Chronological news feeds are like the ghosts of Christmas past. With everyone going after the same coveted spots in consumers’ social feeds, you have two ways to get your message out to the masses: paid social ads or influencer marketing. Here’s how to amplify your campaigns through micro-influencers for a very merry holiday season.
Today, we spend more time on social networks than anywhere else online – 1.7 hours per day, on average. We’re also spending more money advertising on social media than ever before – $12.67 billion expected in 2016 in the U.S. alone. Complicating this trend and spend, global growth of ad blocker usage on web browsers has grown 41% YoY. Online bots will cost us $7.2 billion in click fraud to compensate for consumers’ disinterest – 67% of the likes earned on a Facebook ad campaign are fake.
Before you say ‘bah, humbug’, it’s important to note that what people do care about is content from friends and family. Social networks already know this – each news feed is now based on an algorithm that prioritizes social relationships above all. Peer word-of-mouth has always been more effective than traditional ads, with consumers 83% more likely to trust and act on a recommendation from someone they know versus an ad. Your most valuable asset has always been your existing customer base, but up until now, the primary focus has been on loyalty.
Influencer marketing platforms that leverage first-party social data and predictive analytics have unlocked the ability for marketers to understand who among their existing customers and employees are influential. Known as micro-influencers, these influential customers and employees have a reach of 500 – 10,000 followers, are highly engaging around relevant topics, and can drive major reaction from their peer networks.
Here are the seven steps to discovering & activating your own micro-influencers on social media this holiday season:
1. Determine Your Brand Objective
A good starting point is to look at how and why you’re using social media achieve your holiday marketing goals. From that frame of reference, the two primary use cases for micro-influencer marketing are to acquire new customers and to engage existing customers, particularly during high-volume seasonal sales periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Common new customer acquisition end goals include driving e-commerce purchases, app installs, or in-store coupon redemptions. Objectives that prompt brand re-engagement include content amplification, generating content, creating reviews, and collecting survey data.
2. Choose Your Influencer Source
Knowing your objective and structure, you can then identify which existing consumer touchpoint will be your best source of influential customers: mobile app subscribers, loyalty program members, e-commerce CRM, newsletter subscribers, social media following or employees, among others. Like attracts like, and in discovering the most influential and valuable consumers among your existing customers, you now have the data to find more exactly like them.
Discovery of your most influential customers is determined by their ability to drive your desired action from their friends, known as resonance. While reach and relevance can be strong indicators of influence, if an influencer can’t convert their friends (or followers) around your objective – are they really influential (a question for the industry at large)? Since this data is typically private, influencer technology is required (see platforms in step 8).
3. Organize Your Program Structure
Your influencer source will also serve as your primary channel to trigger activation. Micro-influencer activation can be structured as an always-on initiative or campaign. Since the relationship with your existing customers is ongoing, activation should always be aligned with and complement your overall marketing strategy.
Always-on Activation is contextual and occurs during customer-initiated interactions with your brand, such as point-of-purchase or customer service. It is ongoing and consumer-initiated, triggered at specific points across your consumer decision journey, such as point-of-purchase or at customer service Influencer technology is embedded throughout your CDJ to tap into the social capital of your most influential customers at scale to drive conversion on a specific objective.
Campaign-based Activation occurs during a fixed flight schedule, similar to traditional advertising. It typically has a singular idea and theme that is integrated across multiple media channels or influencer categories. For new product or mobile app launches that don’t have an existing micro-influencer base, influencer technology can be embedded within a campaign workflow –seeding early adoption and downloads.
4. Choose a Content Strategy
With an understanding your objective, influencer source, and program structure for activation, you can decide on which social network(s) to activate and how.
Not all social networks are created equal. The four factors to consider when choosing a network for your micro-influencer activation include its news feed consumption & filtering, content structure & half-life, search engine signals, and your micro-influencers’ social relationship strength on each network.
Based on your network(s) of choice, you then need to decide among the three different content types: influencer-generated, brand-generated content, or co-developed content. With micro-influencers, the best strategy is co-developed content – where you provide content guidelines and micro-influencers create their own variation. It offers the best of both worlds by ensuring content remains on-brand, while maximizing the impact of micro-influencers’ authenticity.
5. Determine Your Incentives & Rewards
By engaging your own influential customers, activation becomes an ongoing extension of their relationship with your brand. Rewards and incentives then become a value-driven, relational engagement, rather than transactional (as commonly seen with contracted mega- and macro-influencers).
Relational rewards and incentives include exclusive brand experiences that increase micro-influencers’ affinity with your brand and enhance their ability to continue to influence friends’ actions – such as VIP treatment, exclusive access to content or events, and new product trials. Not every activation may be deserving of an incentive, but those that do (such as sharing a post on Facebook) offer additional opportunities to enhance your brand relationship and overall campaign success.
6. Decide How You Will Measure Success
Success should be determined by your micro-influencers’ ability to drive your desired brand action. This is most commonly measured across four key metrics: awareness (impressions, views, earned media value); engagement (likes, comments, shares, or clicks), audience growth (new fans, followers, subscribers); and conversions (downloads, installs or purchases).
Until recently, influencer marketing success has largely been determined by an influencers’ ability to drive awareness among their audience – not dissimilar to a social media billboard. As different influencer personas have emerged, such as macro- and micro-influencers, and technologies for tracking success have evolved, conversions and return-on-investment are becoming more common for calculating influencers’ effectiveness.
7. Choose an Influencer Marketing Platform
The ability to discover and activate your most influential customers at scale requires the use of influencer marketing technology. After going through steps 1-6, you should be armed with a game plan and checklist to determine which influencer marketing platform is the best fit to achieve your objectives.
A final note on disclosures – any time you are incentivizing or rewarding an influencer (of any sort) to share content on your brand’s behalf, a disclosure is required per FTC regulations. It’s imperative to understand how the platforms or agencies you choose to work with manage this workflow and implementation.
For more on these steps and how to add micro-influencers to your influencer marketing mix, download our 7 Step Guide to Influencer Marketing playbook.
Also published on Medium.