How to Craft an Influencer Marketing Strategy That Will Outperform Traditional Advertising

It seems more authentic than a scripted message from a brand

If brands, influencers and audience all have authentic relationships with one another, then the end result with feel more cohesive. Getty Images
Headshot of Danielle Wiley

The rise of influencer marketing can be credited to the fact that the most impactful advertising comes from the people in our lives. With reports like Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising saying that 83 percent of people trust the recommendations of friends and family over traditional ads, it’s no wonder influencer marketing has emerged as a successful strategy for boosting awareness and sales.

It can be tempting to view influencer campaigns as a modern vehicle for brand-owned messaging, but there are big advantages to steering clear of the old-school ad paradigm.

Avoid the hard sell

A well-respected influencer won’t accept a sponsorship if they can’t personally endorse the product or brand, which fosters a trusting and receptive environment for partnerships that are truly an organic fit. Don’t ask influencers to abandon their voice for your message. Influencers know how to weave brand content into their own storytelling so audiences don’t feel like they’re being advertised to.

You can encourage engagement by posting questions or prompts, but for the most part, great content speaks for itself with likes and shares.

Influencer audiences respond to value-added call to actions, such as a personalized discount or a free trial period. Sponsorships can definitely include sales messages, but remember to keep the focus on providing quality content that feels like a natural extension of the influencer’s platform.

Focus on engagement

This one seems obvious, but while there are click-throughs involved in digital ads, there’s no opportunity for likes, comments or shares. The best influencer content is highly interactive and sparks human connections, which leads to ongoing brand discussion and reach.

Ads aren’t just a conversational dead end, they’re often subject to software blockers and audiences who simply change the channel. The right kind of influencer marketing delivers brand messaging as part of the content a niche audience is already consuming, such as a clothing brand that sponsors a fashion influencer’s outfit of the day or a food influencer sharing an original recipe with ideas and tips for using a brand’s spice products.

You can encourage engagement by posting questions or prompts, but for the most part, great content speaks for itself with likes and shares.

Go evergreen

Traditional ads are temporary by nature, but influencer content can live on. Long past initial publication, sponsored influencer content is searchable and always working for the brand. Pinterest, in particular, is a great place for sharing evergreen content like recipes or DIY tutorials, with seasonal topics eventually becoming relevant again. Even when content is structured around short-term promotions like a sale or a holiday, the overall post should have long-term value. An influencer can write a holiday recipe, sponsored by a food brand, and that content and the associated brand awareness will still resonate with audiences in a year’s time.

Think big picture

Even the best ads typically only focus on one main brand message. Influencer content can get deep into a subject with a variety of content approaches, from high-level awareness campaigns to specific feature/benefit callouts with step-by-step photo tutorials.

One influencer can present several brand dimensions over time with a multi-flight campaign (a campaign that includes multiple posts). For instance, an influencer that partners with a meal delivery service could share one post on the time-saving aspect, another on the ease of preparation and another on family togetherness at the dinner table. Another perspective is to consider the value of using many influencers to share their individual approaches to the same product or service at the same time. Targeted large-scale campaigns are a powerful option for optimizing reach.

Influencer marketing can often carry the same end goal as advertising, but with a very different strategy behind it. Focus on developing authentic relationships with influencers and audiences alike, and you’re likely to see that today’s influencer marketing opportunities have far more impact that yesterday’s scripted messages.


@SwayGroup Danielle Wiley is CEO of Sway Group.
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