At some point or another, we’re all guilty of falling into one fad or another. A fad is something that quickly blows up but is often short lived because people quickly realize that the quality simply isn’t there.
Many brands are in danger of allowing their influencer marketing programs to quickly become a passing fad. Why? Instead of taking the time to build relationships with influencers in a meaningful way, they’re just tapping them on the shoulder when they need something.
Let’s take a step back for a second and look at what influencer marketing programs should be. TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden defines influencer marketing as:
The practice of developing relationships with connected internal and industry experts to co-create content of mutual value to achieve measurable business goals.”
Influencer marketing programs should not be:
- A burden on the influencer that doesn’t offer value.
- An uncoordinated and random approach without an end goal in mind.
- A one-way relationship where the brand reaps all of the benefits.
3 Ways to Build A Lasting Influencer Marketing Program
#1 – Take Your Time with Influencer Identification & Qualification
Many marketers are facing pressure to either create or maintain influencer marketing programs. There is a sense of urgency to compete with other brands that are already down the path.
Creating an effective content-centric influencer program takes time, dedication and certain level of finesse. Which means, it shouldn’t be rushed.
Brands should start by creating a hand-picked list of influencers that they would like to begin working with. Even if that list is small, it’s a start and will be more well-thought-out than trying to manage a large list that may not align with your business needs.
The influencers that you identify should be qualified based on a few factors including their relevance and resonance with your target audience.
Many marketers think that the ever-popular brandividuals are the only influencers worth connecting with. However, a mix of brandividuals, industry experts (internal and external), as well as customers and prospects are all potential fits for an influencer content program.
Key Questions to Ask:
- Do we share a mutual audience?
- Is this person truly influential to my target audience?
- Is what this influencer speaks about aligned with my brand message?
- Does this influencer have a history of creating content that would appeal to my audience?
#2 – Focus on the Relationship & Respect Your Influencers
Just like any relationship, building trust and credibility with influencers doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, you may go through similar stages such as initial introductions, curiosity and interest, building a connection and finally a commitment.
Through every step of this process it’s very important to remember that the key to a successful program is just as much about building meaningful relationships with influencers as it is about what you co-create.
Some ways that you can begin building the relationship is by interacting with the content that your first-choice influencers are already creating. That can include very easy tasks such as commenting or sharing a post they created, or liking or sharing their posts on Twitter. This is a critical step that can’t be overlooked when beginning to build a relationship with an influencer.
Keep in mind that most of today’s most-sought-after influencers are very busy people. Not only are they working full-time jobs, but they often wake up to an email inbox flooded with requests. Show that you empathize and respect their time by keeping your requests tailored to the individual, creative, short, easy to respond to and highlight what is in it for the influencer.
Key Questions to Ask:
- What steps have I taken to build credibility with my influencers?
- What further steps can I take to continue to evolve the relationship?
- Am I giving influencers enough information about what I’m asking?
- Do they have enough time to respond?
#3 – Create Value for Your Audience, Influencers & Brand
The major objective of any influencer marketing program should be to create value for your audience. Influencer marketing can accomplish that by adding trust and credibility to your brand message in a way that forms a connection between the audience, the influencer and your brand.
All of the research from recent years has found that today’s self-directed buyers don’t trust brand messages. And why should they? They’re constantly being inundated with thousands of marketing messages each day that focus more on the benefits of a product or solution than they are on how they can help the audience with their pain points.
“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.” – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
In addition to providing value for the audience, you also need to consider what value is being created for the influencers. Depending on your overall approach (or even on a project-by-project basis) there are different types of value that can be offered. Some influencer relationships include monetary compensation for their contributions, while others simply offer the value of exposure to a shared audience in a way that helps amplify their message.
An additional value add for influencers might include small tokens of your appreciation of their contribution. This can come in the form of small gifts, personalized thank yous, whatever you think will show the influencers that you truly appreciate their insights.
The brand also needs to benefit from the influencer relationship. This requires developing an influencer marketing strategy that is tightly aligned with business goals and objectives, tracking progress and optimizing your approach to get even more value out of the program.
Key Questions to Ask:
- How will incorporating these influencers benefit my audience?
- What value am I offering to influencers?
- Is there something personalized or special I can give to influencers to thank them?
- How will an influencer marketing program impact my business goals?
Time, Relationship & Value for the Win
If you want to see your influencer marketing program thrive, focus on taking your time, building relationships and creating mutual value. If you don’t, you’re at risk to see all of your hard work quickly fade away like a passing fad.
What do you think are your biggest opportunities to create a more effective influencer marketing program?
Disclosure: Dell and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.