Over the last few years, influencer marketing has branched out into a category of its own. As it’s a relatively new phenomenon, it has professionals scratching their heads trying to piece together the ultimate foolproof formula to truly influence through social media.
The fact that there is no cookie-cutter method for crafting an influencer marketing campaign is both a blessing and a curse. Communication professionals have a blank canvas to paint their picture-perfect campaign as it fits their needs. Although there is no one-size-fits-all formula, there are crucial steps (that brands often overlook) that will help achieve a successful campaign and simplify the process.
Step 1: Build Your Brand Brief
This may seem like an obvious one, but many don’t think of influencer marketing as a true campaign that needs a beginning. Identify key elements, including:
Timing: Set a launch date, and create an attainable timeline for your outreach, pre-launch and execution phases. Include notable dates or holidays.
Messaging: Select two to three key messages to push. Too many messages can oversaturate your campaign and confuse the audience.
Target Audience: Identify the social media platforms your audience is spending the majority of their time on. This will ensure you select an influencer with a similar audience.
Content: Be specific with the type of content you are after.
Budget: Set an all-encompassing budget to narrow down which influencers you may be able to work with and how much to spend on paid media, purchasing content rights or just investing in the influencer’s experience.
Step 2: Set Goals and KPIs
Skipping this step and not defining what you hope to accomplish will keep you from measuring the campaign’s success. Be specific and realistic. For instance, when working with our hotel brands, not only do we want to increase traffic to our social pages; we want to drive traffic to our website and ultimately put heads in beds. We keep this goal in mind throughout to ensure every step we take helps us get there.
Step 3: Look Beneath the Surface
Once you’ve set your goals, look for the right influencer who will help you get there. Yes, vanity metrics like follower numbers are attractive, but look beyond that, and consider other telling factors:
Follower demographic: Does this align with your target audience?
Engagement: Do they have a high engagement rate? A large following but low engagement doesn't do much for your brand.
Comments: What kind of dialogue are they creating through their content?
Content: Does the content they produce help tell your story?
Step 4: Establish a Personal Connection
In this day and age of instant response at our fingertips, it’s easy to bypass a call for the sake of our busy schedules. Establishing a personal connection instantly humanizes you to one another, breaks the ice, gradually builds trust and creates more of a collaborative atmosphere. Start out with an introductory call, and go from there.
Step 5: Manage and Communicate Expectations
Once you get formalities out of the way, let your partner know what you expect out of the collaboration (number of posts, type of content, tags, etc.). Be sure to manage their expectations on what you will offer. Laying it all out on the table will reduce the risk of having an unexpected bump in the road midway through your campaign. Once you’ve both come to a mutual agreement, outline requirements in writing.
Step 6: Be Flexible
We all know things don’t always go as planned. Be flexible (within reason), and find a happy medium that is mutually beneficial. When working with our hotel brands, we tend to have key times and specific target dates that we focus on. However, if those dates do not work for an influencer’s schedule, we’re always open to exploring alternate timing that may work for both of us instead of forgoing the opportunity to work together.
Step 7: Trust the Expert
This is one of the most critical points at which an influencer collaboration can go south. You are essentially reaching out because they know how to influence their audience. This is where brands have to be very cautious in not over-delegating or attempting to retain full creative control. There is no harm in providing creative guidelines like hashtags, geo-tags or even suggested Instagrammable dishes (that’s actually encouraged). However, there is a fine line between doing so and trying to micromanage a shot list or dictate post copy.
Step 8: Magnify Content and Posts
Influencer marketing is a partnership that requires both sides to work together. Do your part by leveraging their content and posts through:
Engaging: Like, comment and share from the brand's social pages.
Reposting: Repost the content on your pages with proper credit to the influencer (make sure you’ve negotiated permission to do so in step 5).
Repurposing: Repurpose content as you negotiated in step 5. If you purchased/negotiated rights to use their content on other channels such as website or emails, make sure you follow through.
Step 9: Review and Reflect
Review the results, and look back to see if you’ve reached your goals. Measure impressions, views, engagement, reach, clicks or revenue generated from a promo code. Moreover, reflect on the overall collaboration. How did it work with the influencer, and how can you improve in the future?
Step 10: Share Results
Share a recap of your campaign with your client, executive team and even the influencer. This will help you put the partnership into perspective from a bigger-picture standpoint and assess if it was valuable to the overall company goal. Not to mention, influencers love to hear if it was successful for their brand partners.
It’s easy to get lost in the rapidly changing landscape of influencer marketing, and missing key steps will not only complicate the process but also hinder your success. When this happens, it’s important to go back to basics. The same best practices you would apply to any partnership should be applied to influencer marketing.
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