Influencer marketing is here to stay. If you are not among the 65% of marketers who are planning to launch an influencer program in the next 12 months, I am genuinely curious to hear why.
Every day, new brands and agencies are launching their own influencer programs. RedBull and Nike have worked with influencers for decades, Edelman recently launched Starling, and Horizon Media has built a stellar in-house influencer marketing offering.
These marketers are not satisfied with running influencer campaigns through third-party vendors who control the influencer relationships and charge steep management fees. Instead, these marketers want to earn better results and create a long-term competitive advantage in the market, by creating their own in-house influencer marketing programs.
How can you get started with your own influencer marketing?
In this article, I break down the process used by leading brand to run their own influencer marketing programs. I start with planning, move on to influencer selection, go into program management, and end with tracking.
Let’s get started.
Step I: Planning
1. Determine your budget & KPIs
- What is your budget? There are ways to make influencer marketing work with any budget size. We recommend starting with $50K per month for one quarter.
- What are your target KPIs? Are you aiming for brand awareness? App installs? Social conversations? While being metrics-driven is essential, remember that influencer marketing creates long-term value beyond the immediate metrics — such as consumer trust and viral exposure.
- What does success look like? Create a plan with 3 hypothetical outcomes: failure, success, and home-run. For each of these outcomes, set KPI targets. For example, a home-run can be 10M organic YouTube views on a $75K budget. This will ensure that everybody is aligned on the goals and that you can have an honest conversation about the success of your program.
2. Write your brief
- Who are you? Concisely describe your brand and your brand identity.
- What are you promoting? What is the product, event, brand, content, experience, or hashtag that you are promoting?
- What is your campaign strategy?
- What are the campaign goals? Tie it back to the KPI plan you defined in the previous section I.A.
- Who is your target audience? What audience are you trying to reach? We will tackle influencer selection in Step II.
- What is your content distribution strategy? Where will the content be published? Will you amplify the influencer content with paid social? Will you have influencers share each other’s content?
Keep in mind that influencer marketing is not a media buy. The content creation process with influencers must be collaborative, not prescriptive. Make sure the campaign brief has clear messaging and goals, but understand that your vision will adapt based on the creative input of the influencers you partner with.
3. Set up a calendar
- When will you finalize your influencer roster?
- When will influencers submit their post(s) for approval?
- When will posts go live?
While your calendar will evolve over time, setting the timeline from the get-go will help you move faster and make fewer mistakes.
Step II: Influencer Selection
1. Influencer Identification
A) Content & persona
- Who are they? Are they female or male? What age? Where do they live? Are they married? Do they have kids? What language do they speak? What is their background?
- What topics do they talk about? Do they talk about fashion? Food? Travel? Gaming?
- What is their personal brand? Do they express themselves in the way you want your brand to be seen?
- What brands have they mentioned and partnered with? Have they mentioned your brand? Or have they mentioned or worked with competitors?
B) Social presence
- Celebrity, mid-tier, or micro? Are you aiming for big celebrity influencers (1M+ followers), mid-tier (50K-1M), or micro (under 50K)? Each tier has their strengths and weaknesses, so choose wisely.
- What is their average engagement? Follower count is a poor metric on which to judge an influencer’s social presence. Instead, we recommend analyzing the influencer’s average engagement and views.
- Are they growing or stagnating? The social media landscape is ever-changing. The rising stars, those influencers are that are rising fast in popularity, offer better odds of success of success.
- Do they fit within your KPIs? When creating your target list of influencers, project their average engagement to ensure that you will be hitting your homerun KPIs.
C) Audience Demographics
The main filters to consider are:
- Brand Affinity
2. Influencer Outreach
A) Finding influencers
- Online research: Use Google to search for top influencer lists or click through profiles on social networks.
- Vendor or marketplace: Vendors and marketplaces aggregate influencers and charge you a commission fee to access their network. They are a great way to launch a quick campaign but quickly become a costly and limiting influencer marketing solution.
- Software platform: The right software platform can give you access to millions of influencers across industry verticals and platforms, and provide powerful analytics about these influencers and their audiences.
B) Getting in touch
- Receiving an introduction from a mutual connection, usually, another influencer is the strongest form of outreach.
- Email outreach is the next best alternative. Most influencers list their emails in their social media bios.
- Attend influencer events, such as VidCon or BlogHer.
- Commenting on their social media accounts is the last resort. It’s best to outreach from your company social networks. Expect the influencer to take notice after 2-5 tries.
C) Contacting influencers
- Be relevant. The influencer marketing process is a mutual decision between your influencer and your brand. With all the brands that pitch them, influencers choose companies they want to work with. In order to break through the noise, you need to present your brand in a compelling way. Likewise, you should pick influencers that you feel will be excited to work with you.
- Be concise and to the point. Your message should be no more than 150 words. Present yourself, your brand, your request, and your intended compensation (letting them know that you intend to pay is enough).
- Offer good compensation. Most influencer marketing today is paid, so expect to pay up if you are to increase your odds of success. However, remember that this is more than a business transaction. Show them what they stand to gain beyond the money.
- Follow up on your email. Often it takes 2 to 4 emails to elicit a response from these digital-age celebrities. Don’t get discouraged.
Step III: Program Management
1. Negotiation & contracts
- What are you offering? Most influencers expect to be paid for their services. However, there are still many examples of successful brands going the free-product right.
- How much are you paying? If you are paying influencers, we recommend that you peg your rate to your program KPIs. For instance, if you are aiming for 100K likes on Instagram with a $20K budget, make sure that the flat-fee you are paying the influencer divided by their average likes backs out to a $0.20 Cost Per Like. Performance-based models remain a rarity in influencer marketing. (http://digiday.com/agencies/brands-stuck-idea-millions-followers-cost-per-engagement-influencers-not-catching/)
- Contracts are crucial if you are paying your influencers.
2. Content development
- Influencer marketing is a collaborative process between your brand and the influencer. Give the influencer information about your brand and your goals, then let them make recommendations within those guidelines. Influencers are expert social creators and know their followers better than anybody else – it’s a huge mistake to treat them like an ad placement.
- We recommend a review process. Ensure that influencers submit their post before it goes live. That way you can have a chance to review and request edits as needed.
- FTC disclosure: It is fundamental for your influencers to follow the guidelines issued by the FTC.
3. Campaign coordination
Once your posts are lined up and ready to go, use your campaign calendar to stay on top of it all. It’s helpful to remind the influencers about their post the day before and a few hours before. Also, try to have the influencers’ phone numbers on hand, just in case.
Step IV: Tracking
The only way to improve your influencer marketing is through rigorous tracking and learning. Start by aggregating every post and its performance. Next, compare the KPIs you achieved to those you set out to hit in your KPI plan. Was the program a success? A failure? A home run?!
Now, let’s seek to understand the “why” behind the performance of your program. For this, you must analyze what you did well and what you could’ve done better. Some useful questions to ask yourself are as follows:
- Influencer selection: Were they the right influencer persona? Did they believe in your brand? Did they have the right audience?
- Content strategy: Did you use the right channels? Did the content communicate your message while remaining authentic and fun?
- Program management: Were there any hiccups during the program execution?
Write your answers down and share this document with your team and beyond. It will improve alignment within your organization and perfect your influencer programs. Also, keep track of each individual influencer’s performance and their behavior during the campaign. Over time, you will grow your vetted influencer relationships and will have built your own influencer network.
Are you set up for success?
From our research, we have found that most influencer marketers still operate using online research to find their influencers and spreadsheets to manage their programs. This process is manual and inefficient, and raises the following challenges:
- Finding the right influencers is painfully slow: There are millions of influencers scattered all over the social web, and very little data about their profile, their performance, and their audience demographics.
- Managing programs is chaotic: Overloaded spreadsheets causes things to fall through the cracks.
- Tracking results have inefficiencies: Copy-pasting metrics into a spreadsheet can take days, and the reported metrics stop at impressions and engagement.
As a result, companies struggle to scale their influencer programs and truly reap the benefits. At NeoReach, we know there is a better way and have built a product to turn this vision into reality. Our end-to-end influencer marketing platform powers some of the most impactful influencer marketing teams on the planet.
It enables global brands and agencies to search the entire social graph for the perfect influencer, analyze influencer audience demographics, streamline program management, and track campaign performance.
Click here to talk with us.