If you’re like 84% of marketers planning to launch an influencer campaign this year, you’re now in the process of making it happen. You’re figuring out how much time and money to invest, the tools to use, and the campaigns you want test to produce a successful influencer program. While the whole Internet is buzzing about influencer marketing – and micro-influencers in particular – there are few resources on how to actually start a micro-influencer program, determine what work best for your brand, and grow from there.
This guide is for you, no tech required.
Micro-influencers are ideal to kick-off or amplify an influencer campaign or program because they can execute any digital word-of-mouth strategy with optimal time and cost efficiencies, enabling you to test, learn, and scale your program successfully with the least amount of effort. However, the steps detailed in this guide can also apply to semi-professional bloggers and other aspiring creators.
We recommend reading this guide in its full glory, but in the instance you only need steps 4-6, feel free to skip ahead to the info most relevant for you:
- Start With The End in Mind: Determining Your Value Framework
- Create Your Content Strategy
- Define Your Ideal Micro-Influencer Persona
- Make Your List, Check it Twice
- Brainstorm & Select Campaign Ideas
- Generate Your Posting Guidelines
- Acquire Rewards & Choose Your Incentive
- When to Scale
Who Micro-Influencers Are – and Who They Are Not
Micro-influencer marketing is slightly more nuanced than your average ad buy because influence is dynamic and people are human. The philosophical debate and existential crisis in today’s age of the social consumer is this: “If a person posts on social and it fails to drive a meaning reaction, does that post even exist?”
A bit extreme, but when it comes to social media algorithms – that post is as good as non-existent in the News Feed. With all the noise on social, your brand needs to not only rise above the noise but reverberate among your target consumers. Micro-influencers are everyday consumers who have relevant influence within their social circles. They might not even know they have influence, but when they post about relevant topics, brands, and products on social media, they drive their friends, family, and followers to action as a result.
Notice what’s not mentioned – reach, engagement rate, or specific social networks. Each of these can be indicators of influence – but they’re not a measure of influence. How influential a person is on behalf of your brand first depends on the performance you want to deliver as a result, and discovering those trusted consumers who can drive others to react in the context of those goals.
Which brings us to step number 1.
1. Start With The End In Mind
What do you want to accomplish by using micro-influencers and how will you measure performance? To experience that “It’s Alive!” Frankensteinian moment of marketing success, you first need to establish what success looks like and set those parameters in place from the beginning.
New research from Forrester, ‘How to Measure Social Programs’ [Jan. 2017], indicates that 44% of marketers haven’t been able to show the impact of social at all and another 36% have a good sense of the qualitative, but not the quantitative, impact of social initiatives. Unlike SEM, there’s not a direct value exchange where $1 in equals $2 out. Influencer marketing attribution is also not as linear. To account for this variability, Forrester separates measurement into three categories, which we’ve adapted here to provide a framework for you to measure the performance of your micro-influencer program:
- 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. These metrics include purchases, sales lift, promo code or coupon code redemption, increase in category market share, and/or increase in customer lifetime value. Tools and tech partnerships are instrumental in making social attribution tracking and management easy to achieve.
- Marketing value: measurement of how your micro-influencer program achieves your strategic marketing goals. This determines how micro-influencers are helping to meet your objectives across your customer life cycle, measured against the stage you aimed to impact such as brand awareness, consideration, or conversion to the next stage. Quantifiable metrics to measure can include purchase intent, app installs, coupon downloads, CTR and % advancement to the next stage.
- Content value: measurement of how well your micro-influencer program improves your social media marketing execution. This includes ‘vanity metrics’ such as likes, comments, shares and earned media value that can indicate that you’re capturing the attention of your target audience, as well as improve cost efficiencies in content production by repurposing micro-influencer generated content.
Prioritize what you need to be able to objectively measure each. For instance, retailers like Amazon and Target have affiliate programs you can join and leverage their link tracking to monitor the performance of your micro-influencers’ social posts (or profiles, in the case of Instagram). Tools like ClickMeter (and Google Analytics to limited extent) enable you to track links and monitor conversion events across your influencer marketing campaigns within your owned digital and mobile brand assets.
2. Create Your Content Strategy
Your framework for success and your primary marketing objective informs your content strategy. What type of content do you need your micro-influencers to create and where, in order to deliver the consumer response you want?
The answer lies in the customer journey you want to impact (a worthy exercise in its own right).
The Modern Customer Decision Journey (example)
Ideally, you’re able to identify a high-volume touchpoint and stage for using micro-influencers. If not, begin by identifying where the majority of your target customers are, and the stage along your CDJ that you want to impact as a result. Micro-influencers are known as the “triple threat” of the influence spectrum because they can execute all three digital word-of-mouth content strategies and with that, are able to bring your customer experience to life at any stage, which includes:
- Creating 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.
- Sharing 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 is ideal for increasing awareness, or when paired with an offer, a catalyst for evaluation and purchase. We’ve found that when shared by a user, user-generated branded content drives 6.9x more engagement than brand-generated content.
- Submitting content, such as product ratings & 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. It can also be repurposed to support or inform other marketing initiatives.
For instance, if your most popular touchpoint is social and you want to drive discovery, you may activate your micro-influencers to create branded content on Instagram. If you want to increase consideration at point-of-purchase, you may activate your micro-influencers to generate ratings & reviews.
Be ruthless, and choose one strategy to test. You’ll be able to capture any tangential benefits through your three-part value framework, while having clarity on your micro-influencers’ brand impact.
3. Define Your Ideal Micro-influencer Persona
When it comes to micro-influencers, trust and authenticity are most important, which is why we always recommend starting with your own customer base. If recruiting from outside your customer base, the qualities in your ideal customer persona should be mirrored in your ideal micro-influencers to maintain brand credibility:
Micro-Influencer Persona Template
Once defined, it’s time to start sourcing.
4. Make Your List, Check it Twice
The next step is to recruit a couple dozen micro-influencers manually via email (if using your own CRM, customer list or loyalty program) or direct outreach on a social network. Here’s how to source, curate and create a list of micro-influencers:
- Perform hashtag and keyword searches to find public profiles of potential matches
- Reach out via comment on relevant posts, direct message, or email with exclusive invite to join the program with link to application landing page.
- Place micro-influencer program ‘apply now’ announcement on your website, in your email newsletter, and on your social channels
- Create and link to a destination landing page with application survey collect more information and verify persona match.
- Create email list from approved micro-influencers.
A note here on influencer validation – from fake followers to comment rings, fauxfluence (fake influence) is an issue that you need to be aware of. Similar to ad bots and click fraud, there are ways to game the system. A quick review that influencer’s social media profile can be an immediate tell-all. Look for fake or spammy profiles in their follower list, abnormally low engagements per post vs. follower ratio, and the same people commenting on each post (and vice-versa).
5. Brainstorm and Collect Campaign Ideas
You may have your marketing plan set, leveraging micro-influencers to amplify an existing campaign. But it’s never too soon to be inspired for your next campaign.
In the instance you haven’t, look to your approved list of micro-influencers for inspiration. How are they already talking about or using your brand on social or sharing relevant topics? Identify and create opportunities for organic product placement. As a framework, your campaign idea should evoke an emotion (theme), create the opportunity and urgency to post (event), and reflect your brand (core value or mission). Ideas include:
- Holidays or seasonal events
- Routine, everyday activities
- Ordinary or extraordinary product use cases
- Product packaging, unboxing videos
- Brand values or mission
- DIY, how-tos, tutorials
An hour or two spent researching your ideal micro-influencer persona and their social posts can lead to campaign-defining insights. It will also help train your brain to discern what makes for a compelling and authentic post that also aligns with your brand. To see what this looks like, you can also browse the results of Godiva’s latest micro-influencer campaign for Valentine’s Day for a live example of micro-influencer content.
All of which is needed for our next step.
6. Generate Posting Guidelines
You’ve completed recruitment and have a validated list of brand-approved micro-influencers. Initiate micro-influencer activation with email only first, providing the necessary requirements (ie. tracking links and disclosure hashtag), but allowing enough creative freedom for authenticity.
7. Acquire Rewards & Determine Your Incentive
Remember your ideal micro-influencer persona? Rewards and incentives directly tap into your micro-influencers’ motivations and strategically influence their behavior. They’re how you influence the influencer, if you will.
Incentives are your framework for motivation – such as a sweepstakes, contest, or instant win – which drive your micro-influencer to complete your desired campaign action. The reward, such as a brand gift card, promo code, product sample, or experience is the reinforcement. Ideally, it’s of high perceived value to the micro-influencer, but low cost to you.
If your micro-influencers are already passionate about your brand and actively posting about your products, the opportunity to be featured in your campaign may be enough intrinsic motivation for them to create and share branded content. In this instance, because micro-influencers are intrinsically motivated, rewards can be gifted in a ‘surprise and delight’ model after posting. It’s an opportunity to affirm micro-influencers’ participation and amplify positive brand engagement in those moments of interaction.
If micro-influencers need to be incentivized to post, you can incorporate the incentive and reward as part of your content strategy – such as gifting the product you want featured in the post. While gift cards and other monetary-based rewards are effective, activation becomes more transactional regardless of micro-influencers’ inherent motivations because of the value exchange.
8. When to Scale
You’re now ready to put your first micro-influencer marketing campaign into play. You can document each of these steps using the templates and spreadsheet included here (to download, click File > Download As), and use this post as your own decision tree to micro-influencer marketing success.
Start testing, tracking and learning, monitoring key conversion events (links clicked, promo codes used, apps downloaded) as indicators of success. As you continue to optimize your micro-influencer personas, campaigns and activation, you will start to discern by performance your ideal micro-influencer segments and content strategies that best achieve your goals.
Once you’re ready to add a few 000’s to those results, then start looking for software platforms that enable you to automate and scale, working to replace, integrate, or eliminate entirely the manual processes of your micro-influencer program.
You don’t have to take our word for it, the proof is in the case studies. We have produced hundreds of micro-influencer marketing programs, activating 1M+ micro-influencers in the process for brands like P&G, American Eagle, and Hulu, among others. Ready to scale? Get in touch for a free consultation.
Also published on Medium.