Word-of-mouth has always been a successful form of marketing. When it comes to spreading this word on social media, influencer marketing is one of the most effective methods. A recent Tomoson study reveals that businesses are earning $6.50 for every $1 they invest in influencer marketing. The top 13 percent of businesses make more than $20 for each dollar spent on influencer marketing.
However, given recent trends and changes, brands might need to rethink the way they approach influencer marketing. Considering there’s a bottom 18 percent that doesn’t make any revenue as it is, those who don’t pay attention to these changes will find influencer marketing even harder.
Just recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for the first time, had to settle charges against two social media influencers. As a result of the process, the FTC has set a new precedent: Going forward, influencers will have to clearly disclose their relationship with the brands they are promoting. As part of implanting the new rules, the FTC has issued an endorsement guide for both influencers and brands.
Today, it’s relatively easy for aspiring influencers to purchase followers and offer their services on various marketplaces, and brands are wising up, learning to approach influencer marketing as a long-term relationship rather than a quick-grab media buy. And this is the case in both the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) spheres.
In light of such changes, brands will have to rethink their influencer marketing strategies. Here’s how you can improve your strategy this year.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
1. Develop your own influencers.
An influencer message has to be authentic because audience members now have a clear view of who’s behind the curtain. Knowing that a message is inspired by money, rather than earnest appreciation, breeds skepticism.
As buyers turn to niche blogs and their social networks for assistance with their spending decisions, there will be new layers of scrutiny involved. The person behind the message and his or her relationship with the brand in question will certainly become a more significant factor. And an influencer being close to the brand won’t necessarily be a bad thing. Even as they watch out for bias, consumers will also want to hear from someone close enough to the brand to know what they are talking about.
Your employees are best positioned to discuss the product and consumers are very likely to believe them. They work directly on your products and are actually the people behind the product features. Who better to talk about those products? No one.
“When an employee talks about their work experience or shares lessons they’ve learned working for a company, it resonates in a completely different way,” explains Roope Heinilä, CEO of Smarp. “So imagine what sort of message a company can share online if it can orchestrate entire departments of employees to work together and make their voices heard. That’s extremely powerful.”
Clearly, employees have been an untapped resource for influencer marketing that may prove invaluable now.
2. Use employees as information hubs.
According to the Wasp Barcode 2017 State of Small Business Report, 30 percent of executive leaders surveyed have asked their employees to use their personal social media accounts to share and comment on content. Besides hiring designated sales and marketing people, this was the most used tactic.
What’s the reason for this? When it’s about marketing and advertising, people still trust their peers more than they do brands. A report published by FastCompany shows that content shared by employees can receive up to eight times more engagement than that shared on brand accounts. So, not only do personal accounts help boost the readership of the company’s message, they also help generate buzz for your brand.
“We have been so surprised in terms of engagement and downstream outcomes,” says Dana Hyland George, a recruitment manager at Philips Lighting. Speaking of the advantages of enlisting their team members to help boost the company’s brand as an employer, she explains, “we saw a gap where we could use an employee advocacy platform to help us amplify our story at scale…We wanted to humanize our brand, tell the world who we are and what differentiates us from others.”
However, it’s not always easy trying to get your employees to share your message on their personal accounts. While employee communication and brand advocacy do have similarities, it’s important to remember that this will be a new thing for your employees, and you’ll need a plan to implement it effectively.
3. Turn ambassadors into influencers.
So, how do you turn your employees into known connectors that can help cultivate trust in your brand and its products? “The best way to create advocates in the organization depends on building a great culture that co-opts employee involvement,” notes Don Charlton, the founder of JazzHR. “Don’t just sanction culture from HR. Ask your employee advocates to have an ownership stake in uncovering the culture.”
Employee education is going to play an important role in ensuring successful advocacy. As part of that, management should teach employees the kind of audience and talking points to align with. Thus, instead of just blasting out sales pitches to followers, employees can get involved with starting and maintaining conversations based on value.
That said, the system shouldn’t be overused. Rather than telling your employees to post as much as they can, you can teach them how to post the right content at the right time. As the business owner, it’s your role to ensure sharing is easy both on the front and back end. Your content should always have easy accessibility to the share buttons to the major platforms.
If there are elements such as messages, themes or topics that you need your employees to share, share the information on a cloud-accessible program where they can easily copy or automatically schedule a post.
While influencer marketing has become one of the most effective marketing strategies, many marketers are still not using it. The lack of clear guidelines and instructions makes some marketers to shy away from using it the full extent. The FTC crackdown has awakened those who previously used influencer marketing and those who didn’t cause them to think of new ways to make the most out of it. Involving your employees can be the best way to enjoy the benefits of influencer marketing.
Segun Onibalusi is a digital marketer and entrepreneur and is the founder of SEO POW LTD. A version of this article originally appeared on Entrepreneur. Copyright © 2017 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.