Despite ongoing backlash, influencer marketing is only growing. It’s estimated that in 2017, influencer marketing was a $3 billion dollar industry and by 2020, it will be a $10 billion dollar industry. That a lot of money spent on—and a lot of trust put into—people who happen to have lots of followers on Instagram (or Twitter or Facebook, you get the idea). Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some wonderful social media influencers worth your money, but there are just as many who are only trying to cash in on the trend.
So how do you separate the real from the fake in the influencer world?
I recently listened to an episode of the Anatomy of a Strategy podcast featuring Erica Ehm. The discussion quickly turned to influencer marketing and the issues with the current state of influencer marketing. Ehm and hosts Tara Hunt and Carlos Pacheco discussed how people flocked to Instagram to become influencers when they saw that there was money there. Unfortunately, not everyone truly understands the meaning of the word “influence.” They also touched on how artificial intelligence may be the death of influencer marketing. Letting a computer pick influencers for you is a terrible idea. All of this resonated with me because these are the thoughts I have all the time.
Some companies are choosing influencers based solely on their numbers—numbers that could be inflated or purchased. They are using big agencies that find and partner with influencers using an app. Campaign details are written in stone and influencers simply follow the outline, slap on the right hashtags and post. How is this effective spending? It’s not.
Want to improve your influencer marketing strategy? Consider these three tips.
1) Choose your partnerships carefully
Don’t let an app or computer choose the influencers you work with. Sure, with the right input, the computer can help inform a list of potential brand partners for you, if you must, but have a real person curate that list. Look carefully at each influencer’s feed, photos, captions and stories. Look at who else they have partnered with. Ask yourself: Would your product or service actually appeal to them? How would it fit into their daily lives?
Better yet, develop real relationships with influencers. Learn what they’re passionate about and how they work best. Get a sense of who they are outside of social media because that is where the real magic is.
Influencers who will take on campaigns that don’t actually reflect their brand aren’t worth working with, but you won’t know who those people are if you don’t evaluate their feeds first. And once you truly get to know someone, the collaborations will seem more authentic because they are.
2) Plan on long partnerships versus one-off campaigns
One sponsored post in a sea of sponsored posts isn’t going to make many waves. While it makes sense to partner with a small number of influencers on one or two posts at first to test the waters, it’s not a great long-term plan for impact Once you evaluate the results of your one-off partnerships, choose the influencers who were great to work with, and importantly, garnered the best results—the most engagement, best content, most promo code redemptions, whatever your KPIs were—and partner with them over a longer term. Let the influencer make your brand part of their life and have them share it regularly over months or even a year. Posts will go from looking and feeling sponsored to feeling a lot more authentic.
3) Bring brand partners into your own campaigns
Yes, when influencers create content for you, that’s marketing money you can save. The photos and captions are created for you for one fairly low price, compared with producing your own photoshoot. But for a brand partnership to truly be successful and to feel genuine, it needs to feel like a partnership to your audiences. 90 percent of consumers actually want to see brands create custom content. (And it’s why Felicity launched the Content Studios and Content Collective.) It’s probably already part of your strategy and if it’s not, it should be. Why not include your influencers in your branded content? That may mean having influencers write blog posts for your site or producing original photos and video that they appear in.
Finally, note my use of the phrase “brand partner,” versus influencer or even ambassador. Treating influencers like part of your team will only strengthen their connection to your brand and increase the return on your influencer investment.