Executive’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

Successful CEOs can’t ignore the rise of influencer marketing – a much-hyped concept where companies tap individuals with clout and authority to spread the word about their brand and products.

But that hype rightfully comes with skepticism, especially among executives. Can these programs actually drive business results for brands?

The short answer is yes. Research shows that the majority of consumers have been swayed in their decision-making by digital influencers and marketers are planning to spend more on influencer marketing in coming years.

But — and it’s a big but — influencer marketing must be done thoughtfully, strategically and as part of a larger marketing approach.

Here are a few of the most important dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you consider whether and how to integrate influencer marketing into your organization’s plans.

Do Educate Yourself On The Rules

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has clear disclosure guidelines for marketers and influencers in order to maintain integrity and truth in advertising. In short, the commission requires that influencer relationships to brands are clearly disclosed and stated in any campaign-related content.

Make sure your teams read the FTC Endorsement Guidelines thoroughly so they understand exactly what’s required of the company and for the influencers with which they might work. For example, simply adding #spon hashtags to posts on Twitter or Instagram aren’t enough, nor is an endorser merely adding “thanks to Brand A” in a post without explicitly stating that they received a product for free or in consideration of promotion.

The guidelines are relatively common sense, but there have been some regulatory crackdowns in the past year or two — especially among fashion influencers on Instagram — so it’s worth being educated from the outset and setting your teams and partners up for success.

If you are marketing outside the United States, research what laws or regulations might apply to influencer marketing well before planning a campaign. A good place to start is the FTC’s list of Competition & Consumer Protection Authorities Worldwide.

Don’t Assume Influence Equals Reach

When most brands think about influencers, they immediately picture celebrities with millions of followers.

And that’s great; companies like Old Navy have worked with influencers for years and they did a great campaign around Black Friday in 2018 with retired New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and a charitable partnership that raised more than USD1 million for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

But people don’t have to be famous to influence their communities to take action. Sometimes, passion and genuine interest are equally powerful, and many companies have begun to recognize the impact of everyday humans — sometimes known as ‘microinfluencers’ — who want to share the products they love.

Upstart cosmetics brand Glossier turned to their customers as influencers first. Their cult-favorite products generate hundreds of thousands of posts from women from around the world across social media, and CEO Emily Weiss attributes as much as 90 percent of Glossier’s annual revenue to the buzz and influence these everyday customers create.

Do Plan Ahead For Attribution

Measuring the impact of influencer marketing is the biggest challenge for most marketers and deciding on clear objectives at the outset is a critical first step.

Are you using influencers to create awareness? Your metrics and tracking will need to capture reach, impressions or high-level content engagement measures such as likes or shares. Motorola ran an influencer campaign to introduce its new Moto Z family of products, and the 80,000 first-time visitors to its motomods.com site told them the effort succeeded in bringing a fresh audience of potential customers.

But if sales are your primary concern, you’ll need the mechanisms in place (both technology and human) to track and analyze touchpoints that originate with influencer campaigns and ultimately attribute that activity to on-site or in-store sales.

Spending the time to think through what metrics matter ensures you can build the processes, technology stacks and measurement structures that will deliver the insights you need.

Don’t Think Short Term

While many brands engage influencers for a single campaign, savvy companies know that building long-term relationships with influencers can pay big dividends.

Top Rank Marketing, a Minnesota-based marketing agency, has forged strong bonds with many leading digital marketers and often taps them as expert sources for substantial content assets like its Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing.

Top Rank’s influencer community often weighs in on blog posts, videos and social media posts, and because it treats them like partners, they’re happy to be advocates for the content they’ve helped create and brand ambassadors for the companies they’ve come to know.

Do Remember That Relevance and Authenticity Rule

Influence depends on individuals being able to move others to action. Doing that predictably means prioritizing authenticity and relevance in your campaigns. With trust among digital consumers in overall decline, it’s essential.

Unilever CMO Keith Weed took a strong stand against buying followers, using bots to falsely inflate engagement and other tactics that eroded the credibility of influencer marketing. Several celebrity endorsers have also been caught cutting and pasting instructions from their PR advisors, instantly damaging their credibility and the trustworthiness of the brands.

Resist the temptation to seek shortcuts at the cost of long-term brand credibility. The right influencer strategy won’t deliver instant results, but authentic, trustworthy connections with customers will create the long-term momentum that drives business.

Influencers Are Just One Tactic

As you digest the excitement around influencer marketing, remember that it’s one tool in a vast and deep digital marketing toolbox.

If you think influencer marketing might be a great fit for your brand, give it the same thoughtfulness and care that you’d give to any other investment in the long-term health of your company. A foundation of a few key dos and don’ts can give you and your teams the tools you need to make influencer marketing work for you.

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