer Meghan Rienks. She created a variety of promotional posts and videos on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and more. Most of them reveal how to style outfits and choose Old Navy clothing for various events.
2. Social Media Influencers Are Modern Brands. Don’t Compete, Recruit.
Gone are the days of the conventional celebrity. Yes, movie stars, models and the like still exist, but there’s a new kind of celebrity, one who gains notoriety based on social content and a wider audience. If you guessed we’re talking about social media influencers, you guessed correctly.
But the modern social media influencer is more than just a person or another customer — they are a brand. On top of talking about products and services, they are trying to grow their own thriving business — usually with the help of affiliate networks through Amazon, Shopify and other platforms.
Social media influencers don’t run their own store. They feature or talk about products, then send their audience to the appropriate places to acquire the items. Then, they make a small commission for each sale.
It’s important to understand you are not competing with these influencers, but instead working alongside them in a sort of partnership.
It’s not a bad idea to reach out to some of these influencers directly and offer them better commission rates for direct references to an official site or store you run. For example, if you can offer them a higher commission on a particular product than Amazon does, they might be more inclined to advertise your products more openly. Try to find ways to encourage and recruit these influencers as part of your team.
Naked Juice strategically works alongside social media influencers to get targeted promotions and advertisements out to potential customers. For example, popular lifestyle blogger Kate La Vie frequently shares content updates about her daily activities. In many updates — like this post on Instagram — she shares essentials for her routine, including a well-placed Naked Juice. It’s just speculation, but also likely that Naked Juice offers Kate free or discounted products for such placement.
3. Relinquish Control and Responsibility
You can’t control what an influencer will say about your brand. No matter how many products you give them, they will always have free will and the opportunity to share the truth about an experience — even if it’s negative. Understand this, and respect it.
Sometimes, you’ll see brands try to exhibit control or take away incentives from influencers for disagreeing or sharing negative opinions. You may think this works to silence those negative opinions, when in fact, it does the opposite.
Look, no one likes to release a product or service that gets panned by critics and customers, but it happens. When it does, react appropriately by trying to remedy any issues, retract a product for revisions or updates — or even go into full-on damage-control mode. The point is, accept what is happening, and instead of trying to prevent its spread, influence how it plays out.
If an influencer releases a negative review about a product, but points out the problems can be fixed in a software or firmware update, kickstart the appropriate development and fix the problem. Obviously, influencers and customers aren’t always going to know how to fix a problem. But it’s your goal to find a solution.
Furthermore, working with your customer base and influencers to remedy these issues is another form of positive PR for your brand, especially when it’s publicly visible on social media networks and blogs.
Sometimes, super-fans and influencers have exactly what you need to get the word out about your brand or business. Glossier is an inspiring example of this, encouraging “regular women” to spread experiences across social media and various networks. It’s working, too. They were recently named one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative” brands.
4. B2B Influencer Marketing Is Also a Thing
You’d be forgiven for thinking influencers are only mirrors of traditional consumers. Thanks to the popularity of platforms like YouTube and Instagram, things can sure seem that way. But B2B influencer marketing is also a thing, and it works just as well.
If your primary audience is a business or industry, it might be a good idea to leverage other brands to handle your influencer marketing. You can generate quality leads and boost exposure and traffic, simply through other customers — read, brands — sharing their experiences publicly.
Here are a handful of B2B influencer marketing case studies to reference. Of particular note, the software solutions provider SAP used influencer video marketing to spread the word and promote their Sapphire Conference. Influencers ran interviews, discussions and offered valuable insights through live video content via their Facebook profiles.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.