Online economics has flipped traditional advertising, PR, and marketing campaigns. Today, social capital is the asset worth building, while influence is the strongest currency for driving brand awareness and producing revenue.
As many studies show, investing in both can deliver spectacular ROI. In fact, influencer marketing has become an indispensable tool for the vast majority of marketing departments around the world, with 90% of companies having dedicated budgets for influencer marketing in 2019, according to a Linqia report.
With expense allocations skyrocketing, the influencer marketing industry is expected to tip the scales at $10 billion by 2020 from just around $2 billion in 2017. And while many businesses still stick to a periodic strategy of rolling out one to five campaigns per year, more than 40% of businesses have already adopted an “always-on” influencer strategy.
The dramatic embrace of influence marketing and the industry’s exponential growth can be attributed to a single factor: RESULTS.
More brands are scurrying to partner with the right influencers because the practice delivers eye-popping ROI, especially when compared to the dwindling effectivity of old-school approaches like television, print, and radio advertising.
Let’s face it – most modern consumers are using ad blockers on their desktop computers, laptops, and mobile phones. Of course, that only makes influencer marketing even more attractive as a method for driving brand awareness, engagement, and sales.
Done right, an influencer marketing campaign can earn an average of $6.50 for every dollar spent, representing an ROI of 550%. That’s just the average for a properly planned and executed campaign. Brands who belong to the top users of influential marketing see earnings of $20 or more, for a whopping ROI of around 2000%!
Given the foregoing figures, a marketing strategy without a strong influencer marketing component is tantamount to a crime. If you plan to use influencer marketing to build awareness for your brand, here are some essential concepts and tips you should know.
What is influencer marketing?
Marketing guru, author, and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki is among the world’s top influencers and brand evangelists.
Influencer marketing is the process facilitated by an online influencer to connect a brand and its target audience, with the aim of catching consumer interest, spurring positive buying behavior, and sustaining healthy customer engagement.
Influence marketing represents an advanced evolution of the traditional methods of celebrity endorsement and testimonial advertising. But in place of celebrities such as popular actresses, talk show hosts, and top athletes, influencer marketing depends on niche domain movers who may not necessarily be celebrities, but who lead active online communities populated by a substantial number of avid followers.
To maintain and grow their community of followers, online influencers initiate relevant conversations and demonstrate expertise, authenticity, and empathy with their audience. Sports personalities, musicians, and entertainment figures still count among today’s top-earning influencers, but they are joined by a rising number of teenagers, gamers, entrepreneur moms, lifestyle gurus, tech geeks, travel bloggers, fitness trainers, and amateur fashionistas.
Unbox Therapy is an influencer-driven YouTube site that showcases unboxing-type reviews of consumer products.
Bypassing traditional broadcast media such as television and radio, the playing field for influencer marketing consists of online social media channels (Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) that provide the new building blocks for memes, brand evangelism, and viral marketing. As a result, influencer marketing has overtaken paid search, organic search, and email marketing as the fastest growing online method for customer acquisition.
Businesses can use influencer marketing to achieve different outcomes: drive sales, reach new audiences, or introduce a new brand or product to a specific consumer segment. Influencer marketing is among the most effective methods for driving brand awareness, with the proven capability of infusing pipelines with a healthy number of new leads.
5 Influencer marketing tactics to build brand awareness
True to their nature and role, influencers can shape or sway the opinions, behavior, and mindset of people who invest and participate in their online communities. This is because followers implicitly trust and share the values of the influencers they admire and emulate on social media.
For followers who believe in the authenticity, domain expertise, and judgement of their favorite influencers, every word spoken and action taken by the influencer generates the right kind of conversations. When an influencer advocates for a specific action or endorses a product for example, the vast majority of their audience listens and responds positively. Compared to traditional advertisements, an endorsement by an influencer is deemed more trustworthy and authentic by the audience.
For businesses, partnering with the right influencer practically means gaining access to a friendly market and earning mindshare among the influencer’s audience.
However, influencer marketing success is never automatic. A mismatch between your brand, influencer, and their audience can backfire and negatively impact all stakeholders in the campaign. Not every marketing method works for every type of audience either. That’s why you need a well-designed strategy for influencer marketing to successfully deliver the business outcomes you are aiming for.
Start by setting clear goals and establishing the means (i.e., KPIs) by which you can assess/measure whether your campaign has achieved those goals satisfactorily. For example, the performance of an influencer-driven brand awareness campaign might be measured in terms of the net gains in follower count for your brand, actual conversions or purchases that are directly attributable to the campaign, as well as the volume and persistence of online conversations and activities (e.g., likes, shares, etc.) that reference your brand.
Here are some key tactics to consider.
1. Work only with influencers that your potential customers follow and listen to.
Design guru Nancy Duarte talks about the structure of great speeches during a TEDx event. Duarte is a prominent thought influencer in the presentation software and best practices sector.
There are hundreds of influencers you can reach out to. But while it might be exciting to have a broad range of candidates, zeroing in on the right one(s) who can give an authentic voice for your brand can be difficult.
To ensure that you won’t fall into this common trap, make a self-assessment vs. thorough research on the influencer and their audience. The key is finding commonalities between your own customers (or the new market demographic you wish to engage) and the audience profile of the influencer you want to partner with. Getting crucial insights from your customer-facing teams would be a great place to start.
Here are some questions to help narrow your options:
- What is your specific market niche and who is your ideal customer?
- Are there crucial similarities between your audience and that of the influencer? Will your product or service resonate (or at least be relevant) with the influencer’s followers?
- Will a good number of the influencer’s followers also fit your buyer personas?
- Which influencers and brands do your own followers also follow on social media? Do some of your followers admire the influencer you have in mind?
- Will the influencer’s personality, language, and lifestyle resonate with your target audience?
- Will serving as the voice for your brand enhance or damage the influencer’s image among their audience? Will the partnership benefit both brands? Will authenticity remain intact for both the influencer and your business?
As a case in point, Nextiva partnered with small business expert and influencer Carol Roth to strengthen its presence among small-to-medium-scale enterprises. Having planned and executed similar campaigns for Microsoft, Bank of America, Dell, and MasterCard, Carol Roth has both the experience and the network to orchestrate the business outcomes Nextiva was aiming for at the time. Based on the partnership’s excellent results, Ms. Roth’s domain expertise and her captive audience proved a perfect match for Nextiva’s goals.
2. Find and leverage niche influencers
Bryce Langston is a niche influencer focusing on stylish, sustainable, and compact housing. His YouTube channel has more than 1.8 million followers.
It’s no mean feat to convince one hundred strangers to sign up on your message. That of course, only makes influencers with millions of followers truly remarkable individuals. Understandably, it’s quite tempting to do business with them right at the onset given their clout and the potentially huge market they offer.
But bigger does not always mean better. Especially when it comes to influencer marketing.
Remember, a mismatch between your brand, the influencer, and the audience will more likely result in a negative and costly experience for all. If an influencer marketing partnership erodes either party’s relevance and authenticity to their respective audiences, either or both brands suffer.
For example, a passionate foodie with just a few thousand followers would be a better match for a company selling a city dining app than a survivalist/prepper influencer who commands a million paranoid followers.
That is why brands now prefer micro-influencers who perfectly match their corporate branding over a celebrity who doesn’t have a genuine connection with their product – even if that celebrity has 10 million followers on Instagram.
There are many benefits to engaging micro-influencers:
- They are far more affordable compared to mega-influencers.
- They are passionate about their field. The vast majority of micro-influencers are expert specialists who possess domain mastery.
- People generally trust the recommendations and endorsements of micro-influencers because they are perceived to be authentic, normal, and relatable human beings.
- Micro-influencers take their roles seriously. They drive and actively participate in online conversations, directly responding to followers’ comments, queries, and feedback.
- Interactions over micro-influencers’ channels tend to have high engagement levels and often lead to positive actions such as opt-ins, conversions, and purchases.
A few more tips:
- As a key takeaway, always reward micro-influencers with the compensation they deserve.
- Beware of fake followers.
- Plan campaigns together, with both parties clearly specifying their expectations.
3. Launch contests and giveaways to drive more attention
Who doesn’t like contests and prizes? When the right influencer asks you to sponsor a competition or a contest, don’t hesitate to jump right in. Better yet, plan one with the partner-influencer. Given the competition landscape, earmarking some amount for sponsored prizes and rewards in the annual budget has become a marketing imperative anyway.
Exciting contests and attractive giveaways are great ways to spur conversation and drive awareness and engagement for your brand. If you are a B2C company, rewarding influencers with your product can initiate an unboxing video. Running tough competitions that feature your product as the ultimate prize can also be a powerful brand awareness tactic. On the other hand, B2B companies in the SaaS space can work out deals with influencers to demo their products while game developers can certainly partner with an avid player to film a walkthrough.
Again, remember that giveaways are not created equal. Be sure that the one you are putting up for a prize is compelling enough to rouse people from their daily grind. That, or run a contest that requires the barest effort to get a minor/consolation prize (free food and beverage at the corner cafe, or an item from your brand merchandise store).
Most people would certainly pause and try their luck in an online competition that dangles a recently launched smartphone. For major prizes, the audience should exert some effort to win (such as creating original content or bringing along an X number of new leads for the ride). On the other hand, a healthy number would join competitions for less flashy rewards if all it takes is to follow a new social media account or to like and share a post.
Whether you are offering a major or minor reward, it’s good practice to rev up brand engagement throughout the course of the contest via simple actions such as tagging friends or signing up for your newsletter. Finally, remember to design the contest such that it facilitates a great experience even for non-winners. Note that massive disappointment among audiences can erode enthusiasm for your brand.
4. Host webinars, podcasts and AMA sessions with influencers
Nextiva’s Director for Demand Generation Gaetano DiNardi (right) is a B2B influencer whose business videos drive tens of thousands of views on LinkedIn. He is shown here interviewing Oscar Tobar, the Global Customer Service Lead at Culture Amp.
It’s not forbidden to take the brute-force method for driving (literal) conversation. So let influencers do the talking.
Video-based marketing via webcasts is a formidable tactic for driving brand awareness, given the exploding popularity of the medium and the advances in streaming technologies. Sound-only podcasts aren’t too far behind either, with podcast consumption also experiencing an exponential rise. No wonder smart marketers already have podcasts, webinars, and video outreach as favorite staples in their digital marketing toolbox. For most ambitious companies, it wouldn’t be a stretch to mix influencer marketing with their media streaming apparatus. Besides, a good number of proactive influencers already use video to send their message across and keep their followers delighted.
That being said, webinars, podcasts, and Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) sessions with an influencer can provide exposure benefits and drive deeper engagement for your brand. Well, as long as there’s a real connection between your product and the influencer (perhaps not necessarily as strong as the Under Armour-Stephen Curry connection but surely something close to that).
In an arena where authenticity is treasured, followers actually seeing and hearing their favorite influencers is gold. Audio-visual communication generally trumps text-based branding when it comes to driving awareness, engagement, and sales. That means you should not shy away from sponsoring influencers’ live feeds when the right conditions are present. AMAs, unboxing, webinars, filmed reviews, and podcasts are just some possible streamed media collaborations that can propel brand awareness.
Takeaway: While rich media streaming is effective, going too far as to hard-sell a brand can ruin authenticity and the audience will notice. Never allow the experience to feel ingenuine. Embrace rich audio-visual experiences but allow your brand and the influencer the creative freedom to maintain their authenticity. Aside from YouTube, there are other rich media platforms you should explore including Facebook, Instagram TV, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Spotify.
5. Use promo codes to generate leads and drive conversions
Exclusive promos and large discounts to premium online courses, ebooks, consumer products, services, and onsite events are often used as magnets for generating new leads and driving sales. But promo codes and exclusive coupons can do a lot more.
They might seem simple and modest but unique discounts and exclusive promo codes are excellent marketing tools that can help you:
- Keep audiences engaged
- Reward committed followers
- Generate new leads
- Drive actual purchases
- Assist and compensate influencers
- Track the impact and effectiveness of a campaign
In fact, many affiliate and influence marketing partnerships thrive by offering discount coupons and promo codes associated with custom landing pages where lead generation and different types of conversions can be orchestrated. This tactic is best used in tandem with podcasts or live video streams by which influencers can better articulate your message and convince their followers to join the fun.
Takeaways: Make the promo/discount unique and attractive. Don’t be stingy. If you’re just offering what’s already available at other channels or outlets, you won’t excite your audience, much less compel them to behave the way you want.
With traditional advertising on a downtrend, the business demand for influencer marketing shoots up like a rocket. Brands are willing to pay millions of dollars to hyper-popular influencers, some of whom have become ultra-rich just by filming themselves while opening packages, wearing a watch, modeling clothes, or sipping wine. Brands don’t mind because influencer marketing done right delivers the outcomes businesses would die for.
As more and more people look to their social networks when making purchase decisions, the value of influencer marketing can only go up. Don’t get left behind. Learn more about influencer marketing, partner with the right influencer, and adopt the tactics that match well with your brand and budget. Remember, micro-influencers can be effective at driving brand awareness and you need not break the bank to achieve your marketing goals.
Guest author: Dmitry Dragilev is a growth hacker at Criminally Profilic where he loves using the web in unconventional ways to drive user acquisition for startups.