Over the years, influencer marketing has been an important part of successful brands. From the very start of marketing, companies have turned towards influencers in their industry to expose their businesses to new audiences, gain more authority for their brands and bring in more sales.
In the 21st century, we have to give it to the Internet, the utilization of influencers has become much easier. More importantly, it’s a cost-effective strategy that even smaller businesses can utilize without depleting their marketing budget.
In my own understanding, influence can come from a wide range of places. Any person, group, brand, or place could potentially be an influencer. For example, celebrities are often used to market products because they are highly respected and highly visible. When a celebrity uses a product, the maker of that product gets exposure and the respect that comes from a celebrity endorsement.
Bloggers have become important influencers because they are seen as authentic and have loyal followings. When a blogger recommends a product it seems more trustworthy than traditional advertising.
By using influencers, companies can avoid much of the cynicism and skepticism that is directed at straightforward marketing messages.
This form of marketing is unique because it appeals to the needs of the influencer rather than the customer. Companies must give influencers respect and form open and organic relationships with the influencer to endorse a product. This might include giving the influencer access to a soon-to-be-released product or inviting the influencer to visit the company in person.
The only major drawback of influencer marketing is that it isn’t as controllable as traditional marketing. While some influencers only add to the positive image of a product, influencers who encounter legal trouble or fall out of the public light might negatively impact a product’s chance of success.
It is important that every marketer must prepare to deal with the negative fallout, if the influencers they use misrepresents or rejects their products.
I have heard people talk about everything from snack foods to industrial machinery; but I can categorically claim that any business, regardless of the industry they are in, can benefit from creating a conversation about their products.
From my experience with businesses owners and our work at Image Boosters, I believe small businesses can use inexpensive online strategies to connect with influencers.
Influence is just as powerful at the local level as it is on the national level. Larger companies develop comprehensive influencer marketing strategies that stretch across platforms.
They could form expensive partnerships with celebrities or other brands to help position their products.
The first step to an influencer marketing plan is to set goals for the campaign. Typically, goals for influencer marketing are often less about increasing sales, and more about increasing buzz and public awareness.
Before any influencer is contacted, a company must define their goals in measurable terms, spelling out exactly what they hope to accomplish.
After establishing goals, the company will then need to identify the influencers they want to contact by researching demographics and target markets.
Simple searches of Google and Facebook can reveal who has influence over consumers. Market research firms offer services that help marketers determine who their customers are most influenced by.
The company will need to decide how many influencers they want to target and then select those that best meet the goals of the campaign.
Companies will then start analyzing where their influencers gather, who their audience is, and what kind of message they are spreading. Carefully studying the influencer’s preference makes them easier to reach out to later.
When the company is ready to contact the influencer, they will communicate through social media or some other informal means.
The goal is to form an organic relationship that is not based entirely on endorsing and selling. Influencers who are treated with respect become genuine advocates for the companies they write about.
Marketers should revisit goals every few months to track the success or failure of the influencer program. If a plan is not having the desired effect, companies must reach out to new influencers in different ways. The influencers who remain effective will need to be courted so that they continue to support the company on their blogs and websites.
Understand that your influencers care more about their audience than they do about you and your product, so find ways to help your influencers support their audience.
Like I pointed out earlier, influencer marketing is not an easy fix, but it is powerful. As people continue to interact on social channels, it will become increasingly more important for marketers to focus on relationships because that’s how doors get opened.