Did you know that influencer marketing:
- Expands your marketing reach and
- Improves your ability persuade prospects to purchase?
More importantly, adding influencer relations to your marketing mix helps to build trust.
Since consumer trust continues to erode to lower and lower levels, your organization needs help from influencers who are more trusted than your c-suite. (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2021)
Further, marketing investment in influencer relations marketing is positioned to increase.
Because influencer relations humanize your brand while supporting your marketing.
Don’t take my word for it – Look at the numbers!
Globally, influencer marketing more than doubled in the 3 years between 2019 and 2021. It increased from $13.8 billion in 2021 from $6.5 billion in 2019. (Source: Statista)
In the US, influencer marketing spend will grow to $3.69 billion in 2021; to $4.62 billion in 2022. (Source: eMarketer, June 2021)
In this uncertain environment, how can your marketing attract sufficient credibility to be read and acted upon?
Influencer relations marketing can help.
For your influencer relations, let’s examine these 3 key elements:
- Why will influencer relations help your business?
- Who should be part of your influencer relations?
- What tactics do you need for your influencer relations program?
Influencer relations marketing: The facts
Marketers need cost-effective influencer marketing. This is particularly true during this period of heightened distrust.
82% of US customers trust recommendations from people they know and 66% of US customers trust ratings and reviews posted online according to Nielsen. This trust is at the core of influencer relations. It varies by global region and customer age.
Influencer relations marketing programs earned $6.85 in media value on average for every $1 spent in 2014 according to Burst Media via eMarketer. Influencer marketing programs yielded 3.4% social engagement rate on average. Note: Earned media yield varied by product category. Further, expect returns to diminish over time.
How To Use Influencer Relations Marketing
1. Why should you use influencer relations marketing?
Influencer relations marketing is a key element of selling any product or service. It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B, B2C, not-for-profit or solopreneur.
Customers rely on other people’s input when deciding what to buy and whom to buy it from.
This isn’t a news flash. It predates marketing.
Since people ask other people they know with more experience or knowledge for their input. It’s how many people still find doctors, dentists and hairdressers today. They are service providers we trust with our health and our looks. Even with online research, it can be difficult to determine who’s best for you.
In the absence of a trusted resource, we turn to the wisdom of crowds.
Today influencer relations focus on thought leaders to enhance your brand’s message. Many thought leaders have large platforms including owned and social media. As a result, they can amplify your message. In return, influencers often seek to expand their personal reach and receive payment, in cash or kind.
So build influencer relations marketing into your marketing, especially your content marketing and social media, since:
- 90% of respondents believe influencer marketing to be effective and
- 75% of respondents have a dedicated influencer relations marketing budget. (Source: State of Influencer Marketing 2021)
Understand that influencer reach or the size of the influencer’s audience often relates to the strength of their results. So the smaller the influencer’s audience, the stronger the relationship with individual member.
2. Who should you get to build your influencer relations marketing?
Influencers fall into 3 main categories: Customers, Employees and Promoters.
Customers are most influenced by people they know. Checking other customers’ experiences happens at any point until purchase. For consumer products, it can occur post-purchase, known as buyers’ regret.
Customers first turn to friends and family, end users, and the buyer (if that person isn’t the end user) for purchase input. Then they check buyers in aggregate, people they don’t know personally.
Further, customers are influenced by how they’re treated by businesses. Your customer experience counts, probably more than you know.
Actionable Influencer Relations Marketing Tips:
- Monitor prospect and customer activity on social media as it relates to your product. This helps you reach out to your best customer influencers.
- Make it easy for customers to share styling and tips. Think Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Set up areas in your retail locations where prospects can show off your goods.
- Spotlight customers using your products. Use their photos or yours. Get their permission first, especially if “Under 13s” are involved. Create a regular blog column focused on your customers. For example, Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich ran a #FollowFriday interview of its Twitter followers. I love this column from 2012 featuring Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina.
- Ask customers for their favorite tips to use your products. Spotlight your customers and give prospects the information they seek on your blog.
When using employees as influencers, tread lightly.
Skip your CEO and other members of the c-suite.
To put it bluntly, they’ve got no credibility with your customers based on years of Edelman Trust Barometer Reports. Your best employee influencer choice to increase trust are your technical experts. They help develop your products and understand how to make them work properly. Often, these are the people on the frontline helping with onboarding and customer success. And, that’s good news!
Unfortunately, they’re often difficult to get onboard with your marketing programs. This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked, especially by B2B marketers.
For example, GE’s professional content creators interview internal experts to spotlight stories that have broader reach beyond internal communications. This promotes the employees and attracts attention for GE better than basic PR.
But building influencers within a large corporation has its drawbacks since these thought leaders, like Michael Brenner, formerly of SAP, and Matt Cutts, formerly of Google, tend to retain their influence after leaving the companies where they built their base.
Actionable Influencer Relations Marketing Tips:
- Make it easy for employees to contribute. Let employees create content in any format (text, audio or video). Reassure them you’ll supply editing and sex appeal to make their information shine. Allow them to give input on the final version. Give them control over their public image.
- Help raise employees’ visibility among their peers. Everyone has an ego. Improve their standing with their peers like other technologists or professors. Find out how you can help them achieve their goals.
- Get c-suite support. Ask their managers to make this influencer c0-created content part of their job description.
Promoters include a wide range of individuals who have sway over your potential audience. This includes professors, industry experts, celebrities and others.
So how do you compensate your influencers?
- About 7 in 10 US influencers receive most of their income from brand collaborations and
- Less than 1 in 10 get most of their income comes from affiliate links and promo codes.
Don’t forget to consider WIIFM (What’s in it for me) from the influencer’s perspective.
As part of your influencer relations marketing, you may need to support their audience growth, provide products or pay them. In this case, make sure that you understand any related FTC regulations and/or IP rights. It’s useful to get legal input. (Note: We’re not lawyers!)
But also remember to track the ROI (or return on investment) on your influencer relations marketing program. About two-thirds of other marketers do. (Source: State of Influencer Marketing 2021)
Actionable Influencer Relations Marketing Tips:
- Build relationships with influencers over time. Pay-it-forward. Read what they write and share. Where possible assign staff specific influencers to follow. When you have the opportunity, meet them in real life.
- Ask customers which influencers they follow. Why guess? Get your staff to find out.
3. What should you know before you start an influencer relations program?
When choosing influencers to work with, assess the context, reach and actionability of their reach related to your business offering. So select people with whom prospective customers feel comfortable and are willing to trust. Without these, influencers won’t accomplish your goals.
To this end, create a marketing persona to select key influencers and to develop content and social media marketing with them. Among the factors to assess include:
- Personality. What role do you want influencer to play in your purchase process?
- Niche. What’s the focus of the influencer’s authority and how do these relate to your offering? Examine the specific topics where the influencer is active.
- Platforms: Where is the influencer’s reach? Is it limited to specific social network or media entity?
Consider using third party influencer relations marketing platforms. Among the service they offer are:
- Influencer discovery,
- Campaign automation and reporting,
- Fraud and fake follower analysis,
- Influencer payments,
- Conversion attribution, and
- Paid amplification.
Remember – Influencer relations marketing doesn’t happen overnight. You need to find, vet and build relationships with influencers. It’s a lot like dating—not every influencer will be a hit with your audience.
Actionable Influencer Relations Marketing Tip:
- Have social media guidelines in place before starting your influencer marketing program. Also document protocols for other types of customer engagement.
Influencer Relations Marketing Conclusion
Marketers need influencer relations marketing to increase trust and reach to attract audience attention and related activity.
With the maturing of digital marketing including content and social media marketing, it’s more and more difficult for marketers to get their message to break through the noise.
Businesses find themselves fighting their peers using quality content and the same tactics. As a result, no one’s content or social media breaks-through.
For their part customers are increasingly distrustful of businesses and government. Consumer BS detectors are constantly on high alert.
If you go it alone, your marketing doesn’t have a prayer of getting seen.
Messages from anyone other than a trusted source have a high hurdle to clear to attract customer attention.
That’s where influencers give you an extra boost to clear that obstacle.
They provide credibility to push your content into your audience’s consideration set.
Even better, influencers can persuade your prospects to act.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 17, 2017 with the title, Why You Need Influencer Relations Marketing Now”. It was extensively updated and rewritten with new information on September 6, 2021.
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