Inside Scoop On Influencer Relations Marketing
50% of marketers surveyed by Altimeter, Top Rank Marketing and Traackr report small influencer marketing budgets (less than $100,000 annually) compared to the rest of the marketing mix.
Translation: Influencer relations remain tactical in nature.
Yet marketing investment in influencer relations marketing is positioned to increase since 71% of brand marketers rate influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic marketing tool.
Influencer relations humanize your brand while supporting your marketing.
Before you digest how that could change your marketing, reflect on the reality that we’re in an uncertain period regarding influencers, their messaging and the media (including social media).
The US President believes if he doggedly says something enough times the public will accept he’s right. Even when facts prove him wrong.
People feel misled.
That’s not just bad for the President. It’s bad for your marketing.
Consumer trust continues to erode according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer.
In this skeptical environment, how can your marketing attract sufficient credibility to be read and acted upon?
Influencer relations marketing can help.
For your influencer relations, 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.
According to TapInfluence – Influencer relations marketing generated 11x ROI!
1. Why you should 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 pre-dates marketing.
People ask others with more experience or knowledge for their input. It’s how many people still find doctors, dentists and hairdressers today. They’re 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.
The average customer checks 11 consumer reviews before buying based on a Weber Shandwick Study.
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 may seek to expand their personal reach and receive payment, in cash or kind.
“True influence drives action, not just awareness” according to Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer. Baer distinguishes between audience, the number of people, and advocacy, your customers’ level of passion. This is key for quality influencer relations because you ultimately need customer action to succeed.
Build influencer relations marketing into your marketing, specifically your content and social media. Like other marketing approaches, influencer relations build your brand, expand your message’s reach, and convert prospects into buyers.
2. Who should marketers turn to for 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.
Don’t take this to mean go outside your organization. Rather be selective.
Your best employee choices according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer are your technical experts. These people help develop your products and understand how to make them work properly. That’s good news.
Unfortunately, they’re often difficult to get on board 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. Thought leaders like Michael Brenner, formerly of SAP, and Matt Cutts, formerly of Google, have retained 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 co-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.
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!)
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. Select people with whom prospective customers feel comfortable and are willing to trust. Without these, influencers won’t accomplish your goals.
Just as you create a marketing persona to develop content and social media marketing, apply this approach to selecting key influencers. Among the factors to assess include:
- Personality. What role do you want your influencer to play in the 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?
Like other forms of marketing, influencer relations cut across a number of corporate departments depending on the size and strategic nature of the program.
Here’s a great chart by Traackr that shows how influencer relations work within a large company.
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.
Further, before you start ensure that you have social media guidelines in place as well as protocols for other types of customer engagement.
NOTE: Check Altimeter, Top Rank and Traackr’s Influencer Relations Marketing research.
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.
What’s your experience been with influencer relations marketing ?
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