Influencer Marketing

Why It Matters and 7 Steps to Developing a Successful Program

POVS / 12.14.16

CMO Challenge | Reach and Resonance 

It’s a postmodern digital world. Consumers’ appetites for how information is digested has shifted dramatically. Marketers face roadblocks reaching target audiences and delivering content that resonates. Increasingly, banner-blocking tools and distaste for blatant advertising has complicated message delivery and impacted how marketers react. Even the most compelling content has a limited audience if not delivered on the right channel at the right time.

Additionally, consumers don’t want to be sold a product; they want to be shown a product in context of a lifestyle they emulate, from a source they trust. Those sentiments, along with the rapid rise of social media, have made influencer marketing not just a nice-to-have element of a marketing strategy but a must-have component of any effective marketing plan.

What is Influencer Marketing?

In the past, celebrities cornered the influencer market, but today, through one tweet, gram, pin or post, anyone can have influence in the decision-making process. Influencers can be fans or followers, bloggers, celebrities, experts in a space or anyone who aligns with the brand’s DNA. Influencer marketing leverages those individuals and capitalizes on their followers and fans, giving brands a direct pipeline to the audience through authentic and creative content. Most importantly, influencer marketing is not a sales pitch; it’s a conversation that builds trust.

Example Influencer marketers
Example influencers with large and small follower interaction

Why You Need It

As marketers look at their budgets to determine where to allocate spend, they need to understand how influencers can impact the bottom line. Influencer programs don’t just impact brand awareness and engagement; they’re powerful tools with tremendous benefits as outlined below.

  • Drive conversion through trust: Influencers attract like-minded audiences, which allows them to build a community and foster trust. Their thoughts and opinions resonate with their followers and can drive conversion, impacting the bottom line.
  • Humanize the brand while increasing visibility: Brands can strategically partner with the right personalities to spark organic conversations.
  • Boost reach through search ranking and social presence: Search engines give value to highly authoritative sources. Leveraging influencers’ audiences and inbound links from their site to yours can have a big impact on your search ranking for increased discoverability. See our results.
  • Act as native advertising: 44% of people ages 18-24 use ad-blocking technology, and 68% are fed up with the distracting nature of advertising (Reuters Digital News Report, 2016). The way to reach this growing group is to provide content they want from people they trust.
  • Position expert knowledge: Influencers have influence because they have mastered the space. They know the wants and needs of their brand’s core audience and how to create and sustain relevancy in their followers’ lives.
  • Bring a fresh perspective: They see campaigns in a different light, allowing for fresh, new ideas that maintain brand standards.
  • Increase your audience: They provide visibility to unique audiences, increasing reach to like-minded potential customers.
  • Provide rich content: Influencers are a prime resource for rich and organic content, relieving internal resources to develop assets. See our results.
"Influencer programs don't just impact brand awareness and engagement; they're powerful tools with tremendous benefits"


7 Steps to Developing a Successful Influencer Program

Influencer marketing can be wildly successful, but only if the program is correctly built and executed laddering to business objectives. The steps below define the essential elements and considerations it takes to build a program.

Step 1

Understand your overall business goals and what you are seeking to achieve:

  • Create clear KPIs to measure success and gauge performance such as reach, engagement and content generation.
  • Understand which metrics support these goals (e.g. amount of content generated, engagement rates, reach or followers) and build your influencer program to achieve them.

Step 2

Know the types of programs you can build:

  • Brand Ambassadors | Generating Content and Community: These are compensated influencers that create brand-exclusive content over an extended period of time. The content can include social media (posts and videos), vlogs and blogs (with linkbacks). Consider developing a branded program with a landing page or a hub to showcase the program and drive traffic. Additionally, ambassadors may be used in tactics beyond content creation, such as media events, experiential events, designer partnerships and merchandise highlights (i.e. blogger favorites).
  • Influencer Programs | Expanding Reach: Designed to generate buzz from a multitude of sources, this program consists of a robust list of influencers who are tapped to support current initiatives and are often used to support campaigns over a specific period of time.
  • Surprise & Delight | Building Loyalty: These partnerships revolve around surprise product seeding to loyal brand enthusiasts or individuals in your target audience selected from social listening.
  • Aligned Brand Partnerships | Sharing a Common Vision and Audience: Influencers aren’t just individuals – they can also be aligned businesses or brands that share similar audiences to yours. These partnerships can be a win-win for everyone involved through amplified visibility, fresh content and shared audiences.

These partnerships can work independently or together as a part of the larger strategy, depending upon program goals.

Projected growth with and without influencers
Projected growth with and without influencers

Step 3

Hand-curate your influencers:

Manage your own influencer program in-house or through an agency partner. While it might not be as immediately turn-key as leveraging a network, you will have more control and are building relationships that will reap rewards in the long run. Developing your own program gives you the opportunity to select bloggers based on your business goals, defining the program’s reach and content mix for yourself. This mix is a key element, developed from a healthy balance of reach and engagement from quality advocates.

Step 4

Build relationships:

Spend time to get to know your influencers, specifically if you are managing an ambassador program. Follow them, share their content and engage with them. Knowing their needs and what makes them successful is critical. Finding ways to add personal touches, such as welcome gifts, go a long way in creating deep and meaningful relationships.

Step 5

Develop an editorial calendar and create an on-target content mix:

Capture your content in an editorial calendar to ensure you have the right content mix, are aligned to key moments in time and understand your communication cadence. Apply the 80/20 rule when organizing your content – only 20% should be brand promotions and hard product call-outs while 80% should be about inspiring your audience. This rule of thumb ensures you don’t alienate your audience.  

Step 6

Negotiate for the content, then use it:

As stated earlier, one of the most often overlooked benefits of an influencer program is development of rich and creative content. With brand advocates, developing content is a shared experience and not just the responsibility of the brand. Make sure you negotiate content usage rights into your contracts and don’t limit just to social media use. Consider using influencer content across channels like emails, blogs and websites to name a few. 

Step 7

Get your hands dirty with data:

The key to any successful influencer program is to continuously analyze and optimize. Pull weekly metrics and sentiment, then take a deep dive into what is working and what isn’t. Make changes to your program as needed to drive the ultimate results.

Getting Results

Influencers must now be considered for what they are, publishers who leverage measureable word of mouth at scale. Audiences have moved away from traditional marketing tactics towards real-time engagement with trusted and admired sources to drive their purchasing behavior. By using the steps above and hand-curating a trusted group of brand advocates, marketers can move the needle. Brands who want to compete in our postmodern world must layer in some aspect of influencer marketing to ensure they are being heard, or they face the possibility of being left behind.

Take a closer look at how to use influencer programs to overcome client challenges:

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