Influencers: should we, or nah?
I used to get this question from clients a lot. Now, it's more about the how, as the answer is understood to be affirmatively: yes.
We all know consumers today are more influenced by their peers than traditional media. That's not to say the latter doesn't matter—they work in tandem—but it's what makes the content influencers create so important. In some industries, they've actually become the primary sales driver. Last year, Nordstrom reported 80% of its mobile sales were directly from influencers.
It's easy to navigate the landscape when you have a big budget. Just throw a bunch of money at the Top 10 and call it a day. But when you're a small company with a small budget, you're conscious of every dollar you spend and protective, to ensure its effective use. Awesome. This is more fun, anyway.
My advice is always to take a two-fold approach:
1. Always-On: Consistently engage, year-round, those influencers who are a) genuinely enthusiastic about your product or service and b) those who can meet your always-on objectives of brand awareness among a defined target, emotional connection for positive brand perception, and content creation aligned with a determined aesthetic. Target and secure a strategic number of these influencers, and leave room for the ability to say yes to direct inquiries, welcoming new brand fans.
2. Campaign-Based: There comes a time when you need an extra push—you may have a new product to launch, or need extra support in the Midwest. Influencers can help. According to your needs, it's important to activate a specific set of influencers with the right reach, audience, and messaging capabilities.
Ok. So, to pay or not to pay?
The long answer here is not so simple—it really depends—but the short answer is that I suggest a 'try before you buy' approach. See what you can get in trade before offering compensation. (I advise this to influencers, too, suggesting they always create, particularly those early-stage, a piece of content for free before asking for payment from a brand.) There are a lot of influencers who may not be willing to work this way, but there are a lot who will, particularly if you have a covetable product they can not only try themselves but know their audience would be excited to learn about. And, if you have a lot of product to donate, but not a lot of marketing dollars, focus on working in trade with more micro influencers, rather than payment to a small number of larger ones.
In terms of our two-fold approach...
1. Always-On: Giving your year-round engagement with influencers some structure, a la an Ambassador Program, will help validate it. And thus, put you in a position to spend nothing to very little (less the costs of shipments). Communicate a long-term commitment with a regular supply of product and swag— 'a mutually beneficial relationship'—and define your expectations in return. For a good brand, this can carry a lot of weight. But if naming it and giving it consistency aren't enough, try a mixed approach—a little in trade, a little in paid. If still not, commit to a certain spend and be as scrappy as possible with it. But, a long-term commitment should lower your total costs. Influencers are responsive to a reliable partnership, as they have to continually pursue them otherwise.
2. Campaign-Based: This is where you pay up. You have specific messaging. You have specific objectives. You have detailed asks. You want to make sure the job is done right. So, define the terms, supply a brief, and make your demands. Ensure you get your money's worth in the form of real, measurable ROI.
Want to know more? I have lots of thoughts. Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.