As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand clicks (if it comes from the right person, that is). From subtly-sponsored posts on Instagram to Kanye as the face of Balmain, attaching a public figure to your brand has never been more accepted — or more successful. In fact, studies find influencer marketing is 11 times more effective at driving awareness than sole banner ads.
So how do you determine if influencer outreach is right for your brand, and if so, which people to pursue? It’s not necessary to think in Kardashian-scope; many social powerhouses reside in vlogs, Snaps, and blogs. It’s the art of messaging and measurement that makes for a great partnership.
Finding & Defining Key Influencers
A key influencer should have three things: an active following, an involvement or connection to your industry, and a commitment to their own brand (think in terms of topics or aesthetics). Remember, size doesn’t equate influence — they should actively engage with their followers, not simply collect them. If you’re looking to save time, influencer management platforms can help narrow down your search.
Key influencers can run the gamut from analysists to activists. Traackr’s Many Faces of Influence include:
- Industry Experts: They validate your relevance in an industry and their association builds trust with your brand (especially suitable for B2B brands).
- Digital Media: Relationships with editors, journalists, and bloggers can build hype for B2B and B2C businesses alike.
- Online Celebrities: This classic influencer has ample audience influence and can be sponsored, for example, to gain B2C-brand exposure.
For an inside peek into the process of finding influencers, see how 6S distinguished key teen vloggers on YouTube for Avery’s back-to-school campaign.
Crafting Your Branded Collaboration
Remember, you’re after a mutually beneficial relationship. This means monetary payment isn’t a necessity— depending on the type of collaboration, influencers exchange social exposure or goods for furthering your brand. Popular partnerships include:
- Branded Offers: Your influencer offers your target audience exclusive promo codes, product lines, giveaways or contests. You gain brand exposure; they reward their followers.
- Exclusive Content: Influencers review products on their channels, boosting your exposure while furthering their authority. Media influencers can also post articles and link to your blog posts on their own platforms.
- Social Promotion: Retweets, links, and shares are still a form of collaboration. Creating a cycle of consistent reciprocation with your influencers can boost your credibility, exposure and even help your site’s SEO.
Setting Benchmarks & Measurement
While it may appear tricky to gain analytics from influencer collaborations, it’s much easier to gauge success if you set up benchmarks from the get-go. Consider providing unique URLs for influencers to share, so you can track the referral traffic and goal conversions (i.e. sign-ups, contest entries, etc.) attained by them.
When it comes to social media, evaluate your existing reach and share of voice to compare after the campaign. KPIs to consider include number of conversations about the campaign, engagement with branded influencer content (comments, shares), and conversions coming from posts. There’s also an array of influencer data collection tools available to aid your process.
The Future for Influencers & Brands
As key influencers become a regular component of brand strategy, brands need to capitalize on emergent technologies to stand out. Wearable technology like Snapchat’s new Spectacles offer influencers a new platform to promote favored products and services. Periscope’s Applause network, the first live-stream influencer network, gives its users the ability to “deliver the effectiveness of word of mouth with the benefit of massive scale.” In both cases, real-time video stands out as the next big frontier for influencer marketing.
Of course, key influencers are still most effective in the digital media we consume every day. In fact, a recent study from Variety found that the top 5 most influential American figures for 13-18-year-olds were all YouTube stars — and Kim Kardashian didn’t even crack the top 20. When it comes to furthering your exposure, you can’t beat teaming up with an internet-born superstar.