By now most brand managers have realized that the one-and-done, pay-and-pray influencer strategy isn’t one that has great returns.
There has been a lot of talk around micro-influencers and nano-influencers, but just picking someone with a smaller-yet-engaged following isn’t a magical marketing solution. The key, as with most things, is to find the right influencer—and to engage them in the right kind of campaign, running on the right platforms at the right time.
So, how can you know when you’ve found the right influencer? You’re looking for someone who is regularly engaging with your target audience.
What you need is an influencer graph, which allows you to completely map an influencer, their content and the audience who actually consumes it.
How? Let’s break it down.
Step 1: Profile your ideal audience.
Hopefully this is the target audience you’ve been working to reach, but if that hasn’t been refreshed recently, there’s no time like the present.
Do you have existing personas? Be sure to go over those and update and/or expand them as necessary. Though they might be up to date in some aspects for your business or sales pipeline, they could be different elsewhere (on social media for example).
Be as detailed as you can with the resources your team has available. You also want to be sure this information is accessible to everyone who can benefit from it, from marketing and sales to developers building out products and UX. Truly understanding your audience means keeping them in mind through every step of not only the sales cycle, but also their customer lifecycle.
How does what they need change over time? Who is influential to them will also change over time and might be different in different places. For example, later in the cycle might be a good time to tap internal brand advocates as influencers.
Step 2: Map out the influencers.
You can do this manually, of course, or you can take advantage of technology and/or partners to make this easier.
If you’re putting in the work to get to know your audience, chances are you’ll have a good idea of who they find to be influential. The key is map out their influence, which requires more than simply creating a list of influencers who might be good to tap for your campaign or partnership.
Where are they most influential? Is it just on one platform, or across several? Does their audience differ between platforms? Do they have strong relationships with other influencers, and if so, how do their respective audiences overlap? How much does your target audience overlap with those audiences?
It’s important to do this work to understand the true potential of working with a potential influencer. A lot of overlap between an influencer’s audience and your target audience means it’s a good idea to move forward with a campaign or partnership.
If not, don’t engage them simply because they have a big following. You’ll be wasting the potential your campaign or partnership could find in a better matched influencer.
Step 3: Map out the content these influencers create.
This will give you your graphical overlap. Which content is your target audience consuming from these influencers? Which content is getting the highest level of engagement from your target audience?
This approach gives you a game plan when you approach an influencer about working with them. It lets you know which metrics you should focus on for success during a campaign. It also lets the influencer better refine their content for any campaigns or partnerships you’re working on.
All of these factors ensure you are set up for maximum possible success in your working relationship with the influencer or influencers you want to tap for your campaign.
Why is this important?
Why should your team bother to put in this level of work for a marketing trend?
Influencer marketing is just a trendy tactic to tap into, but when you approach it this way, you’re strengthening the base of your entire marketing strategy by focusing on the most important base element: the right audience.
When you know your audience, that means you’re creating better, more targeted content that will drive better results. It means you’re creating more targeted pitches to influencers, driving better results across your strategy.
Sarah A. Parker is the Content Marketing Manager for TrendKite, a Cision company. A version of this article originally appeared on the Cision blog.