Studies show that consumers are paying less attention to brand-sponsored messages today.
Instead, they’re getting product and brand recommendations directly from peers online.
So slash your advertising budget in half and give it to influencers, right? Not always.
In fact, influencer marketing is often a complete waste. Unless, of course, you follow a few simple rules.
1. You’re looking for the right fit, not necessarily size. This is the most basic mistake, but unfortunately, it’s still the most common.
Most companies pull up a list of influencers, dump them into a spreadsheet, and then sort by the largest follower counts. But savvy social brands today realize that follower counts mean almost nothing.
For starters, how do you know if each influencer is even right for your business, your niche, your market, and the nature of your product/niche/service? And what does their actual engagement or influence look like with their followers?
2. Qualify influencers before sending out free products. You’ve found influencers who’re a good fit. It’s time to cold-pitch them and send out a ton of free product. Right? Wrong.
For example, their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube feeds should be filled with past campaigns or product reviews. Go see how they featured each product, and compare the responses they get (e.g. retweets, likes, shares, comments, etc.) against their follower count.
Smaller, engaged audiences can beat large, unengaged ones all the time (while probably costing you less, too).
3. Clarify deal terms in black and white. You don’t need 30-page contracts with influencers. But you do need to have the basic deal terms sketched out.
For example, what are you expecting in return?
- A blog post? On their site? Yours? Another?
- Is video included? If so, will that be on their site? YouTube? Somewhere else?
- How long is each piece of content? How is it optimized (or not) for evergreen search traffic?
- Do they do an unbiased review, or can you structure more of an advertorial?
- Where will this review be shared? If social, how many posts do you get? Are thumbnail images of the product included?
- When will the review be posted? What happens if the review isn’t posted by that date?
4. Align influencer benefits with your goals. Generally speaking, influencers want one of three things:
- Money – straight fee or revenue share
- Awareness – more traffic to their site, subscribers/followers, etc.
- Access – to exclusive events, products, etc.
Depending on how big or savvy the influencer is, s/he might want a combination of these things.
Now, paying an influencer isn’t a bad deal.
But paying an influencer $10,000, with zero guarantees of performance or results for you, doesn’t make sense. Instead, see how you can compensate them with:
- Exclusive discount for readers
- Rev-share of all products sold
Does it sound like you’re giving up a lot? It should.
You’re getting multiple ways to track each campaign (through personalized discount codes for each site and unique affiliate tracking links).
Now, if it’s structured like this, and you pay one influencer $10,000 that month, it means s/he drove $100,000 in new sales, first.
5. Plan influencer campaigns for the long term. Product reviews are the lowest-hanging fruit for influencer marketing. They can help get you links and maybe a few customers.
But they’re not going to substantially grow your business. For that, you need to turn your attention to creating a more comprehensive brand ambassador-like relationship that keeps influencers engaged for months and years to come.
Otherwise, someone else — like your competitors? — will come along with better terms and undercut you, replacing your brand as the “top recommendation” and stealing sales out from under your nose.
Influencer marketing is a massive opportunity. But only if you know how to mitigate the downsides.