What if your influencer marketing campaign wasn’t powered by 15 influencers – but 150?
What about 1,500?
What if you could power your entire digital marketing campaign through the voice and influence of your consumers on social media? When I think “influencer marketing at scale”, this is the scale I’m thinking about. If you’re using spreadsheets to manage your influencer programs, the thought of this scale may seem insurmountable.
And you’re not alone – even though 80% of marketers believe that influencer marketing is scalable, 55% of marketers currently executing influencer marketing programs are doing so manually via spreadsheets. It’s no surprise to learn that the top three challenges marketers face when it comes to influencer marketing execution are identifying the right influencers, finding the right engagement tactics, and measuring the performance of influencer programs:
These challenges are amplified when it comes to micro-influencer marketing. The volume of influencers you are activating is more than your average influencer campaign, which demands different engagement and measurement tactics. Also unlike macro-influencers, micro-influencers don’t do “influence” professionally. A blog, if they have one, isn’t their career (yet) and they’re posting from a personal social account where metrics are not as accessible as business or verified accounts.
Now, I love a good spreadsheet more than the next person, but when you start managing micro-influencer programs and campaigns that include 45, 100, 1,000, 10,000+ influencers, something’s going to give. And that thing should be your spreadsheets, not your sanity or your capacity for success.
In this guide, we discuss how to scale your micro-influencer marketing program, including how to integrate different tiers of influencers, how to execute multiple content strategies, and how to evaluate influencer marketing technologies. Will you achieve the scale and efficiency to nix your paid social ads? Let’s hope so.
It’s time to take your influencer marketing to the next level. But first, what you need to know before you start.
1. Confirm You’re Ready to Scale
Whether you’re drowning in spreadsheets or strategizing how to expand, in order to grow beyond your current micro-influencer program there are three factors you need to check off your list if you want to scale successfully.
You have a brand that customers are passionate about.
If influence is ‘how’ that enables your brand to reverberate on social media, passion is ‘why’. Your customers are not only passionate about your brand, but they express it in sentences like, ‘My favorite [your brand category] is [your brand name]’! Here’s why this is important. When it comes to trust, authenticity, and credibility, your customers who are loyal, will advocate, and have influence are the linchpin to success for both your influencer AND advocacy strategies. Micro-influencers validate the opinions and content of paid influencers, while driving the social conversation forward to the rest of your consumer base.
You’ve run more than one successful mega-, macro-, or micro-influencer campaign (or in combination), and have determined:
How you want to measure success
Your ideal influencer persona(s)
Which social network(s) works best
Why this is important: you’re going to want a bulletproof business case to present to your higher-ups to access more resources –people or budget required to build out your influencer program. Just getting started or don’t know how to prove out your pilot? Follow our guide here.
You have buy-in/support from internal stakeholders at your brand for influencer marketing.
Stakeholders may include digital, social, loyalty/CRM, e-commerce, or IT, that will give you access to the cross-departmental resources required to scale your program. This can consist of everything from product samples for rewards to web integrations for always-on influencer activation.
Go big, or go home.
2. Start With the End in Mind
What does influencer marketing success look like for your brand at scale? Map out and model your key use cases and goals based on your proven performance. From there, you can identify opportunities for amplification and automation, as well as potential roadblocks to overcome and areas that will require buy-in from stakeholders.
As we mentioned in our ‘How to Get Started’ guide, influencer marketing attribution is not as linear as other digital marketing tactics, like SEM. To account for this variability, we recommend calculating your return-on-influence by measuring the value of your program in three categories:
Business Value: Measurement of how your micro-influencer program contributes to revenue and brand health. Quantifying performance at this level determines how you scale, because this is how you will prove the business case to your boss and get more budget to invest.
Marketing Value: Measurement of how your micro-influencer program achieves your strategic marketing goals. This quantifies how micro-influencers are helping to meet your objectives across your customer life cycle
Content Value: Measurement of how well your micro-influencer program improves your social media marketing execution. This includes ‘vanity metrics’ such as likes, comments, and shares that can indicate that you’re capturing the attention of your target audience, as well as cost efficiencies in content production by repurposing micro-influencer generated content.
Then you need to determine your framework to scale, because that will dictate the people, processes, and platforms you need to put into place to expand your micro-influencer program.
3. Determine Your Content Strategy
Micro-influencers are known as the ‘triple threat’ of the influencer spectrum. They can create, share, and submit content, and do so with the trust and authenticity required to drive their friends & followers to action at any stage of your customer journey.
As such, there are three ways to scale a micro-influencer marketing program: horizontally, by diversifying your content strategy so that you’re activating segments of micro-influencers to create, amplify and/or submit content; vertically, by diversifying your influencer marketing mix so that you’re activating tiers of influencers to create, amplify and/or submit content; or a combination of both.
Starting with your customer journey and aligned with the objectives outlined in step 1, diagram your customers’ decision processes, key touchpoints and opportunities to accelerate that process through influencer-generated content (see example above). It’s important to first identify the content you need to generate the consumer response you want, and the influencer personas engaged to generate that content second.
There are three types of content strategies influencers can execute, and as you scale, your influencer marketing mix may expand to incorporate each:
Create original branded content, such as social posts, blogs, and video. With 81% of consumers online influenced by a friend’s social media post, this strategy is recommended for driving discovery, consideration or evaluation. To scale, this strategy requires you to activate higher volumes of micro-influencers, or activate mega-influencers to create content.
Share or amplify content via social posts. Thirty-three percent of Facebook users have purchased an item they saw on their News Feed or a friend’s wall, making this strategy ideal for increasing awareness, or when paired with an offer, a catalyst for evaluation and purchase. To scale, you can either increase the volume and frequency of the content shared – which requires you to a) increase your content creation efforts (see above) and micro-influencer activation; b) increase the volume of micro-influencers sharing content – requiring you to amplify micro-influencer acquisition; or c) a combination of both, which we’ll review in greater detail below.
Submit content, such as ratings and reviews. Seventy-one percent of US consumers say that customer ratings & reviews are important when making a purchase decision, making this content strategy best for impacting consumers at the consideration, evaluation and point-of-purchase stages. At scale, this strategy requires you to either activate higher volumes of micro-influencers to generate and submit content, or expand your distribution plan accordingly.
Which brings us to step four.
4. Choose Which Persona(s) of the Influencer Spectrum are Best for Your Brand & Use Case(s)
If you’re having a hard time finding the right influencers for your brand, you need to evaluate where you’re sourcing influencers, how you define influence in the context of your brand, and the signals you’re analyzing to determine brand-influencer fit.
When scaling your program, you still need brand-influencer fit to maintain authenticity and credibility. Michael Jordan or your cross-fitting BFF posting about Nike? High brand-influencer fit. Nike is a brand that is relevant to their athletic performance, and that resonates. Posts about candy bars? Low brand-influencer fit. Processed junk food does not support their storied pursuit of performance, and falls flat.
It’s in instances like this when your end consumer is more likely to remember the influencer, rather than your brand. Ideally, any influencer you activate as part of your influencer marketing strategy is an actual consumer of your brand. If not, brand-influencer fit and alignment is even more critical.
Not all influencers are created equal. Each consumer persona on the influence spectrum is going to be better suited towards specific content strategies and use cases:
- Mega-influencers: Earn their living some other way (e.g. athlete, actor, artist), and monetize their influence as a secondary source of income.
- Macro-influencers: Earn their living as an influencer (e.g. blogger, creator, or journalist).
- Micro-influencers: Consumers who have relevant influence and may not know it, or aspire to become a macro-influencer
Choosing the right influencers for your brand begins with the stage of your customer journey you want to impact and the content you need to generate to do so, which we diagramed in step 3. In efforts to maintain credibility and authenticity, the influencers powering your marketing campaigns should be customers of your brand.
You need to determine whether you need more micro-influencers to execute your strategy at scale, and therefore should prioritize micro-influencer acquisition and program optimization, or if you need to introduce new tiers of the influencer spectrum to your program, in which you need to prioritize your identification and activation workflows.
Now that you know what and who you need to execute your micro-influencer program at scale, it’s time to talk budget.
5. Establish Your Budget
Regardless of how you decide to scale (volume of micro-influencers, influencer marketing mix, diversification of content) – doing so is going to require technology, rewards, and manpower. As such, your budget is going to cover three categories: software, incentives, and headcount to manage the program. In addition to taking inventory of what content and influencer personas you need to execute at scale, you also need to add the processes you want to automate and the people who manage your influencer marketing programs, including internal stakeholders you need buy-in from for any incentives or software integrations.
Influencer marketing software should dramatically improve time and cost efficiencies by delivering scale, automation, attribution, and data analysis that significantly impacts your influencer marketing performance, processes, and ROI.
Most influencer marketing software solutions are divided among two camps: vendors that offer single point solutions, such as managing a specific influencer persona, social network, or an automated step among that workflow, or vendors that exist among a suite of social tools that provide a point solution.
From the inventory above, you can determine which features and functions you need. As far as cost goes, influencer marketing software typically falls into three categories:
Managed Service: Similar to talent and ad agencies, the vendor owns the influencer relationship, activation, and execution (vs. brand-direct). Influencer is ‘rented’ and contracted on a per-campaign basis, with payment based on a fixed fee. This is the most common type of platform for managing mega-influencer partnerships, payment is based on contract, retainer, or MSA (master of services agreement).
Marketplace or Directory: These vendors are influencer databases or directories that provide access to a network of influencers available for hire. Influencers can partner with multiple brands and platforms concurrently. The influencer relationship is platform-direct, while activation and execution is brand-direct. Payment based on performance or commission, plus platform fee. Most common for managing macro-influencer partnerships.
SaaS (Software as a Service): SaaS influencer marketing platforms provide software that allows a brand to develop, run, and automate all aspects of their influencer marketing program on their own. Influencer relationships, activation and execution are brand direct. Payment is based on software license or subscription. Most common for managing high-volume micro-influencer programs.
Incentives & Rewards
Cash, product, and brand experiences all incur some cost to your brand and additional buy-in from internal stakeholders. This consists of monetary and non-monetary rewards:
Monetary Reward: Any reward offered that incurs a hard cost to your brand. This includes the actual budget to pay mega- and macro-influencers, as well as any promo/discount codes, coupon codes, and loyalty points. Internal stakeholders include the owners of this area of your business, such as your manager and CFO, and discipline directors (i.e. director of loyalty, director of e-commerce).
Non-monetary Reward: Any reward offered that includes product or product samples, VIP treatment, and exclusive experiences. Limiting factors here can include available product inventory, time tax on customer service reps, and your organization’s ability to deliver on the experiences promised. Internal stakeholders may include owners of your product inventory, such as a merchandise or e-comm director, and even your IT team to deliver access to VIP on-site service.
Once you have buy-in from your internal stakeholders, identify exactly who in your organization you need to implement and manage your influencer program at scale. With the right software and/or service providers in place, plan to allocate an additional 4 – 6 hours per week.
A helpful exercise is to do an ABC (activity-based costing) analysis of your previous micro-influencer programs, especially if you’re also the point person who will be managing at scale. This can also help you prioritize aspects of your micro-influencer program that need to be automated or delegated. Together with value framework of your previous programs, this analysis will also help prove your case to internal stakeholders to justify any additional budget required to ensure you do have the integrations, incentives, partners, and processes in place for success.
6. Evaluate Software Products
As an emerging industry and rapidly evolving landscape, influencer marketing tech can be difficult to navigate. The sheer volume of solutions available, the variety of influencer marketing permutations, the lack of transparency around influencers’ existing relationships, and compliance with ever-changing FTC guidelines can leave you in analysis paralysis when it comes to choosing an influencer marketing tool, platform, or suite.
Here are the seven questions you should ask to evaluate any influencer marketing software provider:
- How do you define influence and ensure it is relevant to my brand?
- How do you recruit influencers and verify their data?
- How do you activate influencers?
- How is the content workflow managed?
- How do you handle FTC guidelines and disclosures?
- How do you measure performance?
- What other partners and technologies do you integrate with?
Just as not all influencers are created equal – neither are all influencer marketing software providers. Among the point solutions and suites available, some are designed to execute programs for specific personas across the spectrum of influence.
Integrations and partnerships with providers like Oracle (UGC) and Bazaarvoice (ratings and reviews) can also help scale the distribution of your content across touchpoints.
7. Tap Into Your Existing Digital Assets and Vendor Influencer Networks
As the adage goes, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ As your micro-influencer marketing ‘field of dreams’ manifests into reality, your success will become increasingly dependent on your ability to recruit and acquire your ideal influencer and consumer personas across the spectrum of influence.
As we’ve mapped out with your customer journey, influencer marketing does not just live entirely within the sphere of social media. Every customer touchpoint presents the opportunity to recruit influencers into your program. Tap into your existing digital assets – brand.com, email list, mobile app, loyalty programs, social followings, as a direct source of ideal personas.
But what if you’re a startup or emerging brand without the volume needed to achieve scale, or you couldn’t get buy-in from your CRM team? That’s when to leverage and supplement your own acquisition with influencer networks from vendors. Using the same influencer personas and methodologies when you started, create a look-a-like audience within that influencer network to recruit or activate within your program.
For more on how to scale and choose an influencer marketing partner, download our Buyer’s Guide to Influencer Marketing Platforms (no form required), and our influencer marketing platform cheat sheet and evaluation matrix here to get started.
Also published on Medium.