Brand Guide to Influencer Marketing

If you shop online, chances are you scroll down to the product review section. If the item you’re interested in has 3 stars you’re probably going to hesitate before you place it in your shopping cart. Now more than ever, the opinion and reviews of others influence purchase behaviors both online and offline. According to a 2012 Nielsen study, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family. That should be no surprise, but trust for recommendations from online reviewers and independent bloggers has grown as well. With the social media boom, you don’t have to search for reviews; they show up from friends in your Facebook feeds, Instagram timelines, and in Snapchat.

Fifteen years ago, an “influencer” would be described as an A-list celebrity  that is a professional actor, professional athlete, or professional singer. Today, influencers are everyday Americans with devoted blog, Instagram, Twitter, or Vine followings. Kyle Wong defined influencer marketing “as a form of marketing that identifies and targets individuals with influence over potential buyers.” Influencer marketing is a more technologically advanced form of word-of-mouth marketing. As Wong points out in his article, it is about more than having a lot of followers, but also having expertise and credibility on a given subject. You will never see a food blogger promoting a new pair of shoes or a tech blogger promoting a new beer brand. These influencers know to stick to subject matter that has garnered them success and that their followers expect from them. The ultimate goal of influencer marketing should not be awareness, but to get consumers to take some action usually a trial or repeat purchase.

With emerging social networks such as Instagram and Vine, brands have many more influencers and platforms to tap into. Last month, Lord & Taylor got 50 influential Instagrammers to wear the same $88 dress in their photos and it quickly sold out. The tactic was part of a larger marketing plan to debut the brand’s Design Lab collection for “fashion-forward finds”.  Some of the Instagram photos received over 13,000 likes. Lord & Taylor got it right with this one. Each of the 50 bloggers wore and accented the dress in a way that was unique to her. While it was clear it was the same dress, the bloggers highlighted the versatility of the simple frock. Your brand can have the success of Lord & Taylor as long as your influencer plan ties to larger marketing goals.

Instagram

Here are four simple tips to help guide you as you build your influencer marketing plan.

1. Choose the Right Platform to Choose the Right Influencers

Lord & Taylor new that Instagram is a fashion gold mine. Their campaign probably would not have worked as well on Facebook or Pinterest. But by having Instagrammers use the same hashtag and post on the same day, the content was easy for consumers to find and follow. It is important to know which platform works best for your brand. Once you have that figured out then start researching who is leading conversations, sharing trends, or making trends on that platform. Depending on your product, it may make sense to target more than one platform.

 2. Look at Your Existing Consumer Group

Domino’s ran a commercial with naysayers about how their cheese isn’t real. They gathered people that had complained to them before and proved they used real cheese. Remember, influencers aren’t always brand champions. Sometimes, naysayers are the best people to target. Your brand critics can often shout louder and flood timelines more than your brand loyals. Changing critics’ opinions can alter the entire the conversation about your brand or product. It’s great to tap into naysayers once you have made product improvements or adjustments. Once again, being an influencer isn’t all about a large following. You can find great influencers in your existing consumer groups. Scroll through your brand’s Twitter mentions and Facebook comments. See who pops up the most and targets them. If you notice them, chances are other consumers are noticing them as well.

Tipping Point

3. Compensate Influencers in Various Ways

Many popular bloggers are often tapped into by brands for paid integrations. In order for these bloggers to stay true to their followings will post “paid review” or “sponsored post” to let their readers know they are working directly with a company. This is happening more and more as influencer marketing booms and unfortunately is hurting the authenticity of this type of marketing. That’s why you have to remember there are other ways to compensate your influencers. You can give them exclusive sneak peeks into new products you’re developing or let them know about product improvements first. Yes, they love to be paid, but they also love to feel that they are receiving exclusive content from your brand and above all feel that they are truly valued by your organization.

4. Build an Influencer Group

Once you have completed an influencer marketing campaign, be sure to maintain the relationship. Popular bloggers, Instagrammers, and Viners have networks and can connect your brand to these. Building an influencers group ties back to tip #2 and #3. When you don’t have an active campaign show that you have viewed their work, send them product, swag or hand written notes. As influencers drive more purchase behaviors they truly should become your brand’s best friend.

In a previous post, we said its best to let your customers define your brand and that is exactly what influencer marketing is. In today’s consumer centric world, we have to give up some control of our brand to win with consumers and drive profits and growth. I know it’s hard, but it will pay off in the long run. It is important to still have agreements with your influencers, but do not impede their creativity. Allow free creation when it comes to content both written and visual. You will not be disappointed in the quality work they come up with. Remember the four above tips when planning your next influencer marketing campaign.

Networking

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