Today, consumers increasingly trust and are influenced by those they choose to interact with online: 78% of consumers rely on social media to make product decisions and gauge brand authority (source: PWC, Total Retail Survey, 2016). With marketers increasingly investing in Influencer Marketing & Relations as an always-on strategy to capture consumers’ attention, influencer share of voice has also emerged as a critical indicator of market share and competitive advantage.
As influencers themselves become more commoditized – influencer marketplaces often put more emphasis on auctioning off influencers with the lowest CPEs to the highest bidder, rather than determining whether or not that influencer is an authentic brand fit – what motivates an influencer to post on behalf of one brand vs. another will become a defining indicator of brand authority.
This means that in order to establish a renewable source of influencer talent and a position of brand authority, establishing and developing authentic influencer relationships must be a priority. As with any marketing initiative, you also need to be able to justify the time and budget spent to establish and maintain these relationships – which, for most CMOs, will require a comprehensive data strategy. But where to begin? Below, we share our top tips for developing and implementing a data-driven approach to influencer relationship mapping and development.
1. Do a Relationship Audit to Identify and Map Relationship Milestones with Key Influencer Segments
What is the health of your influencer relationships?
Starting with your influencer-augmented customer journey and available data from current or previous influencer marketing campaigns, begin by categorizing your influencers into tiers based on relationship duration, quality, and engagement.
Tier 3: Influencers who you have identified, contacted and authenticated (any source), but have not yet participated, in an influencer campaign or program.
Tier 2: Influencers you have identified and recruited directly via media relations, influencer networks, or other technologies, who have participated in a previous influencer campaign or program.
Tier 1: Influencers who you have recruited directly from your existing customer base, who have participated in an influencer campaign or program.
Next, based on your influencer experience journey, determine the strength of your current influencer relationships per influencer, across the spectrum, by identifying and mapping key relationship milestones you should be reaching before, during and after each campaign.
This can include, but is not limited to:
During a given timeframe …
Unsolicited Brand Mentions: How often did they mention your brand before and after a campaign, unprompted (not incentivized nor paid)?
Influencer Participation: What is your influencer participation rate, given the number of campaigns they were invited to, and the frequency of which they accepted? If they were given creative control over number of posts or product placement – how many posts did they publish, how many products did they feature?
Influencer Retention: What is your influencer retention rate? How many influencers have participated in your campaigns over time – overall, and individual?
Positive Campaign Feedback: Ideally, unsolicited – how often do your influencers share positive feedback about their experience during each stage of your campaign (ie. outreach, briefing, activation, measurement, etc) and after, once the campaign is completed?
Influencer Referrals: Not how likely they are to recommend your brand to another influencer or friend – but actually, how many influencers do they refer to your brand for consideration in your next campaign?
Surprise & Delight: How well is did the brand do at engaging with the influencer outside of wanting something from them?
Community Engagement: How often did you or your community manager listen for, reach out, and comment on personal events and milestones? How often did you like and comment on influencers’ posts? How often did you feature that influencer on your owned brand channels?
2. Develop an Influencer, Advocate, Referrer & Loyalist Tagging Taxonomy for Organization
You may have identified 20 different influencer segments across the spectrum of influence and the entirety your CX. In order to manage all in a strategic way, (whether you’re using a spreadsheet, influencer marketing database or SaaS platform), have an influencer management solution or process in place that allows you to tag each segment accordingly, based on the data attributes determined above, to reduce complexity and track the progress of your relationship.
3. Determine Influencer Motivation Prior to Outreach & Recruitment
Once you have your starting segments mapped and indicators identified, you can now prioritize who to incentivize and motivate to deliver greater dimensions of brand value. For instance, a micro-influencer who inspires to become a macro-influencer may be motivated by cross-promotion on your brand’s owned social media channels to prove her value to complementary brands. A macro-influencer may be motivated by an exclusive experience or access that only they get to share with their followers (all expenses paid of course).
It’s important to research and think about your influencer’s motivators and incentives prior to outreach. It’s ok to ask them before delivering your campaign pitch. This will help with response rates, the quality and longevity of the relationship, as well as future cost estimates:
4. Treat Each Influencer Segment as a Distinct Target Audience
In the end, what will determine whether or not an influencer decides to work with your brand depends on the quality of your influencer experience (iX). During campaign and off-cycle, how well are you doing at being an authentic, good company for that influencer? To what extent are you delivering an elevated influencer experience at every point of interaction?
This includes, but is not limited to:
- During recruitment or outreach, how tailored is your invitation to that influencer? How well are you personalizing your messaging to their motivations, needs and experience?
- During campaign kickoff, how are you customizing the presentation and delivery of your campaign brief and/or product you want them to post about? Are you making every point of interaction a moment worth sharing with their audience, even outside your initial campaign parameters?
- Is your campaign brief empathetic (hopefully you’ve shared it with influencers before your campaign kickoff to validate!). Does it offer the influencer to be as creative as necessary to effectively capture the attention of their audience? Have you provided enough time for them to schedule your content thoughtfully, and aligned with all other campaign executions?
- Have you identified recurring opportunities to engage influencers on an ongoing basis, whether or not a campaign is live?
When it comes to developing your influencer relationships, experience matters – and could be your next strategic advantage. For more insights and steps to evolve your influencer marketing strategy, check out our 2018 Influencer Marketing Strategy & Planning Playbook.