If you’re asking yourself, “What is influencer marketing?” this guide is for you. And for seasoned influence marketers, I’ll provide updates on how this popular marketing strategy is changing in 2018.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is the process that top brands use to leverage the voice of popular celebrities and experts in their field. An “influencer” is anyone with a large audience that matches up with the type of customers you’re trying to attract. The goal is to get the influencer to endorse or recommend your product to their loyal fanbase.
40% of customers reported that they’ve purchased an item online after seeing an influencer use the product on Instagram, Twitter, Vine or YouTube. It’s important to understand how this type of marketing can be used to grow your brand through referrals from the people your customers trust – and it goes beyond celebrities – friends and family can be the most effective influencers of your future customers.
Examples of Successful Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Robby Ayala (@robbyjayala) has more than 197,000 followers on Twitter. When HP launched their x360 lineup of laptops in July 2014 they reached out and offered him a free laptop, plus a hefty advertising fee. In return, Robby pushed a quick, funny Vine-style video to his followers (posted below).
The campaign worked. It even led to some free media praise in Forbes. And today HP’s x360 line-up is standing the test of time with new refreshes with updated components to compete with the competition.
Why was HP’s x360 influencer campaign successful?
They boiled down the coolest feature (at the time) about their product into a quick and easy to communicate value-proposition. They found a hip, young influencer that was willing to help show-off their product. And, most importantly, it didn’t feel promotional in its delivery. In fact, it was genuinely funny and fit perfectly in almost anyone’s Twitter feed.
British Airways Locked 100 STEM Thought Leaders in a Room, In The Sky. No, really!
For five hours, British Airways locked over 100 STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) influencers on a plane together. During the five-hour flight, these thought-leaders from a variety of tech and engineering backgrounds drafted more than 20 initiatives to help improve STEM education in the United States – including solutions to broaden the reach of these programs for women and minorities.
To this day, the tech industry talks about the successful initiatives that were launched during the flight. For British Airways, they gained instant exposure in high-tech markets as an engaged, thoughtful transportation provider. And all of the hype generated a ton of free media as reporters covered the unique story.
Obviously, most startups can’t afford to fill a commuter jet with influencers. But, no matter how big or small your company is, it’s possible to engage influencers and deliver a compelling message to the people that trust them for entertainment and advice.
How can I engage Influencers to help grow my brand?
First, let’s look at the cheapest way to get an influencer’s attention. If you have a website, blog or social media profile that gets a ton of organic traffic, and you can prove this to someone with the help of Google Analytics, you can engage influencers by offering them the opportunity to contribute to an article or post.
This can work for any channel where you have a significant audience of your own. Basically, this is a version of cross-promotion.
Here’s an example of how this could work:
- You work hard to curate your blog and begin to reach tens of thousands of organic visitors each month.
- Send an email, twitter direct message, Facebook message or text to an influencer that you want to engage. Emphasize that you have already written an article, it’s going to be published on a popular site (doesn’t have to be owned by you), and you’d like a quote from them for the article. The quote should allow the influencer to showcase their expertise, and speak to the value propositions of your product.
- Follow-up, politely, by sending a reminder every few days. Influencers are busy, it’s easy for a message to slip through the cracks. But, make sure you aren’t becoming a nuisance. You want to gain their support, not aggravate them.
- Insert the quote they provide, along with a link to their Twitter or other profile (they’ll tell you what they want the link to target).
- Once the article is published, reach out and let the influencer know. Again, it may take a few messages to get through. They should feel motivated to further promote themselves by sharing your article featuring their input.
This method of gaining influence through qualified suggestions and recommendations is critical to punching through the noise as social media continues to evolve.
Neal Schaffer, social media expert and author of the soon-to-be-published The Business of Influence, looks at it this way:
“It’s getting harder and harder to cut through the social media noise every day. Everyone else is doing what you are doing in posting frequently to social networks. Now that organic reach for business pages is dropping on every social network, social media becomes pay to play, and that will only get more expensive. The untapped way to promote your business in social media is through word of mouth and people power, standing on the shoulders of giants who are influencers and encouraging and sometimes incentivizing them to help share the word about your brand. There are endless ways to create organic relationships that are mutually beneficial to both influencer and brand, but you need to change the mindset in which you approach social media and embrace influencer marketing.”
How is influence marketing changing in 2018?
It’s important to understand that influencer marketing has only become more sophisticated as technology evolves. For example, Google’s search algorithms have become so powerful, they can detect content that is spammy or promotional based on linguistic analysis.
And social media platforms have shifted from allowing a variety of promotional content to reach audiences organically, to requiring brands to pay for sponsored posts. This has been primarily driven by the shift in large platforms from focusing on audience acquisition, to focusing on profitability.
If you want to make sure your influencer marketing campaigns are successful in 2018, you’ll need to:
- Think about ways to reach the influencers of influencers. For example, thousands of marketing experts follow Neil Patel (@neilpatel). If you sell software designed to help marketers, getting a mention from him will lead to hundreds of retweets and shares from influential marketers around the globe. The influencer waterfall affect can be extremely powerful, and in 2018 it offers the best return on investment.
- Engage influencers early in the product design process. Ask for their feedback in return for a nominal consultation fee. If you incorporate their feedback, they’ll be more willing to promote the final product on launch.
- After an influencer mentions your brand, it’s important that you jump into the conversation. When their followers post questions or comments about your products, you need to react quickly and helpfully. This builds trust with their audience.
- Brandmentions.com is a free resource for finding where people are talking about you, your products and your brand online.
The way people shop online is changing in 2018. Customers are turning to their friends, family and trusted online personalities for advice. Your brand needs to be part of that conversation. I hope this guide helps you crush your marketing goals in the new year!