Promise Phelon, CEO of TapInfluence, opened her INBOUND influencer marketing talk with a straw poll.
First, she asked all the marketers in the room raise their hands. She then asked if anyone in the room was a social influencer.
After having everyone take a good look around, she said, “Now I want all the marketers to take out their wallets and hand them to the influencers. Because if you’re smart, that’s what you’re going to do.”
The Influencer Marketing Process
To get started in influence marketing, design your work around Promise’s five-step process:
- Who: Determine your target audience.
- Discover: Figure out who the right influencers are to reach your market.
- Connect: Encourage and harness user-generated content, led by your influencer and radiating out to his or her network of followers.
- Take Action: Boost successful content in paid channels. For example, Express used Sage’s action shots in their official marketing materials; both brands benefited.
- Measure: Keep tabs on ROI, engagement and sentiment so you can keep your campaign on the right track.
The best part about influencers? “Their price declines over the life of the relationship,” Promise says.
Find someone who loves your brand, and you could have the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Who Qualifies as an Influencer?
It’s easy to know who the marketers are.
They’re the ones taking detailed notes about Promise’s talk, “Why the Stars of YouTube, Instagram and Twitter Are Today’s Game-Changers,” and they’re the ones Promise is taking about when she says that “84% of marketers are planning an influencer campaign within the next year.”
But influencers? Promise defined real influencers as people with an audience that trusts them to advise them on decisions.
That’s not Kim Kardashian, she was quick to add.
She’s not being snarky here. Instead, she broke influencer marketing down:
- Celebrities: For marketing purposes, celebrities include athletes, actors and anyone whom you might pay to endorse your product. The trouble with such an endorsement, however, is that the face of brand may or may not actually like your product. You’re paying them for their services — and your audience knows it.
- Brand Ambassadors: There are people out there who love your brand and will sing its praises all day long to their friends and families. These loyal customers are awesome, but they don’t have an audience that follows them around and hangs on their every word. They just don’t have the reach to be truly useful in your marketing plan.
- Influencers: The magic mix of reach and passion, true social media influencers have the expertise you need to create content that puts your brand in context for their audience — and your future customers. They have a devoted following of people who admire their style, sense of humor and advice, so they can help you tap into a market while remaining authentic.
Authenticity Is the New Black
Authenticity is the name of the game in influencer marketing. Brands simply can’t speak for themselves in the way that a great influencer can, Promise said.
The voice of your brand necessarily has to be bland and — sorry! — stuffed with some fluff. It’s how you look official, trustworthy and reach a wide audience.
Influencers, on the other hand, tell your story, and they “make it matter for a human,”
Promise explained. A truly powerful influencer is someone who speaks to the people you want to hear your message, and it’s important not to confuse reach or page views with influence.
To illustrate her point about the power of working with the right influencer, Promise shared the work of Sage Goldnik, a lifestyle blogger and influencer in the arena of men’s style.
Sage is the ideal influencer for Express, who wanted to reach out to active Millennial men in a more relatable way.
Six-foot-four models posing for a catalog just don’t strike the same chord that Sage goes when he wears Express clothes to skateboard for a pop-up photo shoot.
He also writes about his feelings about the pieces he’s wearing — it’s not the polished voice of Express marketers, but it is the authentic opinion that his followers crave.
The Rise of Consumer-Led Marketing
“Let’s be real for a second,” Promise said. “Email is kind of dead.”
She went on to point out that no amount of A/B testing and tweaking would change the fact that customers simply aren’t using email anymore — there are just too many other social media outlets, messaging services and even Internet of Things applications making a play for their attention.
Add to that the simple fact that most Millennials use ad blockers, and it’s definitely time to embrace new media.
“Focus on getting found where consumers live,” Promise advises. “Micro moments are moments of truth.”
This is a paradigm shift away from shouting out your message and toward integrating your product and your content into existing lifestyle brands that your customers already invite into their lives.
It’s a non-invasive approach, and it requires a willingness to step back and let the influencer do the talking — they’ll treat your brand differently than you would, and you have to be willing to allow that to play out.
“An influencer is not a freelancer. You can’t direct their efforts,” Promise explained. “Your job as a marketer is no longer to create. It’s to guide and harness.”
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Elizabeth T is an expert freelance writer here at WriterAccess that attended INBOUND 2016 with our team.