Study: Effective influencer marketing requires authenticity

As consumers spend more and more time immersed in new and traditional media channels, marketers must find ways to pierce the clutter and build rapport. Here are some insights.

Americans now spend an average of 11 hours a day—that’s nearly half of every single day—consuming some form of media.

They’re also devoting almost an hour a day exclusively to social networking.

That creates a challenge for organizations seeking to cut through online clutter—those bright images of aspirational travels, flashy new products and highly curated realities.

Increasingly, brand managers develop relationships with wise and authentic social media influencers who guide their followers through all the noise and the flashing lights. The right influencers deliver new and untapped markets, creating strong connections between brands and target audiences.

A new study, “Connections: Travel Influencers & Destination Marketing,” explores the relationship between brands and influencers. Although it’s focused on destination marketing, its lessons have wider applications for businesses that want to build authentic campaigns that resonate with consumers.

Finding the right partner

Not all partnerships between brands and influencers are the same.

Too often, partnerships are based on the number of followers that an influencer can deliver. Numbers can be deceptive. All too often, an influencer’s following is nothing more than a crowd of bots.

Far more important than this simplistic metric is the depth and richness of the engagement between the influencer and the audience. For instance, savvy marketers for travel destinations, a segment that uses influencers heavily, have learned to ask whether the followers of an influencer are truly going to be making travel plans.

The answer doesn’t demand expensive research. Marketers can simply look at the influencers’ comment section to get insight into their relationship with their followers. Influencers who invite two-way conversations generally have created relationships with their followers built on trust and transparency.

To dig deeper, turn to software such as Heepsy and Amasome. They help search through thousands of influencers, identifying those who are focused on just the right niches and those with strong engagement.

Then follow the influencer yourself for a while.  See what happens daily with posts, comments and engagement. Don’t rush. Strong influencer campaigns take time.

Trusting creative freedom

Selection of a well-engaged influencer in the right niche, however, is only the first step in the creation of an authentic relationship.

Even before an organization reaches out to an influencer, its marketing team must establish a clear, attainable goal. Be ready to talk about expectations and guidelines from the start.

Communication is key. Clear contracts that specify the details—the number of expected posts and the ownership of the rights to images, for instance—help you avoid the gray areas that too often plague influencer marketing.

Clear discussion of precisely defined deliverables helps both parties to work together to reach the desired audience, but authentic relationships also demand that you afford influencers sufficient freedom.

Tight management of every bit of copy kills authenticity. A single ill-considered post can destroy the trust an influencer built through years of hard work. Successful campaigns organically blend into the influencer’s work without harming the relationship with an audience.

Brands in search of authenticity don’t micro-manage. Mutual respect allows the partnership of a brand and an influencer to grow organically and authentically.

Building consistent messaging

Any good relationship will deepen over time, and the relationship between an organization and an influencer is no exception. A yearlong relationship is almost certain to deliver better results than a single post.

Even in new media, consistency and repetition of the message is important. A travel destination, for instance, might provide a quarterly trip to an influencer, allowing the influencer to highlight seasonal features of the destination.

Established partnerships with well-engaged influencers also provide effective platforms for announcements about new products and major events.

At the same time, however, responsible marketers want to see that an influencer campaign brings increased awareness and consumer recognition for the brand.

Along with informal measurements such as numbers of “likes,” comments and shares of an individual post, brand managers can turn to performance-tracking systems such as the Urchin Tracking Module or UTM. It establishes a direct link between influencer-generated traffic and conversions.

The peril of overthinking things

Effective influencer marketing is simple; it provides an extension of existing marketing strategies. Authentic influencer partnerships mimic the most powerful form of marketing: word-of-mouth.

Marketing is the creation of relationships. Influencers create effective relationships with today’s consumers. Done well, authentic influencer relationships are powerful tools for visionary brands.

Abbi Whitaker is president and a co-founder of Abbi Agency.

(image via)

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