10 Steps to Creating a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

10 Steps to Creating a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

These days, many businesses are under pressure. Lockdowns and other restrictions have made it more difficult to sell products and services, and many people are out of work. This contrasts to 2019, when the economy was going strong and everyone seemed to have money to spend. To that end, we marketers are having to adapt. Influencer marketing campaigns in particular have historically been difficult to price, due to the need to negotiate.

How do we adapt, then? In short, we need to ensure that each influencer marketing campaign has a better ROI for every dollar we spend. This means more than just watching how much we pay influencers. Instead, marketers must ensure that each dollar spent is strategic. As part of an overall smart strategy, it’s important that each influencer activation has a specific purpose with a measurable ROI that helps us meet our marketing objectives.

What is an influencer marketing campaign?

In short, an influencer marketing campaign is a marketing effort wherein influencers are used to help drive sales, traffic to your website, or brand awareness. This effort is carried out on social media, which is where influencers have their communities. Influencers, in turn, are people who have a loyal following that takes their recommendations seriously.

To that end, an influencer marketing campaign is similar to a traditional ad campaign. Content is created, then distributed, on social media channels and sometimes other places. However, it’s different from typical advertising in that you’re working with individuals rather than advertising agencies. You aren’t dealing with traditional advertising, either. Instead, influencer marketing involves a private individual sharing his or her thoughts about a product or service with an audience. The bottom line is that you’re working with people, rather than ads.

How to create a successful influencer marketing campaign

With that in mind, how should we run a successful influencer marketing campaign in the new economy? Besides counting every dollar spent, it’s important to be strategic. These ten steps will help you get organized, execute the campaign, and track results.

1) Determine your goals and KPIs

This is an important part of influencer marketing campaign planning, as it is with any other marketing type. Before you begin, think about your overall influencer marketing goals. Are you more interested in increasing sales right away, or boosting brand awareness? Should your influencer marketing strategy include a mixture of these? Depending on your overall goals, some campaigns can be targeted to meet more than one goal.

Once you’ve decided on the goals of your campaign, think about how you’re going to measure success. In most companies, this is going to be a predefined set of KPIs. As your influencer marketing campaigns are developed, you’ll need to take each of these into account. Then, performance on KPIs can be used after each campaign to adjust strategy, decide if an influencer is suitable for another round, and much more.

2) Define target audience

Before you can even think about who to use for your next influencer marketing campaign, you need to define your target audience. One of the reasons for this is that the ideal influencer in most cases is someone who is similar to your targeted buyer persona. Alternatively, you can pick based on who appeals to that target audience. For instance, sports influencers often differ significantly from their audiences: they might be someone whom the audience aspires to be like.

Another reason you need to define your audience is the choice of social media platform. Some platforms have a wide appeal, while others are more niche. An excellent example of niche audience appeal is Pinterest. If you look at the Pinterest statistics, you’ll see that a disproportionate number of members are American Millennial women with a lot of disposable income. When you’re trying to reach that demographic, Pinterest is great. Otherwise, you might reconsider.

3) Choose the type of campaign

Planning your influencer marketing campaign also requires deciding what kind of campaign to run. These can vary based on several factors, such as your goals, the target audience, and the influencers you’re working with. Campaign types vary in both the type of content created, and in how the influencer is paid. Here are some of the options.

Affiliate marketing or discount code

In this type of influencer marketing campaign, you’ll give the influencer either an affiliate link or a discount code. Then, the influencer will create content and post that link or code, inviting their audience to check out your products. Typically, you’ll pay based on sales resulting from link or code use. The beauty of this approach is that you both pay for performance and have an easy way to track results.

Product reviews or giveaways

Here, you’ll usually give product to the influencer in return for exposure. Influencers can do several things with your product, including using it to provide a review or tutorial. Alternatively, the product can be given away through some form of contest. Also, consider giving the influencer some product for himself, and another item to give away. This allows for a hybrid approach which can be lots of fun.

Sponsored content

With this approach, the influencer is usually paid to create content, then post it on their social media pages. You can also purchase the rights to post the content on you own social media or website. Often, the sponsored content will be more “salesy” than a lot of other types of campaign.

4) Define key campaign brand assets, influencer deliverables, creative guidelines, and contract

Once you have decided what kind of influencer marketing campaign to run, it’s time to work on general details. For instance, you need to determine what brand assets should be used, such as the company logo or brand Bible. You’ll also want to decide what kind of deliverables you’re looking for: some campaigns can use video tutorials, while others might be a simple Instagram photograph. Your choices ought to reflect both your goals and brand voice.

Another consideration is what creative guidelines you’ll give. Some brands let influencers post content without final approval from marketing, while others don’t. In addition, creative guidelines can be more or less specific depending on the brand and its goals. Finally, you should have standard contract terms ready to go. This way, you’ll have a consistent view of what is needed, and everything is ready when you find the right influencers. Nothing is worse than losing the right person due to bureaucratic delays.

5) Find, analyze, and vet influencers

Arguably, the most difficult part of an influencer marketing campaign for brands is finding the right influencer. Fortunately, there are many influencer search tools available. Simple steps, such as looking at your existing social media followers, searching on Google, and leveraging your social listening tools all help discover influencers who are already interested in your brand.

With that said, you should never overlook the power of micro and nano-influencers. These are influencers who have just started to monetize their influence, and who don’t have a lot of followers yet. What they have going for them, though, is priceless: a high level of engagement with content, and a reasonable cost of engagement. If you want to work with them, one of your best options is to use an influencer marketing platform.

Once you’ve found relevant influencers, It’s time to vet them. Choose influencers who have a great engagement rate, or who are known to get results. Finally, ensure that each influencer you choose is compatible with your brand image: you don’t want someone getting arrested for domestic violence if your brand claims to care about women.

6) Pitch chosen influencers

As difficult as influencer discovery and screening may seem, in some ways it’s half the battle. Micro and nano influencers don’t get a ton of brand pitches, but influencers with larger followings do. Besides this, the nano influencers in particular might not feel ready to start accepting compensation for their work. In practice, this means that you need to give influencers of all levels a reason to work with you. Your brand needs a compelling story in addition to offering something of value.

It is always recommended to first build a relationship with your influencer. This is done before the business pitch. Ways to do this include following the influencer on social media, interacting with their content, and demonstrating that they have a lot in common with your brand.

7) Activate campaign

Once you’ve found the right influencer, it’s time to begin your influencer marketing campaign. Communicate with your influencer to determine what kind of content that they will produce, and when they should post it. Execute your contract, and let the influencer create the content.

However, you shouldn’t just sit back and let the campaign happen. Instead, you should keep in touch with the influencer. Ask him or her how the content creation is going occasionally, though without making a pest of yourself. As appropriate, offer to answer questions or provide assistance with branding concerns. Generally speaking, though, don’t micromanage or the influencer might think twice about working with you again.

8) Follow up with influencers

Now comes the relatively easy part of an influencer marketing campaign: following up with your influencers. If the content must be approved before posting, then make sure that your staff notifies you of the submission. Then, verify that the content has been submitted. Go to their page and look for the posting. Consider taking a screenshot or downloading a copy for your records.

Once the content has been posted, be sure to keep communicating with your influencer. Before handing over the check, ask him if he has any concerns about how the influencer marketing campaign as a whole was run. You should also see if they think your product needs improvements, or if there are uses that haven’t been thought of yet. These types of feedback are great for marketing and research alike.

9) Amplify influencer content

An effective influencer marketing campaign doesn’t always end with the original content posting. Rather, many brands choose to stipulate that branded content will be reused on their own social media channels. This is especially effective with Facebook and Instagram content because of network popularity, ease of use, and content types.

Of course, Instagram content lends itself well to reposting, since it’s so easy to consume. Pictures are simple to repost on a website, but they also link well in other social media sites. Typically, the purpose of reposting is to enhance the number of people who visit the original content. And, if an influencer is a big enough name, the simple reposting might be enough to boost the effectiveness of your campaign.

10) Track and measure your success

Finally, no influencer marketing campaign is complete without knowing the degree of success you’ve enjoyed. Determining ROI does a lot more than put numbers with results. It also gives you an opportunity to tweak your overall influencer program. Maybe your audience targeting could use some improvement, or an influencer might not be as effective. Either way, there are several ways to ensure you do better next time, even with great results.

One of the easiest ways of tracking influencer effectiveness is the same one which can help pay them fairly. Because affiliate links and discount codes automatically track sales, they can tell you at a glance who is buying as a direct result of an influencer’s efforts. In addition, you can see how much each person spends.

Analytics numbers

However, these links and codes don’t measure everything. That’s because influencer marketing campaigns create buzz and visits to your website that don’t result in sales. If your goal is brand awareness, this is fine. For sales boosts, keep in mind that the consumer may buy later.

Engagement

Tracking how many people engage with the content is another way to determine ROI. In some contracts, you’ll even base part of the influencer’s compensation on engagement.

At the end of the day, running a successful influencer marketing campaign is easier if you follow the steps above. These steps include planning of your campaign, reaching out to and engaging with influencers, and tracking results. Once all of these steps have been completed, you can improve your approach for the next time. Best of all, your ROI will improve significantly.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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