When is influencer marketing a worthy investment?
For Bilal Lakhani, communications and marketing director for Thorn and formerly Procter & Gamble, if you’re still asking if the tactic is a good idea, it’s probably not. That’s because influencer marketing’s success is closely aligned with how well you have defined your strategy.
And to understand influencer marketing strategy, Lakhani brings out the trust sales funnel. “Imagine consumers in a consumption funnel,” he says. “On top is an awareness—then you have consideration, and then there is conversion at the bottom.”
His message to the audience at imre’s Communications Week panel “How to Make the Most Out of Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns” is to focus on consideration.
The classic example of a brand using influencers to get consumers to consider their brand is for a legacy or big-name brand where younger consumers have no attachment with their product. If a consumer demographic thinks, “That’s my mom’s brand”—well, that’s a good time to turn to influencers.
For brand awareness, Lakhani argues, there are cheaper alternatives for getting your name noticed by a broad audience. And for conversions? Well, Lakhani says that there aren’t any precisely defined metrics that can tie sales to your influencer marketing efforts.
“There are proxies that you can look at to get an idea directionally, but there’s nothing that you can get definitively,” he says.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, brands in a niche market might have success building awareness with an influencer that is embedded with their target audience. There are also some influencers who specialize in selling and would be worth the investment for a strategy that was looking to only convert customers. But those are exceptions.
“By and large, you want to use influencers to tell stories that the brand can’t tell on its own,” Lakhani says.
If you are clear in your strategy, measuring the success of your influencer marketing can be remarkably easy.
Lakhani argues that you can boil it down to one metric, depending on your goals. If you are looking to build brand awareness, all you need to measure is reach. If you are trying to drive consideration of your product, he recommends measuring engagement rate.
How much are audiences engaging with a post? How many shares and comments? Engagement metrics can be defined a bunch of different ways, but Lakhani says the specifics don’t really matter as long as you stay consistent over time.
And while there is plenty of data to help you evaluate, Lakhani also recommends a qualitative analysis. If you have defined the consumer community you want to reach and persuade, you can extrapolate an experience based on a smaller sample size.
This is particularly potent when trying to convince an audience that doesn’t believe in your product or service for some reason. You can identify that group and three to five influencers who will help “bust the trial barrier” and get skeptics to try your product.
“It’s easy to go for the influencer that already believes in you,” Lakhani says. The real movement happens when you move a skeptic into an advocate, and when you do that, you have a sharp reason for using influencers, beyond chasing a social media trend.
How do you find knowledgeable influencers?
Masha Snitkovsky, vice president of influencer marketing at imre and a co-lead for the webinar, says all marketers should be immersed in their niche before taking on an influencer. If you are steeped in the product and market, you can make the call on whether an influencer speaks to you as an insider.
“Is this someone you would follow yourself?” she asks. “Do you like their content?”
Of course, you should vet any influencer thoroughly to check if they have fake followers or spammy content. There are also tools out there that can offer a “health score” for influencer accounts—but Snitkovsky says it isn’t rocket science. “It’s pretty easy to find this out on your own.”
How can you target specific geographies?
Don’t make assumptions about where an influencer’s audience is located, the panelists warn.
“An influencer can be located in Atlanta, but their followers might not be there,” says Lakhani. “First, you have to make sure where their audience is based. If it’s a really specific audience, consider going after it with paid media.”
Snitkovsky agrees that paid media is an important piece of the influencer marketing puzzle. “There’s a lot that paid media can do as well,” she says.
Does the tactic make sense for B2B companies?
There is value, but the type of influencer the company is targeting changes. For B2B, you are not looking for a lifestyle influencer, explains Lakhani. Instead, think about the audience you are trying to influence.
What content do decision makers at a company consume? Who are the influencers within that space that they would listen to? Maybe the content is not a social media post, but an op-ed in a trade publication.
“The journey works in a similar way, but the output will be different,” Lakhani says.
How can nonprofits work with influencers?
Influencer marketing can be a great fit for nonprofits and charities, argues Lakhani. It’s great that you have nothing to sell, and even better that you likely have a big story to tell about your organization. Influencers love storytelling and a cause—but don’t expect them to work for free.
“Even as an NGO, you should not have the expectation that you will get free labor, Lakhani says. “There is some level of support you should be willing to offer the influencer.”
Snitkovsky adds that your value offering to an influencer doesn’t have to be cash. “Is there an experience/event you can offer in lieu of money?”
Above all, make the influencer feel like a partner who is included in the strategy of your organization. If they feel personally invested, they might just volunteer to take a bigger role in advancing your mission.