Influencer marketing 101: Finally, a simple explanation so you don’t miss out!

I understand marketing and I understand “influence.” But what’s influencer marketing?

You'll see this term bandied about the marketing-sphere these days, with popular recent articles on publications like Forbes. Like so many new topics, the ROI seems too good to be believed, and the title is exquisitely vague. Isn’t everyone who does marketing an influencer of some sort? How is this different than traditional marketing, and if it’s so great, how do I get started?

Lucky for you, we’ll spend the next ten minutes answering those questions so that you can figure out if influencer marketing is for you!

To understand the buzz, first consider these two phrases, said to you by two different strangers:

“I’m the greatest.”

“You should meet my friend, they’re the greatest.”

Which one do you implicitly trust more? Probably the second, are we right? If so then you’re like 90% of people who look at customer reviews before buying anything, and in fact, look at an average of 11 such reviews and pieces of “content" before doing so.

The problem that we all have with the first statement is that it’s like traditional, in-house marketing: it’s self-promotional. Your consumers know that they can’t fully trust you to be an impartial judge of how great your own products are. They thus turn to other consumers who have already purchased, whose voices are by their nature more genuine and hold far more weight.

In influencer marketing, highly credible consumers do your marketing for you!

So there you already have your answer to our first question: How is influencer marketing different than traditional marketing? It’s marketing that comes from other consumers, or “influencers.”

These are people who have worked hard to amass a large following of people on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or Pinterest who aspire to emulate their lifestyle, and when they advocate for products, their words hold tremendous weight. Influencer marketing is the process of companies using these influencers as advocates.

Influencers are happy to make a living while brands are happy to have powerful champions. In that way, it’s not unlike a celebrity endorsement, except that the messages come directly from those influencers and that everything occurs online and is tracked. Studies reveal that 9 out of 10 consumers find them trustworthy and seek them out before making a purchase.

This, in a nutshell, is why influencer marketing exists. It’s far more effective than traditional marketing because it persuades your customers in ways that you cannot. And if you’re a brand which finds itself wanting to elevate its messaging to new audiences or needing to connect more authentically to existing ones, this might be the right marketing strategy for you.

Sounds great, where do I sign up?

Influencer marketing of course isn’t a plug-and-play solution. While some services that purport to help you out with influencer marketing may be simple to set up, at the end of the day, real relationships that drive real results take, you guessed it, real time. To create a successful program, you need to understand all of the players in the ecosystem so that you can set up your program in the right way for you.

Derma e for example uses this method. They felt confident that video was the best way to both reach their audiences and to explain the value of their products. They ran a campaign and connected with 55 beauty influencers on YouTube who helped them reach 5 million people (the total views) which led to 150k new engagements from potential customers. For a fairly inexpensive campaign, the ROI based on _____ is _______.

Let’s learn more about the role that everyone plays:

a. Brands: This is you. Brands need to sell their products but they’re hamstrung by the limitations of traditional marketing. A full 95% of all marketing messages today go unseen, and people now turn to social media for buying recommendations. Brands thus need a way to create high-value, engaging, and trusted content and connect it with highly targeted audiences on these social platforms. Their ultimate challenge in influencer marketing is finding and managing the right influencers who have the right audiences.

b. Influencers: These are people who broadcast a lifestyle on social media which others aspire to, and in doing so, influence their followers to make buying decisions through sharing posts, pictures, writings, and videos. They’re people who are enthusiastic (to say the least) about topics like fashion, food, travel, and just about anything you can imagine. Influencers choose to monetize their fan base either through digital advertising, selling their own products, or, partnering with an influencer marketing platform. Their largest challenge is finding quality brands to work with.

This of course begs the question, how do brands and influencers actually find each other?

You’d be entirely right to assume that there’s a lot of noise. With hundreds of thousands of potential influencers and brands with varying levels of credibility, it can be quite an epic journey for the right ones to find each other. If you want to save yourself some serious time, you’ll need a proper strategy.

Here’s your best strategy for managing an influencer marketing program in the traditional way:

1. Find the right influencers: Many smart marketers first plan to target A-list celebrities. The odds of getting traction are very low however because of the sheer volume of outreach that they receive and the fact that they mostly have teams managing their accounts for them. You could use a multi-channel network (MCN) as a go-between, but they mostly cater to the largest enterprise brands. Your best bet is to scan social media yourself.

It may seem counterintuitive, but when you do this you’re not looking for the greatest number of followers. Some audiences are more active than others, so look for someone with at least 10,000 followers and who is already having the sort of conversations with their followers that you want to be part of. Comb through your options and shortlist your top 15-20 influencers. You’ll then want to investigate their work to make sure that it’s on-message and that their followers represent the consumer audience that you’re trying to reach. Finally, you’ll have to reach out and see if they’re interested in working together.

2. Design your campaigns: This is your chance to outline the rules of influencers’ participation, expectations, and the compensation structure, whether that be a monetary award, free products, or a mixture of both. Avoid dictating too much as at the core of your campaign should be an implicit trust that influencers are professionals who need creative license to work. Generally speaking, the less direct input a brand has, the more authentic the campaign will feel.

3. Manage and track campaigns: This is where you’ll need a suite of different tools to keep tabs on things. Google Analytics and your own social media accounts are a good start, but you may want to go further and pay for things like BuzzSumo, Klout, Kred, Topsy, or a host of other software which can allow you to track performance. Some focus on tracking influencers themselves while others focus on tracking their content, and you may find yourself using multiple tools to get a full view. Once a campaign has run its course, you’ll have to follow-up with payments, determine your ROI, and rinse and repeat.

Influencer marketing platforms can make programs manageable for any size team:

c. Influencer marketing platforms: These are technology platforms that create a thriving ecosystem where brands and influencers can find each other, propose terms, create campaigns, and forge long term partnerships. For brands, the value is that platforms cut through the clutter by recommending influencers that match their image, possess the appropriate reach, and have traction with the correct audiences. For influencers, it’s a sure-fire way to be found by top brands, to highlight their work, and to guarantee payments. For both parties, it guarantees a higher level of quality and automates the drudgery.

Be careful though. When choosing a platform, you’ll want to make sure that your influencer marketing platform is indeed a platform, and not simply a matchmaker agency, who brokers a connection and then hands over the keys. Again, the truly profitable relationships require time. You’ll want a platform that’s around for the long-haul and at a minimum has high quality relationships with influencers, can act as an escrow for payments, and provides closed-loop ROI reporting on the campaign level so that you can optimize and improve.

Ready to get involved?

If you realize the value in reaching consumers on social platforms where they spend most of their time with highly credible content that’s proven to convert into sales, influencer marketing is a great bet. Unless you have plenty of spare hands on the team who have done this before, you’ll want to begin your search by evaluating influencer marketing platforms and seeing what they can do for your brand.

Want to learn more about influencer marketing? Request a free Revfluence demo today as a Brand, Agency, or Creator today!