Influencers: Your Most Important Media Buy

Opinion: It is not about shooting for the biggest and most popular name on Instagram

Part of the problem is how influencers are perceived
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Influencer marketing has continued to come on in leaps and bounds during 2017, but while more brands are embracing it, a worrying number are viewing it as a checklist item rather than something that should sit at the core of their businesses.

Instead of taking time to build proper relationships with influencers, brands are simply sending free products in exchange for their time. They are simply going through the motions.

This unsophisticated approach is reminiscent of social media a decade ago, with brands branching into social just because rather than having a clear rationale or strategy.

This is why today, we see so many one-off influencer projects: those dinky campaigns run by isolated digital subsets of in-house teams that lack the power or budget to deliver something transformative.

There is a misconception, too, that influencer campaigns are expensive. That is simply a lack of planning. Long-term, multiyear influencer campaigns force brands to be strategic about their social strategies and execute on content that will move their brand stories forward.

Get serious

Part of the problem is how influencers are perceived. “Today’s rock stars,” “The A-List celebs of Gen Z”—these labels might pander to the occasional influencer’s ego, but they also do the majority a disservice because brands treat them less seriously.

Influencers are not rock stars: They’re lead-generation agents that can market products in a super-authentic way for brands. Influencer is a widely adopted term. However, it is worth considering that most influencers think of themselves as creators or YouTubers. They are in tune with their audiences and can create engaging content. They really know their stuff, yet brands are treating them as glamorous celebrities and plotting campaigns based on this mindset, rather than viewing them as a sales channel.

It is not about shooting for the biggest and most popular name on Instagram, but rather, identifying the right group of influencers who are most likely to drive sales.

Go big or go home

Sales operations that are understaffed rarely succeed, however talented the team members. In the influencer space, brands that choose to go down the micro-influencer route often fail to think about scale and reach. They choose the right influencers but select so few of them that they can’t scratch the surface or the potential market opportunity.

Brands don’t realize that there are probably about 5,000 influencers that might fit their brand at any given time. They could get 50 million to 100 million organic views in 30 days if they did their planning right and put in enough money.

One-off projects don’t win prizes

Before deciding how many influencers to tap into, brands must consider what campaigns will actually look like. Unlike projects, you can optimize ongoing activity with long-term campaigns.

The conversations around campaigns should be thought of in the same way as the upfronts, where brands negotiate with the media what they’re going to spend over the entire year.

The goals and key performance indicators across influencer and the rest of the business should also be related. This allows brands to adequately collect relevant data over time so that they can get smarter about what works and what does not.

Ongoing campaigns are also the most effective way to build ongoing relationships with creators and monitor for momentum over time.

But relationships don’t need to last forever

Brand ambassador programs can fail to deliver when there are no meaningful criteria for success. This doesn’t need to be the case with influencer marketing campaigns.

Do not keep investing in an influencer without first measuring how that influencer performs. Build an infrastructure that measures the bottom line and sales in online and/or retail stores.