For the past 2+ years, the marketing community has been going crazy over INFLUENCER MARKETING.

It’s gone from the next big thing, to just the big thing, to wondering, “is this still a thing?”.

So if you’re sitting around wondering, if there’s still room to jump into influencer marketing, I would say that the answer is yes.  Here’s why:

  1. The number of kids watching YouTube, or moms following influential moms on Instagram is only increasing.  Same goes for number of influencers you can work with – it is only increasing.
  2. Yes, there is going to be “ad fatigue” even from influencer content, but working with influencers allows the opportunity to be much more creative and authentic than you could be say…in a Facebook ad.  If your influencers make truly awesome content, no one will be tired of it.
  3. People trust influencers more than ads. There have been studies to support this.

Once you’ve decided you want to do influencer marketing, you need to ask yourself a few questions like:

  • Does my product make sense to promote with influencers?
  • What platforms do I want to use?  (hint, what platforms do your customers already follow influencers on?).
  • Should I use an agency, a platform, or try to do influencer marketing in-house?
  • How should influencers use or portray my product?
  • How will I track success?

Let’s start with question 1:

Product: There are a few kinds of products that shine the most in influencer marketing. Because most of influencer marketing is visual and (somewhat) temporary, a company with many attractive, aspirational, and new products often excel in this space.  This way your influencers can photograph or video your product in an exciting way, and always have something new to show. This is (one of the reasons) why fashion and beauty has excelled so much in influencer marketing. Other things that work?  Products you can demo to show how awesome they are.  Things you use out of the home. Think Go Pro, rugged hunting gear, etc.

If your product(s) don’t fall into these categories, you still may have some success, but in my opinion, the more commoditized and less aspirational your product or brand is, the may more difficult your influencer marketing success may be.

Platforms: As you know, there are just a few different places that most influencers live.  YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter….etc etc.

Generally, I would avoid Twitter and Facebook – for different reasons.  Facebook is just not really an influencer platform. Most people go to Facebook to chat with people they know, not hear what Jessica Biel is up to.  And Twitter is full of influential people, but Tweets are extremely fleeting.  15 minutes after someone tweets something, it’s already far down most people’s feeds (yes, even with the “while you were away feature”).

So I would focus on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat or Blogs. Just pick where your audience already is.  Don’t know where your audience is? Survey them or ask a few in person.  You’ll get to the answer quickly.

Agency versus Platform versus In-house:  This question depends a lot on your resources , connections and speed at which you need to scale.  I am a marketer that believes that most things are better to bring in-house whenever you can.  So if you have the time to develop personal relationships with influencers and already know the ropes, I would encourage you to start your program in-house.

An in-between answer are companies like Full Bottle.  Basically places that provide the relationships with the influencers, and the platform to communicate, but let you take on the communications and logistics of working with influencers.  They are a good in-between for  people who aren’t ready to bring their program in-house.

Working through agencies (like Maker Studios for YouTubers) or PR firms can be good for getting Influencers with a huge following. This can be highly effective, just be warned that agencies need a large amount of guidance just the same as if you were running the program yourself.  And…it can also be quite pricey. No one knows your brand like you do, so make sure to do the due diligence that it will be represented to the right audience correctly.

How to portray the product: If you are a new brand, or new to influencers, you should think carefully (but not TOO carefully) about how your product should be portrayed.  Basically by this, I mean that it’s important to give influencers information on how to properly use your product as well as some examples and requirements.  But allow them to be somewhat creative as well – one huge benefit of influencer marketing is that you get to have creative people use and photograph / video your product with their new take on it.  Take advantage of this!

When giving guidelines, make sure you are thinking about who your influencers audience is.  If their audience is mostly young, fashionable women, make sure they are able to speak to their audience calling out features that would appeal to this audience.  If your target is teenage boys, make sure you are giving your influencers pointers on what might appeal to this particular audience.  Don’t be lazy here, success is all about the story and message.

How to track success:  One of the most common “direct response” ways to track success is to give your influencer a coupon code to give to their followers.  Then you can directly track purchasers of this link.  (This isn’t fool proof however, if their code ends up on a coupon side like retailmenot, etc).

However, many exclusive products won’t want to hand out coupon codes.  This makes it effectively impossible to directly track sales.  Don’t despair, however. You can still track quality of posts (look at views, comments, engagement rates, etc) to see which influencer is performing better than others.  You can also track overall lift if you run a large-scale campaign. While these solutions aren’t perfect for the most data-driven marketers, remember that there are secondary metrics you can use to at least know that you are getting the most out of your influencer campaigns that you can.

Well, I believe those are the basics to getting started.  I hope it was helpful – let me know what you think…..

Next up – (when I get a chance)…how to sustain an influencer program and build relationships!