Partnerships between influencers (people with dedicated online followings) and brands have grown from a niche marketing channel to a core part of the marketing ecosystem. The size of the influencer marketing market is growing fast every year and will surpass $21 billion in 2023.
You’ll find influential individuals with large followings in nearly every possible interest or niche. The influencers allow brands to reach a highly relevant audience via a high-trust channel – the influencer themself!
This blog will set you up to kickstart your influencer marketing strategy. You’ll learn:
- How to identify influencers that suit your brand.
- How to build relationships with influencers.
- How to plan, deliver, and optimize an influencer marketing campaign.
We’ll also examine a few case studies and consider some ethical questions around influencer marketing. But let’s start here;
The different influencer types
Understanding the difference between macro, micro, and nano influencers will help you plan your influencer marketing strategy appropriately.
Fortunately, the distinction between the different types of influencers is quite straightforward.
Macro influencers have large followings of 100,000 to a million. They focus on a niche and are often experts in their field.
Micro-influencers have smaller followings of 10,000 to 100,000. They’re often influential within a specific domain or interest.
They might be more engaged with their community thanks to its more manageable size. They’re also more affordable than macro influencers.
Nano influencers are like micro-influencers but smaller still. They have less than 10,000 followers, but their audiences often comprise passionate and dedicated fans.
They provide an avenue for companies with tight budgets to make a splash with their ICP (ideal customer profile).
Nano and micro-influencers are usually in the sweet spot for most brands in terms of cost and reach.
Benefits of influencer marketing
In a word, authority.
While not impossible, it’s hard for a company to quickly build authority through traditional content marketing strategies, such as blogs and webinars. Influencer marketing allows a brand to piggyback on the hard-earned authority of the influencer and fast-track its growth to an industry leader.
Influencers are also expert content creators. They can produce content that will be consumed and engaged with by your ICP.
Influencers also interact with their audience, increasing engagement with your brand and product/service. This can have a big impact on dark social conversations.
The core components of an effective influencer marketing strategy
An effective influencer marketing strategy follows these steps:
- Setting the right objectives
- Identifying the right influencers
- Building authentic relationships
- Negotiating a clear and defined agreement
- Developing well-crafted campaign ideas
- Creating and distributing content
- Amplifying the influencer campaign
- Measuring and analyzing the strategy
- Adapting and optimizing the strategy
Here’s how we do it.
1. Setting your objectives
Influencer marketing campaigns typically target one of three goals: sales growth, awareness, and engagement.
Whichever goals you choose must align with your business’s overall growth strategy.
For example, influencers can help you:
- Build engagement with your ideal customer profile
- Reposition within the market, such as reaching a new or untapped demographic
- Draw attention to and clarify your brand values
- Raise brand awareness and online profile
Whether you’re trying to grow sales or drive engagement and awareness, your influencer marketing strategy must be an extension of your overall corporate strategy.
How to align your influencer goals with your marketing goals
Your influencer marketing strategy may have different goals from a broader marketing strategy, but they should all be aligned in terms of ICP and brand voice/messaging.
Your wider marketing team will be working on other projects, so avoiding overlaps regarding content is important. But with influencers, the main controllable is brand consistency. It’s sometimes easy for influencers to go off-brand!
The common examples of influencer marketing goals
- Grow sales – you may simply want an influencer partner who will directly stimulate purchases of your product or services.
- Content creation – this means content produced by an influencer and posted to the company’s social media platforms.
- Building brand awareness – brand awareness or recognition is fundamental to any company that wants to gain traction in the marketplace; an influencer marketing campaign can target all aspects of brand awareness, including market positioning, price points, values, and points of differentiation.
- Grow a following – an online audience that’s steadily growing positions a brand as one to trust; a large follower count signals to other social media users that this account is worth following.
2. Identifying the right influencers
How to conduct influencer research
Obviously, you want to find the influencer or influencers who create content that your ICP loves.
A starting point is to search for social media influencers who operate in your market segment. Your company’s brand and the influencer’s brand should match. An example would be a nutrition brand partnering with a health and fitness influencer.
Alternatively, you can look for influencers in other fields whose followers closely match your customer personas or ICPs. For example, sports podcasts are fertile ground for brands wanting to reach young men.
How to evaluate influencers’ relevance, authenticity, and engagement
To evaluate your ideal influencers, score them according to these criteria.
- Brand value alignment – how snugly do your brands fit together?
- Reach – how many views and impressions does the influencer generate, on average?
- Engagement rate – how many interactions does the influencer get relative to their follower count?
- Content creation – some influencers are brilliant at content creation; others might need help.
- Risk factors – do your due diligence and give them a thorough Google! Ensure they have no skeletons in the closet that could damage your brand!
3. Building authentic relationships
How to approach influencers with value propositions
You can approach potential influencers directly through DMs or email. Some influencer marketing platforms facilitate partnerships.
One top tip: Influencers are sent unserious proposals constantly. Rise above it and come in with a serious proposal from the outset. Follow this format:
- Show that you’ve considered brand alignment
- Explain the kind of influencer partnership you want to form
- Include a campaign brief
- Suggest a financial arrangement as a starting point for a negotiation
- Lastly, provide some links so they can learn about your company
How to foster effective communication and collaboration with your influencers
Establish early on a check-in cadence that suits you both.
Choose an account manager you think would be a good fit for working with the influencer; this allows rapport to develop and ensures easy communication. Make the roles and responsibilities clear and your campaign goals transparent.
How to nurture long-term influencer partnership
The key to cultivating a successful long-term influencer relationship is to think from the perspective of your influencer. They have their own goals and aspirations. What role does your brand play in the growth of their personal brand?
Work to ensure your brands continue to be aligned. They might know the sector better than you, so listen if they see the market moving in a particular direction. Revisit compensation as their influence grows.
4. Negotiating and outlining agreements
From the outset of your influencer marketing strategy, you must establish exactly what you expect from your influencers and what they should expect from you.
These are some crucial areas to consider:
- What level of autonomy should the influencer have in content creation?
- What level of community engagement would you like to see?
- How long do you foresee your influencer marketing campaign going?
Defining compensation and incentives
If you’re taking your first steps into influencer marketing, a flat rate per post is a good place to start.
Victoria T., Head of Influencer Marketing at Scribe, makes the case for the flat-rate model:
“I’m a big fan of paying influencers (with money, not free products) upfront for their work. I do not recommend a performance-based model.
I don’t think it’s fair to engage in performance-based models only because:
The organic algorithm decides how many people the content gets delivered to, which is out of your control and the influencer’s control.”
This negative view of incentives is reflected in Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2023 report. It suggests that only 7% of marketing teams use an incentive model.
Besides paying a flat rate, the other model worth considering is an affiliate scheme. This is where the influencers are compensated a percentage of sales attributable to them.
A monthly retainer fee is more appropriate if you want to forge a long-term influencer partnership.
Navigating legal considerations and FTC guidelines
The UK government’s guidelines on influencer marketing make it clear that every post where a commercial partnership exists must be signaled as such.
UK content will likely be seen by foreign nationals, including Americans, and so should comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules as well. Fortunately, FTC laws on influencer marketing are much the same as their UK counterparts.
5. Crafting campaign concepts
To get some influencer marketing inspiration, we recommend reading case studies from companies similar to your own.
Evaluate them in terms of campaign type (product shot, affiliate campaign, contest, etc.), platform, and duration.
How to align your campaigns with the influencers’ personal branding
This conversation will have to take place between you and your influencer partner. But you should already have a good idea of their posting style based on your research.
Some influencers favor a conversational, personal style; others focus on guiding their followers to the best decisions. Others are quite happy to be straightforwardly sales-y.
Give your influencer your company style guide and some examples of branded content and successful posts from your company’s social feed. Work with them to develop an appropriate tone that works for both parties; you don’t want to completely change what the influencer does (otherwise, why did you hire them?), but you do want them to conform to your brand voice as much as possible.
How to ensure campaign authenticity and fit
The key to an authentic campaign? Always return to your brand values!
Make sure they’re reflected in the influencers you choose to work with, the content you produce, and the messaging you use.
6. Creating and distributing content
In terms of content format, all content must be native to its platform.
Whichever platform you and your influencer post on – Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok – the content must be optimized for that platform and its users.
In terms of themes, try to generate some virality. Study the top-ranking or most-viewed posts of the day. Can your influencer muscle in on those conversations and make them relevant to your brand?
How to maintain the balance between promotional and authentic content
In general, no one goes on social media to be sold to.
Also, some influencers may not be comfortable compromising their hard-won authority by promoting someone else’s product.
So our advice is: stay away from openly promotional or sales-y posts.
Instead, provide genuine value to your target audience. Help them overcome challenges or give them insights to make them think.
Or, just simply entertain them! Never underestimate the power of a good laugh.
How to leverage influencers’ platforms and audiences
All the content you make with your influencers should be designed and optimized for their primary platform. Once created, you can repurpose it for your secondary platforms and channels like email marketing.
This is where the influencer’s content creation abilities and platform knowledge come into play. Think about it this way – they wouldn’t have amassed as big a following without knowing all their platform’s tips and tricks.
7. Amplifying campaign reach
Some companies have successfully built influencer networks of dozens or even 100+ brand advocates.
It’s no secret why – people often respond positively to collabs between their favorite online personalities. Plus, it amplifies your social media marketing even further.
You could attempt the same for your influencer marketing strategy. It’s likely your influencer will know other well-known people in their space. Why not leverage your influencer’s network to grow your own?
How to integrate influencer content with owned marketing channels
On many platforms, brands and users can now jointly post a piece of content; this is a convenient method of combining an influencer’s content with your owned channels.
Another good idea is to do a channel takeover. This is where you allow your influencer or influencers to take charge of your feed for a day.
Finally, you can ask your influencer to make compelling content hosted on your channels rather than theirs.
Here’s an example of Cognism hosting video content from Growth Advisor Gaetano Di Nardi:
8. Measuring and analyzing campaign performance
Measure influencer marketing engagement by tracking likes, shares, comments, follower count, and video views.
To compare performance across your influencers, compare engagement with spend. Use Google Analytics to assist with understanding sales attribution.
Quantifying the value of impressions and clicks can be troublesome. Some companies prefer to use Earned Media Value (EMV) to measure the success of their campaigns.
Tools for tracking/reporting
Your first port of call should be Excel or Google Sheets. Build a reliable spreadsheet that tracks your key influencer metrics over time. The good news is, this won’t cost much to run!
You can also use software solutions like Grin, Creator.co, and Upfluence if you need something more sophisticated.
9. Adapting and optimizing the strategy
The data generated by your influencer marketing strategy will allow you to examine its results and execution.
At Cognism, we found success in gleaning conversions through self-reported attribution and through first and last-touch UTMs (urchin tracking modules – a URL parameter supported by Google Analytics).
How to stay current with trends and shifting audiences
Chasing trends is a risky game. Being late to the party isn’t a good look!
Unless your influencer partners really have their fingers on the pulse and can produce content quickly, it might be best to ignore social media trends altogether.
Instead, focus on creating something original that demonstrates the influencer’s personality and expresses your brand’s unique attributes.
Influencer marketing FAQs: ethics and transparency
How do you address authenticity and disclosure?
To address authenticity and disclosure, ensure you comply with advertising standards as mentioned previously and that all content generated as part of your influencer marketing strategy is original (i.e., not plagiarized).
How do you maintain ethical partnerships?
Ethical partnerships are formed by parties with mutual respect and shared values. Brands and influencers should evaluate this alignment of values at regular intervals.
How do you keep your audience’s trust?
To keep your audience’s trust, build trust by providing regular, reliable, and value-driven content. You maintain trust by sticking to that for the long term.
A case study of an effective influencer marketing strategy
Cognism’s B2B influencer marketing strategy has yielded great results. We exclusively used influencer marketing to promote our book The Diary of a First-time CMO, written by our Chief Marketing Officer, Alice de Courcy.
Our micro-influencer partners and our internal influencers promoted the book. We also sent copies to influencers with whom we had a non-paid relationship, asking them to post about it on their networks.
Together, they generated a groundswell of interest that resulted in sales of more than 1,200 copies (with another 4,000 on the waiting list).
Cognism’s successful influencer marketing campaign also racked up 3,000 audiobook listeners and 4,500 unique views of the online version.
Here are examples of Cognism’s micro-influencer partners posting about the book:
Influencer marketing strategy: key takeaways
Influencer marketing is a powerful marketing tool and one that all brands should consider.
Nail the key pillars of an influencer marketing strategy, and you’ll be well on the way to success. Let’s recap:
- Know your objectives and ensure they align with your broader business goals.
- Choose the right influencers to work with.
- Get off on the right foot with a robust and professional proposal.
- Maximize your content’s impact by attuning it to the platform where you’ll share it.
- Keep track of your influencer marketing KPIs.
- Make regular adjustments based on performance.
This guide should help you launch successful influencer marketing campaigns moving forward. Good luck