Today’s influencer marketing landscape is anything but simple. When tasked with building out an influencer strategy, do you try to pay a celebrity to post about your brand, explore ways to partner with bloggers who write about your industry, or develop a system for encouraging hundreds of your most influential customers to spread the word about your company?
The short answer is, all of the above, and more.
When marketers think of ‘influencers’, they almost immediately gravitate towards the obvious. They see influencers as synonymous with celebrities, Youtube personalities, Instagram stars, or bloggers, whose value as an influencer is largely determined by their audience reach or engagement rate. While all of these definitions are accurate, and metrics like reach can be indicators of having influence – this limited understanding can lead to incomplete influencer marketing approaches.
What defines an influencer today has less to do with their overall reach and engagement – and more to do with their motivations, behaviors, and ability to deliver brand value through the content they create. The fact remains that given the advances in technology and the democratization of power that social media enables, all of us – marketers included (#employeeadvocacy) – play a role in being influencers and ambassadors for brands.
Before developing comprehensive influencer strategy—what I like to call an integrated influencer marketing mix—marketers must first understand the six influence personas that could be incorporated. It’s important to also emphasize that influence is also dynamic and contextual to the brand itself – these personas are not mutually exclusive or static. Just because a person is influential on behalf of one brand – doesn’t mean that that impact will translate to a complementary or competing brand or even a new product line. A micro-influencer may evolve to a macro-influencer over the course of a few months, or vice-versa, depending on that person.
As such, finding the right influencers and determining the best influencer marketing mix remain among of marketers’ biggest influencer marketing challenges. If you are creating a comprehensive influencer marketing approach for 2018 and beyond, here is some basic information on each of the personas that you should consider.
Celebrity athletes, actors or artists are all considered mega-influencers. Mega-influencers earn their primary income through the work that has made them celebrities, but given their influence over millions of fans, they often explore paid influencer relationships with brands as a way of monetizing that fame and recognition.
Generally, mega-influencers are expensive. While celebrities like Kim Kardashian can charge $250k per post, even lesser known mega-influencers can charge tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you want to light up a product launch or brand awareness push, a mega-influencer could get you the impressions you’re looking for in the near term, as long as you have the cash to make it happen. But because of the investment involved, it’s often more valuable for brands to explore a more collaborative, long term partnership or ambassador role that leverages a mega-influencer’s unique expertise in order to see a positive return-on-investment, such as Elizabeth Arden’s recent decision to name Reese Witherspoon ‘Storyteller in Chief’.
Macro-influencers are bloggers, creators, journalists, and other subject-matter experts like professors who have large spheres of influence over their specific domain and audience, that earn their living influencing audiences through the content they create. While not as expensive as mega-influencers, as professionals, macro-influencers still require significant compensation. For instance, Digiday reported that an Instagram post with a macro-influencer can cost $1,000 per 100,000 followers.
Creative alignment and brand fit remain critical to brand success with macro-influencers. As they continue to become increasingly more expensive and commoditized, as a marketer, you should also be thinking long term when it comes to your macro-influencer relationships. Similarly so, if you have the same goals of gaining significant visibility for a product launch, seasonal promotion or brand awareness campaign, but you’re missing the million dollar budget, macro-influencers might be the best fit for your brand.
Micro-influencers are everyday consumers who have relevant influence amongst their network, largely comprised of friends, family and a small audience of loyal followers. The definitive quality is that, for micro-influencers, influencer marketing is a side hustle – and while they are often expert content creators in their own right, they do not make their living through paid brand partnerships. They are often already consumers of the brands they choose to partner with, and while micro-influencers are not aware of how influential they are, others are keenly aware of their influence and aspire to become a macro-influencer.
Unlike mega- and macro- influencers, which generally require significant sums of money and a contract or agency agreement in order to post, micro-influencers can be incentivized by brand VIP treatment, such as exclusive product offers or experiences. Because the relationship is often direct, without third-party agency involvement, attention to the influencer experience and creating opportunities to create amazing, authentic brand content can result in a number of social activations. As such, since a scalable micro-influencer strategy often requires identifying and activating hundreds of micro-influencers at once, an influencer marketing platform like Mavrck is typically required.
If you want to move past impressions and to drive conversions on any number of business objectives—product purchases, survey completions, or customer acquisition, to name a few— then micro-influencers are right for you. Research shows that this group can be the most effective in terms of driving these types of activities.
Advocates are consumers who are passionate about a brand and willing to talk about a brand on social, but have little influence among their followers when they do. Both micro-influencers and advocates are passionate about the brand and active in making recommendations, but micro-influencers have consistent success driving a desired brand action from their activity, whereas advocates generate little reaction among their friends and family as a result.
Still, advocates are an important group to nurture. Like advocates, they are easily motivated by brand experiences, including first or exclusive access and promotions. Over time, the amount of influence that advocates have over their networks can increase. Also, if advocates create high quality content on social, you might have opportunities to reuse that content in paid, earned and owned media campaigns.
If you’re putting in place a micro-influencer strategy, consider activating advocates to amplify micro-influencer content to their networks.
Referrers are consumers who passively share relevant content with their friends and family. They are similar to advocates, with the critical difference that their brand relationship is more transactional than relational – dependent on the exchange of a promotion or discount (i.e. sweepstakes or give $10 get $10). For instance, a referrer might not proactively talk about a brand’s product or service, but if a close friend or family remember asks them for a recommendation, they will refer them to the brand.
When developing an influencer marketing strategy, consider putting in place programs to turn these referrers into advocates.
Loyalists are consumers who love your brand, but are not willing to share on social. While it might be tempting to not consider this group, loyalists offer incredible value through their ability to submit ratings and reviews, surveys and product feedback.
Each of these six word-of-mouth personas can help take your influencer marketing to the next level. Whether you’re an influencer marketing vet or you are just beginning to put together an influencer marketing strategy, our hope is that you take each of these personas into serious consideration for 2018 – influence is more powerful in numbers.
A version of this post was originally published on Business2Community.com.