With the influencer marketing industry continuing to mature at a rapid rate, the role that creators provide is ever-expanding. Brand marketers are tapping into influencers and their expertise in the space throughout every step of the marketing process. From campaign ideation to consumer research and insights to collaboration feedback, creators are a hugely valuable asset for marketers as they optimize their strategies to successfully reach their target audience.   

Read this guide to learn why it’s so important to use influencers when conducting research and our recommendations for getting started.

Why Tap into Influencers to Conduct Research?

The bottom line is that influencers represent their audience, an audience of consumers who follow the creator because they’re passionate about their category of expertise. These influencers are not self-proclaimed experts but rather validated by the following they have garnered through generating and sharing trusted content. In addition to being creative marketers, influencers are consumers themselves, giving brands the opportunity to take advantage of their high-value insights and feedback.

There are several use cases for activating influencers for research: 

  • Campaign Ideation: Have influencers help you brainstorm new campaign themes for your brand to guide your next influencer activation.
  • Concept Testing: Ask influencers for feedback around campaign themes that your brand has already ideated so you can finalize which one(s) you want to move forward with. 
  • Post-Campaign Feedback: Collect feedback and areas of improvement after running a campaign with influencers so you can optimize for future collaborations.
  • Consumer Research & Insight: Ask in-depth questions related to demographics and lifestyle to better understand your brand’s target audience. 
  • Industry & Cultural Trends: Gain insights into emerging networks/industry trends or ask opinions on current events that affect the influencer space. 
  • Brand Perception: Gather influencer feedback related to your brand’s affinity or equity to help guide your marketing efforts. 
  • Competitive Analysis: Collect feedback from influencers about your competition and their usage of other products in your category.
  • Research & Development: Ask influencers their opinions of your product or service to help with R&D efforts.

3 Methods to Conduct Influencer Research

There are many methods that brand marketers can use for conducting influencer research. Here are the top three categories to keep in mind, ranging from high touch/low volume to low touch/high volume: 

  1. In-Depth Interviews: A great way for marketers to collect 1:1 feedback from influencers is by getting on a phone call to speak directly with them. Since this is done at an individual-level, it does take more time compared to other methods, but allows for the most personalization. Be sure to schedule calls well in advance, working to accommodate the influencer’s schedule and have your question set ready to go. Consider sending the creator your questions in advance so they have time to review the topics and brainstorm ahead of the call. 
  2. In-Person Dialogues: Host an in-person event – or virtual given the pandemic – and invite some of your top-performing creators to participate in a focus group, workshop, or panel discussion with your brand team. A group setting like this allows you to hear from 5-10 influencers all at once and builds stronger relationships with creators by letting them meet your brand face-to-face (whether in-person or virtually).
  3. Surveys: One of the most popular methods to gain feedback from influencers is to send them a survey. No matter what your goal is for the survey, they provide an efficient way for brand marketers to collect insights at scale. 

Below, we’ll dive into best practices when it comes to conducting influencer research via this highest volume, lowest touch method of sending surveys.

Influencer Survey Best Practices

There are many steps involved in successfully collecting feedback from influencers via a survey, with high-level milestones outlined here: 

  1. Establish Goals: It’s important to first define the objectives of your survey along with which key brand decisions you would like to guide or inform through these insights. Pick one primary research theme (referenced above) to focus on based on your goals and avoid jumping between more than a few themes within one survey so influencers don’t lose their stream of thought. 
  2. Define Personas: Finalize the type of influencers you’d like to reach out to by identifying the search criteria you’d like to apply. Make sure that you survey a diverse group so that you can collect data and feedback that’s an unbiased representation of the creator community and the audiences they represent.  
  3. Set Budget: Determine your goal for the number of responses you want and plan for an incentive budget as needed. A lot of creators are happy to complete surveys in exchange for invitations to future collaborations, however, offering a small gift card, for example, would always be appreciated.
  4. Finalize Questions: Limit your survey to 8-15 questions total so you can achieve a higher completion rate while keeping it concise. Make sure that the flow of questions makes sense if you’re focusing on more than one research theme. Utilize the best question types (i.e. multiple choice, open-ended, etc.) based on each question goal.
  5. Select & Send: Send the survey to 2x-10x more influencers compared to the total number of desired responses. When specific demographic data segmentations are needed, we recommend obtaining a minimum of 100 responses for each cohort. If you need more responses after initial outreach, send 1-2 reminders.
  6. Analyze Results: Leave the survey open for 7-10 days in order to give influencers enough time to complete it and for you to send reminder emails. Once you’re ready to analyze, create a presentation compiling data, charts, and key insights. Depending on the results, consider following up with a more in-depth focus group. 

From establishing your survey goals to analyzing the results, the entire survey process can take up to two weeks, but can always be expedited if certain steps in the process are accelerated. Keep this timeline in mind if you have marketing initiatives in place that are relying on your survey insights. 

Click here to read through our research best practices deck that dives into example survey question sets, brand examples of survey results, and key learnings for each of the research themes outlined above.