For almost a decade, Neal Schaffer has been a trusted leading educator in the world of social media for business. He’s launched and managed influencer marketing campaigns on behalf of his agency clients and consulted and educated countless more.
How to Develop an Influencer Marketing Strategy for Your Company
Many businesses simply reach out to influencers with no game plan or spend their budget on influencers after being convinced to do so by their agency. There’s much more to influencer marketing than just outreach. The democratized social media space calls for different rules of engagement. Influencer marketing, in all its guises, is ultimately about human connection, relationships, and partnerships. It’s about beginning a dialogue and finding how to work with an influencer beyond ad spend. When executed with care and development, influencer marketing can reach far beyond the scope of traditional marketing.
Before undertaking an influencer marketing-specific strategy, it’s important to look at the grand scheme of your social media strategy to holistically understand the layout of the landscape and where influencers fit in. As with any business program, knowing the playing field is key to knowing how to strategize and engage. It’s essential to look at this from a business perspective to understand what return you want from influencer engagement.
Where to Start Planning Your Influencer Marketing Strategy
Start with the end in mind. What return do you want on the investment of time and money? Where do you have strengths and weaknesses compared to your competitors, and which ones are worth developing or improving? What ground do you want to cover by engaging with influencers? To cover these questions, we have to work through several points.
Step 1: Research the competition
Taking a step back and looking at what is happening on social media with your brand, your industry, and how your competitors measure allows you to understand weaknesses in your brand’s approach to social media.
Step 2: Define your objectives
Once you have charted the differences between your brand and your competitors’, and the ways in which you’re engaging on social media, combined with your own internal business and marketing strategies, you have enough background information to begin to define your objectives for your influencer program.
Two types of marketing objectives
Marketing objectives can be divided into two categories— increasing income and decreasing costs. Social media marketing in many ways shares these objectives.
Objectives tied to increasing income directly or indirectly are predominantly: increasing brand awareness, building consumer trust and credibility, developing a larger social media community, garnering more engagement for branded content, lead generation and sales, specific product or product-related event promotion, customer retention, search engine optimization through link building, and increased web traffic to fill the funnel.
When the objective lies more in decreasing costs, they usually fall into finding ways to use social media for recruiting, customer support, as well as an overall shift away from traditional marketing. Most recently, this also includes the shift of content costs toward influencers in terms of content creation outsourcing.
A mixture of these objectives is encouraged.
Step 3: Plan objectives and how to measure them
Each objective has a corresponding data point, a key performance indicator, or a metric to show the return on investment. These are the most common ones, or the objectives and data points that I’ve found most effective in my work.
- Increasing brand awareness → Measure your share of voice and content reach through social media tools, measuring activity with posts and content shares, and assessing hashtag engagement.
- Amplify the reach and engagement of content → Measure this objective through content reaction, the number of impressions or clicks, and measuring engagement through social media analytic tools.
- Growing your social media community → Look not only at your community growth but also at the comparative growth rate and engagement rate of your competitors.
- Generating website traffic or generating leads and sales → Use analytic tools to measure the level of referred traffic to your website or to your ecommerce site from a specific influencer. UTM parameters and special codes and discounts assigned to each influencer also help you track your campaign’s performance.
- Tie your influencer strategy into your SEO efforts → Measure the back links from a site to yours and do searches in the relevant social network and see how high your brand ranks.
- Shifting budget from traditional marketing → The appropriate analytic or point of measurement here would be to look directly at the figures for return on investment. We can compare the ad spend ROI to the influencer spend to see the effectiveness. Measuring and comparing the cost per impression, the cost per click, and the cost per action is easily done using analytical tools.
Strategizing Through Exclusion
One of the key elements of strategy that is so often overlooked is deciding what not to do. You don’t have to be everywhere. Social media is so broad now that it’s practically impossible to be everywhere. And trying to do so actually hurts your efforts.
- It can cause you to waste money targeting the wrong audience. Engaging on Snapchat or Twitch when you’re a B2B office equipment firm takes away from your key message and misses the demographic completely.
- A null profile reflects poorly on your company and personal brand. If you have a profile on a medium that you don’t use or don’t know how to engage with effectively, then it’s detrimental to your overall strategy. When people search for your brand you don’t want them to find a dormant account with few followers.
Every interaction with your brand is an opportunity to add to your image or lose prestige. Deciding what not to engage in and what to not do is as important a decision as what you will do. It will help you refine strategy and decide how to build on your strengths.
Rely on influencers to build up your weaknesses
This is also where influencers can do the work for you and cover ground that you can’t reach or with which you are unfamiliar. Perhaps you don’t know how to best communicate through YouTube, or you have difficulty communicating visually through Instagram. Engaging with influencers who know how to communicate through these platforms benefits your brand and message more than running blindly into the fray. Integrating influencers into your entire social media program to help your weaker parts is part of a coherent strategy. Engaging and developing your social media and influencer strategy does not mean that you have to do everything. It’s about choosing and prioritizing what is important, then using this information to strategize.