Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing


It’s not a silver bullet, but it could be a golden opportunity

Word of mouth marketing. Social media marketing. Search engine marketing. Direct marketing. Guerrilla marketing. Content marketing. Remarketing. Ferret marketing. Okay, we made that last one up, but you get the picture. With 372 different kinds of marketing out there, is there room for one more? Depends. A less overwhelming way to think about it is: marketing is marketing. Affinity marketing and partnership marketing and tradeshow marketing and the whole lot are simply marketing tactics that may or may not have a place in your marketing plan. So what’s influencer marketing all about, and is it as cool as the internet thinks?

So what is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is the practice of identifying, empowering and incentivizing key influential personalities within specific social groups to objectively promote your brand. Influencer marketing is conducted primarily, but not exclusively, on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope.

In the ongoing search for the rare, elusive, never-before-photographed authentic brand experience, the voice of the professional marketer has been diluted while the voice of the consumer is stronger and farther-reaching than ever. Brands are in the hands of the consumers — as they should be. The onus of the professional marketer has shifted from pushing out a fixed, one-way narrative to inspiring and guiding an ongoing conversation with the consumer. Word-of-mouth is, as it has always been, the most powerful form of marketing. Influencer marketing is word-of-mouth marketing on social media steroids, and falls into two categories:

Paid influencer marketing: Influencers receive tangible compensation for objectively posting about your brand. Compensation can be cash, free or discounted product, coupons, other goods or future considerations. Sometimes those in the influencer’s social network don’t know there’s compensation involved. Sometimes influencers acknowledge they’ve been compensated in exchange for their objective opinion. Amazon does this well, restricting compensation to free product, sent in advance of an objective review.

When done well, paid influencer marketing can net huge ROI. However, brands must assess certain risks before diving in:

  • Unacknowledged paid mentions can dilute consumer trust
  • Acknowledged paid mentions can be met with the same skepticism as more traditional marketing tactics
  • Brands could be paying people to create negative, inaccurate or off-brand content

Unpaid influencer marketing: Influencers receive no direct, tangible compensation for posting about your brand. Influencers are motivated by forces other than direct compensation: true love for your brand, altruism, building their own content library and strengthening their position as a thought leaders in their space.

Unpaid influencer marketing is incredibly powerful and so authentic you can hardly consider it marketing. However, it comes with its own set of risks:

  • Brands have less control of the narrative
  • Well-connected unpaid influencers are harder to find
  • Absent the pay-to-play model, brands must surprise, delight and over-deliver in order build brand love among influencers

Is influencer marketing right for your brand?

When websites, apps and social media emerged as new marketing tactics, many brands were convinced they needed to get on those trains right away — before they knew where the train was going or why they needed to be on it. Influencer marketing played out the same way. Some succeeded wildly. Many dabbled and failed. The difference between success and failure with influencer marketing is the strategy behind it. Brands can successfully engage in influencer marketing when they have thoroughly documented customer personas, a solid brand strategy and an extraordinary brand story to tell.

Influencer marketing is not the space for status-quo or unexciting brands. Before entering the space, brands need to be clearly extraordinary, as well as able to demonstrate it and articulate why people should care. False or overblown brand narratives will ultimately deflate when they reach the public space. Even playing at par is risky business. No one tweets about okay pizza. A can opener that functions exactly how you’d expect a can opener to function has no brand advocates. Brands need to step up their game and continually excite, delight, surprise, entertain and engage consumers. If you’re delivering above and beyond, have an exciting story to tell and have the time and resources to dedicate, influencer marketing is worth exploring.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 11.28.40 AMThis is the best can opener in the world, and so much more!


How to put influencer marketing to work for your brand

Alright, you’re in. You have an extraordinary brand, an exciting brand story, customer personas and a comprehensive brand strategy. Here’s how you get started with influencer marketing.

1. Identify. Using your audience personas as a foundation, first identify the online communities where your potential customers socialize. Explore related forums, interest groups, hashtags, blogs and educational resources. Only 8–10% of online community members are influencers, so you’ll want to first identify the leaders and start building a list before you engage.
Potential influencers fall into four categories. Start with known-to-known — people you know who also know your brand. They could be existing customers, community members, press, bloggers or partners. Move on to known-to-unknown — you know who they are, but they’re not familiar with your brand. Dig deeper to uncover unknown-to-known — those you don’t know who are aware of your brand. They may be customers you did not directly engage with or evaluators who have not yet made a purchase. Finally, seek unknown-to-unknown — you don’t know them and vice versa. This is the most populous and hard-to-find group.
2. Engage. There is an adage in the nonprofit world: ask for money and you’ll get advice, ask for advice and you’ll get money. Soliciting brand love from key influencers is similar. You can’t ask influencers to share your brand love if they don’t feel your brand love deeply. Start building that love by seeking their advice on new product development. Utilize them as beta testers. Solicit, acknowledge and integrate their feedback. Once they feel they have an ownership stake in your brand, they’ll be more apt to share your brand love.
3. Inform. Give influencers an inside, exclusive look at your brand. Share your testing results, research and industry data. Powerful influencers should be objective, informed, inspirational personalities in their respective communities. Give them the tools to build their own thought leadership.
4. Empower. Set up influencers with on-brand messaging cues they can use to share your brand love in their own voice. Leverage their ownership
stake in your brand to convert them into strong, loyal brand advocates.
5. Incentivize. Different incentives resonate with different people: free or discounted product, exclusive invitations or getting the scoop on new tech. Influencers shift to the extroverted side of the spectrum — the spotlight can be its own reward.
6. Measure. Metrics allow brands to bring a bagful of science to the marketing art party — and digital marketing is chock full of metrics. Robust tools are available for tracking ROI on influencer marketing and integrating that data with other digital marketing metrics.

Start spreading the brand love

Influencer marketing is not the latest fail-safe, magic marketing bullet, but it is a golden opportunity for many brands. Innovative companies with a compelling brand story, a culture of creativity and a contagious passion for their products and services can turn influencer marketing into brand love and exponential growth. If you’re psyched about what you do, it’s an exciting time to be in marketing. Now get out there and spread the brand love.

Download a PDF of this story

About Toolbox Creative:

Toolbox Creative offers a powerful engine to grow technology brands and take on the big players in the field. We help innovative technology companies look and sound as good as they truly are, increasing brand equity, boosting media buzz and making the most of marketing dollars.

Sources: Adweek, Social Media Today, Link Humans, Traackr, McKinsey & Company, Tapinfluence