How to build a successful influencer marketing campaign

When engaging with an influencer, you must have a specific goal in mind as part of a wider marketing strategy

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The Covid pandemic brought many changes to the global consumer. The use of online and social media channels during lockdown for entertainment, connection and e-commerce merged with a new desire for something more authentic in their lives.

That included wanting brands to give them more in terms of values and meaning both in the services they produced and how they market them. Influencer marketing, which was already growing before the pandemic, has benefited. 

The personal content produced by influencers rather than traditional brand messaging has truly engaged consumers.  According to a survey from Collective Bias in the US, 70% of millennial consumers said they are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions.  The smaller the better it seems with Collective Bias also finding that 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger.

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“People are used to getting recommendations on social media now and acting on them,” says Neil Brennan, SVP at Klear , an influencer marketing platform.  “Brands don’t own the narrative anymore, consumers do. It is on these social media channels where influencers and customers have conversations and start or spot new trends. It is a great avenue for brands to tap into. They need to understand these communities and find the right influencers to partner with , so it feels more authentic.”

Brands must focus

It is why, says Brennan, over three quarters of brands are already doing some form of influencer marketing. These brands want influencers either to be part of a stand-alone or broader marketing campaign driving sales or growing brand awareness and/or sentiment. They can be either one-off deals with influencers or more valuable to creators and brands,  long-term partnerships.

As the industry grows so does the number of influencers – with around fifty million describing themselves as such around the world – and agencies helping to support brands with their influencer marketing activities. 

This growth brings with it opportunities but also challenges. Brands need to be more focussed if they are going to make sense of this increasingly crowded marketplace and avoid an influencer marketing campaign going wrong.

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“As a result of oversaturation of influencer marketing and inauthentic partnerships, it’s ingrained into our being to resist being sold to. Brands and marketers need to take a step back and ask themselves - is this partnership relevant? Is this partnership authentic? And does this partnership make sense?” says Ellie Hooper, head of client at agency Goat. 

Matt Woods, chief executive of marketing and creator agency AFK adds: “Don’t use influencers for the sake of it. You need to have a specific goal in mind as part of a wider marketing strategy such as using their trust and credibility to promote your brand or boost sentiment or to come up with something really creative after attending a brand event.”

He says that brands can often think too ‘one dimensionally’ about influencer marketing. “If you are a skincare brand and you think immediately you need a female influencer who looks a certain way then be cautious,” he says. “Before you select that influencer you need to understand who their audience is. The age split, the gender and location. If you get that right, then you know you are talking to the right consumers in the right setting and in the right way.”

Klear, which allows its customers to search a database of thirty million influencers, also says data is at the heart of selection.

“When brands and agencies begin searching for an influencer, they want to look at data, not just rely on a gut feeling,” says Klear product specialist Dana Benami. 

Each of the influencers on the Klear platform has a profile biography so brand CMOs and agencies can clearly see their follower count and more importantly their engagement rates by social channel. Higher engagement means more interaction between influencer and reader and a greater chance that the campaign will succeed.

The profiles also give examples of previous content from the influencer to see whether their language, style and opinions match with brand values. Information on the influencer’s audience is also provided so CMOs can gauge whether the demographics they want to hit will ultimately see the content. 

Benchmark influencers

Klear is able to benchmark influencers against each other and give them a unique Custom Brand score. It allows a CMO to set relevant parameters such as the audience age and gender they want to target in their marketing campaign as well as topic. The score then details how well an influencer aligns with the campaign goals improving the chances of finding the best fit.

“Brands and agencies could also use keyword searches to find influencers who have mentioned a certain phrase. So just say you are marketing a new baby food product then you may have ‘pregnant’ as a keyword,” Benami explains. “We have also recently added a unique feature where we can do AI powered visual searches on Instagram. So, we could ask for images of pregnant female influencers who again could help that brand find the best match.”

Also, Benami says Klear can embed media data and analysis from the Meltwater platform to give CMOs more detailed data on influencer activity. 

For example, Klear’s media intelligence analytics service offers brands the opportunity to monitor and analyse social media channels, TV and Radio, print news and podcasts to find data showing how often their brand is mentioned and sentiment around it.  This can help in a number of ways from seeing which influencers are mentioning their brand or products, which channels they should be investing more time and energy in and, after content is published, how many impressions they have received as well as sentiment around online discussions. In addition, its AI powered social listening analytics helps brands keep track of how and when they and their products are mentioned in social media, sentiment around their competitors, relevant industry news and to spot new consumer trends.

In addition, using AI technology it can sift insights from the millions of online messages, content and reviews shared and tweeted by consumers every day. It helps segment audiences into their separate ‘online tribes’ which could help CMOs better target social media influencer campaigns and make them more effective.

For Brennan this is an ‘end to end solution’ for brands and at a time of economic uncertainty an opportunity to ‘make more strategic decisions on when and where to invest your next marketing dollar’.

Jill Boobyer of marketing agency Smarts believes this 360-degree view of influencer selection is extremely valuable. “You want reassurance that your decisions are based on numbers. We know exactly the engagement rates an influencer has hit over the last three months, who it has reached and why,” she says. 

However, she stresses that it is still important to have “that human instinct in determining whether someone is the right fit or not.”

Clear objectives and KPIs

Some agencies do take a more human centred approach by using product seeding to build an influencer base. It essentially means giving free products to influencers to see what kind of content they produce.

Brands should have a briefing discussion with influencers before content is produced. It can’t be too prescriptive but needs to let the influencer know what the guardrails are in terms of style and language. Brands must also be clear about objectives and KPIs upfront as well as how these will be measured.

Klear says its technology can predict how well influencers will  perform by outlining expected engagement and ROI. After the content has been published these predictions can be compared with actual results to see if an influencer under or over performed.

“You can present this data to the Chief Marketing Officer or other stakeholders to show success or to look at where the next campaign can be improved.  Who performed well and who didn’t? Which influencers should be retained? It will drive actionable insights and better decision making for future partnerships,” says Benami. 

The best performing content by engagement can also be repurposed to a brand’s own channels such as a brand’s own Instagram feed or website. 

This can save brand’s time and money in developing their own content. They can use an integrated approach, such as that taken by athleisure brand Lululemon, of mixing its own creative content with that from athletes and fitness influencers for better authenticity.

“This will increasingly become more powerful because content creation is an expensive part of a brand’s marketing budget,” says Brennan. “It’s part of turning the whole influencer marketing process into something more structured and valuable for brands. Brands can lose the Excel spreadsheets and countless email/WhatsApp exchanges and scale their influencer programme with a CRM built for creators.”

Learn how to be successful at influencer marketing:

Illustration: Sara Gelfgren / Graphics: Harry Lewis-Irlam / Audience analyst: Tony Bennison