Stakeholders of brands have always tried to be as cost effective as possible in seeking maximum ROI for minimum expenditure. With the digital space, finally being respected and utilized appropriately (the way many marketers like myself have been yelling about for years - sorry I couldn’t help it) strategic methods to increase visibility, like Influencer Marketing, will continue to be key elements of a fulsome Marketing Strategy.
The problem is - NUFF IDIOT OUT THERE WILLING FI RUN WHE WID YUH MONEY!
Having developed and executed numerous Influencer Marketing Campaigns over the years, for brands the likes of Baileys, Heineken, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Red Stripe (yes I have a thing for Alcohol brands) I’ve experienced the gamut of ‘ Digital Influencers’; their ways of working and in particular, their perceived added value to a successful marketing campaign. The following are a few basic tips I have put together, to help guide you as a business owner or your marketing team, to ensure you get maximum ROI the next time around.
Introducing the Brand Advocate
A highly curated Instagram Feed, large follower numbers and a who’s who of followers do not mean what they used to. Not all Influencers are Brand Advocates, but, all Brand Advocates are Influencers. Yup, let me break it down for you. Word of Mouth Marketing and a reference from a friend are still the most powerful and effective methods of Marketing, and a great ‘Influencer’ can have a similar effect on their audience, on your behalf.
Let’s clear up a few misunderstood terms, before we proceed further. People tend to use the term Brand Ambassador and Influencer interchangeably, which is inaccurate. Brand Ambassadors are typically retained by a brand and utilized in promotional material as ‘talent’ and sometimes even more like a prop. They present a human face for the brand and typically (should) represent the embodiment of the brand’s persona (personality). They are often already, popular and have built an identity of trust with the public. Brand Ambassador contracts are usually executed over a number of years, and have numerous clauses (they better have) around public conduct and conditions around working with the competition, during the tenure of the contract and at times after. Influencers on the other hand, may share some of these characteristics, however their value and appeal is primarily based on them having a receptive audience of followers online, who will - follow. However, that is not always the case.
Let me relate an example of a colleague of mine; who sought my advice around the use of an Influencer with a large following to market her product. She was wondering why she wasn’t getting much engagement (or ROI) on her own page, after the ‘influencer’ made their post. My first statement to her was “Sure, they (the influencer) have a large following but, how many of their followers actually care about them and what they think, versus are just following them to fas’ in ‘dem business?” There was a pause and I could visibly see the instant regret on her face. Here’s the thing, many people get away with charging an arm and a leg and even quoting in Euros (in Jamaica) their prices, because of their perceived value due to the size of their audience - Yup I couldn’t believe it either. However, where is the value?
Instead, identify true brand Brand Advocates to promote your products or services. A Brand Advocate is aligned with your brand pillars and has an audience / network closely resembling one, or more of your desired target/s. Oftentimes, ideal Brand Advocates are already following your brand, and are a part of your network. They may even be employed by your company and may be sharing your content already. Whether, they are already engaged with your content or not, as the term suggests; an Advocate is a true (potential) supporter of your brand. Advocates come in all forms; they can be other brands / companies, a public figure, a celebrity, an average Joe or Joanna from your list of followers or maybe even an animal or inanimate object Instagram account (yup those are fun to follow - don’t judge me). The point is that Advocates can have large or small audiences, whereas Influencers are ranked based on their following (and engagement) levels primarily.
Ensure your Brand Pillars are aligned
Brand Pillars; as the term suggests, speak to the characteristics which form the basis and foundation of a brand. If you are yet to figure out your brand pillars, aside from the fact that I can help you with that (shameless plug), you shouldn’t even be considering Influencer Marketing yet - SLOW YOUR ROLL. One of my favorite definitions of the term Brand Pillars, comes from Jamey Boiter on a botlgroup.com blog:
As we’ve discussed before, a brand must have purpose. It must project and reflect the positive difference it can make in people’s lives. Within that purpose lies the compelling truths of the brand, or what we call pillars. These pillars are what your brand stands on every day. Compelling truths that go beyond mere attributes or adjectives, they describe your brand’s essence. They must have deeper meaning and exist in every touchpoint, either visually, verbally, or ideally, both. That is how they can transcend the daily transactions between your brand and your customers into brand experiences with your customers.
Your brand pillars can be anything from National Pride to Industry Knowledge. Identifying a Brand Advocate takes more than just looking at the number of their followers. It requires that you audit their page to see if their content and messaging coincides with yours, thus seeing if you share any brand pillars. My general rule of thumb, when engaging a brand advocate (or Influencer) for a client is that they must share 2 or more of my client's brand pillars, otherwise, we need to keep scrolling for another option.
Sometime LESS can mean MORE
Ya, ya, ya, the premise of Influencer Marketing is the ability to widen your reach and to create more awareness by leveraging the online presence and networks of others. However, as you can see from the above, it's less about the numbers and more about value. The number of people following your chosen Influencer means nothing if they are not the right people for your brand. Ask yourself the who, why and where in regards to Influencer Accounts. Who are their general followers? Why are they following them and where are they based? If any of these are not applicable / aligned to your brand, then you may need to find another Influencer. You can oftentimes find better niche audiences with smaller accounts. Spend less, if not the same budget, by recruiting more smaller brand advocate accounts rather than placing all your eggs in fewer baskets with larger Influencers. Look for the value in their messaging rather than just the numbers.
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Ask the right Questions
When engaging an Influencer, there’s are very simple list of questions you can ask which will give you immediate insight into not just the potential ROI but also your possible working relationship with them:
Can I see your last Engagement Report?
This report should provide insight into their levels of reach, number of unique views, the potential increase to these numbers based on boosting content versus organic posts and specific data around how frequently their content is liked, commented on, viewed (the duration of views on videos) to how often their posts are saved and shared. The latter two, in my opinion, are the most valuable.
Watch this video to learn why I think so.
What are your Follower Demographics?
You clearly need to know the gender and age ratio of your Influencer’s followers and their location.
What are the impressions on your Feed versus Stories?
To be fair, some people tend to get more consistent engagement from their Story (disappearing content) rather than on their page. Some Influencers realize this, while some simply don’t wish to alter their curated feeds and will either charge additional prices for posting to Stories (alone or in addition to) versus just posts to their public feed/timeline. Story posts tend to be more influencer friendly, as the content disappears within 24 hours, and will not interfere with their ‘Grid Appeal’ (how their page looks). It’s very important to decide with your Advocate / Influencer, ahead of time, how long they will retain your content on their Feed after posting. Typically, Influencers delete their paid posts after a campaign is finished.
Influencers should be professional and have an understanding, appreciation and value for their data also. They can also spot a novice and a person who they can take advantage of quickly. Not having an understanding of this data will put you at a disadvantage and your brand at risk. As the brand owner, if the Influencer does not have this data ready, this is usually a red flag of not only not receiving a Return on your Investment, but a likely unprofessional working relationship in the making.
Define your Objective
Generally speaking Influencer Marketing aids with the first levels of the Customer journey; from Awareness to perhaps Consideration. Brand Advocacy can at times penetrate further to Intention and sometimes even to Conversion. Being clear on the objective of your campaign can help you to better determine whether to go with an Influencer or Advocate.
Your Objectives can vary, perhaps you wish more traffic to your website, or follows on your page, newsletter sign ups, visits to your store or maybe even to affect behaviour change. Identifying a metric (a data marker) you wish to track ahead of the campaign is crucial; will you be counting competition entries or landing page visits? The next thing to determine, is how you will track which Influencers were the most successful in increasing your numbers? This is a bit harder, depending on your objective, but not impossible. For example; if you are tracking website visits, utilizing a tracking code or affiliate link makes it pretty easy, to see which Influencer returned more visits to your website than the others.
On a supporting note, it's great when you find the right Influencer / Advocate. A connection like this must be maintained and nurtured. If you have received value, examine the possibilities of taking things even a step further with exploring Affiliate Marketing opportunities; where these individuals effectively act as an informal sales team on your brand’s behalf to earn commissions from sales/conversions.