Influencer marketing, celebrity endorsement, ambassador programs, product placement or whatever you want to call it, has been around for a very long time. This form of marketing tactic tends to involve aligning a brand with a well-known individual, TV personality, celebrity or more recently the social media personality.
The first known instance of this type of marketing can be traced back to the Wedgewood company in the mid-1700’s. Wedgewood used Royal endorsements on their product to elevate the appeal of the brand to the masses; sports stars and movie stars (on cigarette cards) kicked in from the 1930’s – the flood gates opened from the late ’70s. Over the past decade, however, social media has added another dimension to influencer marketing and has seen the practice become more much more mainstream and more visible. Brands, big and small are keen to, and can afford to, hitch their wagon onto the social media famous juggernaut. The benefits are many – large global audiences across broad demographics, including the notoriously difficult to reach through traditional mediums – I’m looking at you teenagers. With audiences in the hundreds of thousands or in some cases millions, these social media influencers are a dream come true for brands, providing a rich, highly engaged and highly targeted playground within which they can align their products.
Any decision to engage an influencer must be right for an overall marketing strategy, be aligned to the right personality and therefore to the absolute right audience for the brand and product. Done well, influencer marketing can be oh-so-subtle, rendering it almost undetectable due to the ease and natural fit the personality has with the product. Done poorly, however, either by selecting the wrong personality or striking the wrong deal, and it can either come across as contrived and awkward, damaging both the product and the person spruiking it ending in disaster for everyone involved.
So, before you commit to anything and start approaching bloggers, vloggers or the Twitterati, here are some tips to help you implement a successful influencer marketing campaign.
6 TIPS TO HELP MANAGE YOUR INFLUENCER MARKETING CAMPAIGN
1. Have a clear strategy
The decision to use influencer marketing as a tactic must fall out of a bigger strategy – with objectives and goals – end of story.
2. Research your options
Spend time picking the right social media personality and research the options available. Assess all their social media profiles and come up with a short list – bear in mind your first choice might say no – and then research your key demographic to assess the general sentiment the audience has for your selected few.
3. Remember it’s a commercial deal
At the end of the day, social media personalities are successful business people who have spent a lot of time (and in some cases money) building up their profiles. It may not have started that way for some of them, but as a result of delivering great content to the right audience, they are now running a commercial business based on their ‘brand’. Therefore, they need to benefit from it as much as you, so don’t expect them to do it for free or for free product (unless it’s a Ferrari). And, as with any commercial agreement draw up a contract that clearly outlines expectations, deliverables, and timeframes.
4. Do some due diligence
As you would with any contractual arrangement or partnership, do some due diligence. Find out what other deals they have participated in, speak with brands who have engaged their services in the past to find out if they are ok to work with, become familiar with their work and get a handle on their style and tone. Identify if they have any agreements in place with competitor brands or associations with brands that could negatively impact on yours. Do they have a criminal record or a dodgy past that could upset your target audience? Does something not add up?
5. Understand it may not be favourable
If you are asking your social media personality to review a product bear in mind, they may not like it. About 13 years ago I was involved in a media deal that included the on-air personalities using and talking about a new mobile phone, problem was that on the day they used it, the network went down so the new functions of the phone (sending a picture message, remember when that was new) didn’t work so they blamed the phone – live on-air. Ouch. Factor in that this may happen to you. Social media personalities spend a lot of time building and nurturing a loyal and trusting community of followers, they won’t want to lose them by giving a fake or dishonest review. If things do go ‘rogue’, see the next point.
6. Develop a crisis management plan
Like any good social media plan or sponsorship deal, you need to have a crisis management plan in place. Trust me, even if all the ducks are in a row and everything between your brand and your new influencer is a perfect fit, there is always the chance something could go wrong (Belle Gibson and Essena O’Neill are two more well-known examples of this happening, in Essena’s case it could be argued it went wrong for the brands associated with her more than it did for herself). It’s easier to deal with these hurdles if you have a well-developed crisis management plan that can swing into action at the first whiff of wrong-doing.
On a final note, aim to build the most natural relationship you can with your influencers and their communities and treat them as part of your team. Embrace the transparency most influencers have with their communities and integrate yourself into these communities by joining the conversations – what you overhear could be invaluable to your brand.