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In part one of this two part post, I explained how the tides are shifting in digital marketing tools spend and the brave brands are focusing their attention away from general social media efforts towards social influencers who have the power to make a much larger impact.
In this part, I’ll talk about the four toughest challenges marketers face in the Gold Rush to influencer marketing and how to overcome them to win.
When organizations are ready to ramp up their investment in influence marketing they face one very stressful question: “Where should I start?”
The design and roll-out of an influencer program can appear complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s walk through the four main challenges and possible solutions (see my presentation of London PR Analytics conference):
Any marketing effort should start with a defined strategy. For influencer marketing, answering these three key questions will help define it.
- Who do I want to talk to?
- What do I want to achieve?
- How do I measure success?
Let’s focus on the first one: the target community.
I see many practitioners instinctively look for influencers directly related to their brand or in their product category. Whilst it’s seems obvious to look for influencers in your brand, it actually rarely makes sense (except for reputation management). Here’s why:
Your product category might not generate natural communities. While anything is possible on the web, you will most likely not find an active community of detergent or bean influencers!
If you are looking for influencers on detergents you might actually only find 60’s rock fans (see image)!
Further, you will often find yourself wanting to create a new community which means what you want to build doesn’t already exist. That’s when thinking outside the box and reframing your target audience can be helpful.
For example a famous beer wanted to reach more women so they focused their efforts in fashion and entertainment communities rather than beer fans.
Remember: social communities are built around shared interests, not around demographics. Do not look for 25-35 young mums! Be more specific about the type of conversations and communities you want to address: focus is what drives your success on the social web.
2. Influencer discovery
Paid media programs (Adwords, Facebook ads, etc.) make life easy for advertisers by simplifying segmentation and targeting. Finding influencers has been a complete pain in the ass for many marketers because you have to search for them in an unstructured, scattered and chaotic mess.
No ! Neither Obama nor Bieber are not the ifluencers that matter to you !
Influence is often confused with popularity (compounded by inappropriate marketing by some social scoring vendors). And general social media monitoring tools aren’t very good at understanding who matters and filtering our the irrelevelant content. So most practitioners today rely on time consuming, non-exhaustive manual research.
The good news is discovery can be much easier and more useful: New developments in search technology enable you to identify the people who matter on specific topics, the way you define it. So that you can focus your time and resources on engaging. Speaking of engagement, let’s talk about that now.
Getting over the “discovery” hurdle leads to the next question “so now what do I do with this list of people?”.
Do I need to “talk” to these folks ? have a “real” conversation ? Well, these are people, not a display ad inventory; so yes you need to talk to them. Heck, that’s what “social” is all about!
Influencer engagement is not an easy. It involves: time, people and content.
- Time: Building fruitful relationships take time. If you are looking for an immediate return, you will be frustrated. Success is built over months. Just as you expect a content strategy to take time to kick into high gear, influencer strategy is an on-going process that rewards those who stick with it.
- People: Reaching out to people requires people. Just sending emails or press release does not work.
- Content: Create relevant content. I’m not talking about content relevant to you. I mean content relevant to your influencers. Let’s not forget these influential people will be happy to work with you on the condition that they get value out of it, which most often means value for their audience.
One last point on engaging: you should always start by listening. By listening and understanding your influencers in real time, you’ll be able to engage with the right message at the right time.
4. Measurement and ROI
Now, just as you thought you had it right at last, the CMO looks at you and says: “Nice job, so what’s the ROI ?”
You are a big fan of Google analytics, Facebook and Twitter because they give you these huge data sets and KPIs that you can throw back at people when that question arises.
They do not really answer the ROI question, but everyone wants to believe that a fan has to be a good thing (that‘s until you’ve started to understand why people have become fans….but that’s another debate)
Measuring the impact of your influencer program is indeed a challenge. My advice : decide what you want to achieve before setting up your measurement program.
4b) Quantifying reach
One particular challenge raised in the face of influencer marketing is reach (or scale). Reach is very valued by marketers because they like comparing campaigns, medias.
The reach of influencer marketing differs from traditional media because it is indirect: it is the network effect. It’s a “think small, impact more” approach because you focus your efforts on a select number of people who have the potential to garner you more attention than you could ever accomplish on your own.
But reach is not the only metrics that drives impact: context is key. Influencer marketing is highly contextual, touching users at the right time in purchasing decisions (when they look for content) and reaching a truly engaged audience (genuinely engaged, not “engaged” because they’ll get a free week end in Dublin).
For each campaign you will need to think about your own success criteria and measure what is relevant to YOU. Use tools that enable you to measure your impact.
Influencer marketing might be the new Eldorado, but if you want to find the gold you need face some of these challenges head on. You don’t need to have the entire journey planned out. But give some thought to your strategy, discover, engagement and measurement plan… then jump in.