Whether it be a singular opportunity outside of existent marketing efforts or something that can be associated with a current program, thinking of influencer marketing in such fragmented segments limits marketers from greater momentum and return from their efforts.
What brands need to recognise is that influencer marketing should be considered with a more macro view and conceived and executed as campaigns. This same mindset that marketers take with their national TV, print and digital campaigns should also apply in relation to their use of influencer promotion. Taking an overarching strategic approach will enable brands to build stronger, more durable relationships with influencers, which in turn will create the best conditions for content creation that is collaborative and authentic. This formula will generate work that resonates loud and clear with consumers, whose devotion and passion for their favourite Internet stars will bloom further and your brand will benefit from the halo effect. 

Here are five steps that every marketer should heed in shifting from a one-off to a long-term relationship building orientation. 

1. Go after the audience, not the influencer 

Brands tend to let the tail wag the dog when it comes to influencer marketing plans. Instead of starting by creating your wish list or dream team of influencer types or specific personalities, marketers should focus on the target audience first. This is how they start with every established marketing channel and the realm of influencer marketing should be no different. If you set up strategic and creative criterion for the campaign upfront, then the list of potential influencer partners will emerge organically.  By having a strong foundation of goals and KPIs (that aren’t inclusive of “favourite” influencer participation), you’ll be less likely to tolerate partners who are prima donnas and difficult to collaborate with. 

2. Understand the success metrics

Speaking of KPIs, make sure from the get-go what your goals are and how you plan to measure the success of your influencer campaign. A big part of this consideration process should drill down on the amount and type of data that the platforms you are using will provide. Also be sure what capabilities each platform has and how open they are to accommodating your project in terms of co-promotion, desired features, amplification and distribution of the content. 

3. Learn, optimise and scale success

It is crucial that you set up the campaign to not only generate metrics on the content created (watch time, demographics etc.) but also to monitor the actions that audiences take (for example install an app or make a purchase). Measuring clicks is fantastic but if you don’t measure what happens next you are missing a huge amount of insight that could help you improve ROI and shape future plans. The technology needs to be more than a platform that matches brands with creators, it needs to be sophisticated enough to find solutions such as predicting or automating the optimisation process. While there are thousands of platforms that do this basic matching, it is not as valuable as sophisticated AI and deep learning technology that can do far more than just creating a match between a brand and creator.

This actionable data helps you understand how much value each of the influencers is bringing to the campaign. When you gather this data it also helps you understand what elements of the campaign to scale and what elements need changing for improvement.

4. The PR approach is dead: content creation in exchange for a product is the way of past

Consumers are smart and can discern when their favourite influencer is posting something because they genuinely love it versus when they’re posting a free sample they received in the mail. As a result, influencers have become more selective in the type of promotion they do, having gained an understanding that their endorsement is more valuable than a free item. Because the goal should be the creation of authentic content, marketers should conduct research to determine if the influencer would even use said product in real life as the first step, followed up by a valuation of each parties’ contribution that sets a good foundation for continued partnership. Sending product that doesn’t align with the lifestyle of an influencer or expecting endless returns in exchange for a free product is detrimental to both the brand’s authenticity and the influencers. 

5. Don’t underestimate the power of live experiences  

Brands have an opportunity to new and exciting branded experiences for creators, which allows creators to develop engaging stories for both themselves and the brands they represent.  It also allows brands to scale campaigns by having multiple creators with different personalities and expertise to create content at the same time and increases the range of audiences that are being exposed.   

We have always seen influencers as the future of television and entertainment, meaning that these tactics are not only relevant for influencer marketing, but also in product placement in film and television.

If you take these five pieces of best practices to heart, you will see a greater level of success with influencer marketing that will help you establish its legitimacy within your organisation, which will help ramp up its internal enthusiasm and acceptance. 

Ricky Ray Butler and the Brand Entertainment Network will be exhibiting at the Influencer Marketing Show on October 15-16. Catch their session How to Deliver Genuine Conversions at Scale on Day 1 at the Pavilion Stage.