What’s a marketer to do? We heard that influencer marketing was the next big thing. We heard about companies getting amazing results with it. But it seems you can’t go anywhere online recently without seeing headlines like this:
Note the social shares on those two articles: 242,000 for the first one and nearly 50,000 for the second one. If influencer marketing is burning down, that’s a lot of people standing by with marshmallows to roast.
But don’t panic. These two articles, and many more like them, refer to a specific kind of influencer marketing. Generally speaking: the bad kind. Specifically, the practice of writing massive checks to teenagers with a lot of followers on Instagram or Vine in exchange for product promotion. That particular economy, which converted cash to “influence” or “awareness,” was pretty much doomed from the start. You’re in trouble any time you convert real money to something fundamentally unmeasurable.
But it’s not fair to say that influencer marketing is dead, or in trouble, or collapsing because bad influencer marketing isn’t working out. That’s like declaring “Movies are dead!” because Gods of Egypt flopped at the box office. Influencer marketing works when it’s done well. At TopRank Marketing, we have achieved amazing results for our clients with the practice.
The only thing better than learning from your mistakes is learning from other people’s mistakes. So let’s take a moment to mourn the passing of bad influencer marketing—and then let’s perform an autopsy to see how we can avoid their fate. Here are four ways to make sure your influencer marketing stays alive and well:
#1 – Build Relationships
In a way, the Instagram and Snapchat “influencers” are just billboards. You stand here and hold this beverage/face wash/protein powder, we give you $500. You deliver the commodity of X number of eyeballs for the money. If a rival beverage/face wash/protein powder company comes along and offers you $550, you move on.
Good influencer marketing is more than advertising using someone’s social media presence as the billboard. It’s about cultivating an ongoing relationship that continually generates value for everyone involved. Influencer relationships should be built with care, personal attention, and respect. Yes, sometimes you may pay an influencer for their involvement, but that transaction takes place in the larger context of the relationship.
#2 – Produce Something of Value
Bad influencer marketing can be, at its worst, just a celebrity endorsement with a different kind of celebrity. The celebrity gets paid, and the audience gets… what? The vicarious thrill of seeing that they drink the same brand of face wash as that guy on Vine?
Good influencer marketing goes beyond endorsement to create something of value for the audience as well as the influencer and the brand. That’s why it works. For example, our Content Marketing World eBook series from last year rounded up advice from dozens of highly-skilled marketers. The eBooks promoted the event, and they highlighted our influencers, but they were also useful and entertaining for the audience. It’s an unbeatable combination.
#3 – Recruit More than Brandividuals
One big problem with bad influencer marketing is it focuses entirely on “brandividuals.” According to our CEO Lee Odden, a brandividual is someone who is in the business of being popular. They have a huge social media presence, sure. But they may not be able to call that audience to action. A true influencer, by contrast, may be less popular by the numbers, but is credible, authoritative, and able to affect change.
You definitely can use brandividuals to help attract a crowd, and to lure in the true influencers—but a campaign that’s all brandividuals may generate more buzz than results.
#4 – Make It Measurable
Step 1: Have influencer post about our combination face wash/protein powder on Snapchat. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit. It’s not the most sustainable business model, right? But for a lot of bad influencer marketing, that’s a pretty accurate assessment. These campaigns trade entirely on “awareness” or, god forbid, “brand lift.” Without any way to track ROI from the influencer activity, it was only a matter of time before the C-suite decided to spend their budget elsewhere.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t measure the ROI of influencer marketing. It’s not only possible; it’s crucial. Start by having a specific goal for your campaign—an action that you want your audience to take as a direct result of experiencing the content. Then make sure you can track that action and attribute it to the influencer. Give them trackable URLs to share. Give them their own landing page to send traffic to. Either way you go about it, you should be able to demonstrate exactly what your influencer brought to the campaign.
If you’re a teenager with a huge Snapchat following, the death of bad influencer marketing is bad news. If you’re a marketer looking to partner with influencers to create cool stuff and expand your reach, there’s no need to mourn. Take these four lessons to heart, go forth, and be awesome.
Need help with your influencer marketing, we can help!