The Rise of Influencer Marketing: Defining Goals and Vision

The increased presence of social media on the Web has given consumers more power. They now have a wealth of information at their fingertips that helps them decide what they should believe in and what brands they should align with.

With this power comes new marketing direction—a need to build an influencer marketing strategy and allow that influence to speak on behalf of the brand. For enterprise businesses, it’s challenging to give up control. It can be hard to hand the steering wheel over to an influencer and put faith in his or her ability to articulate messages authentically, with meaning, and without hesitation.

Yet brands are faced with a fork in the road. They can stick to their roots and wage the brand loyalty battle alone, or they can develop a team of influencers to help take the pressure of their shoulders. According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, 65 percent of brands have incorporated influencers into their marketing strategies to help execute broader marketing visions.

Business Puts a Price Tag on Influence

Influencer marketing means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In a 2014 study from Augure, influencers were mostly defined as having three distinct characteristics:

  • 79 percent say influencers are able to mobilize opinions and create reactions.
  • 73 percent say influencers have large online communities focused on specific topics.
  • 62 percent say influencers have a significant share of voice on a given subject.

And the impact of influencers on marketing campaigns continues to increase. The Augure study found that 43 percent claim their strategies have profitable responses, and 36 percent say these campaigns are either “effective” or “very effective.”

With positive ROI, more brands are investing in this type of online marketing. Forty-four percent of survey respondents indicate they will increase influencer budgets in 2014. But, like most newborn marketing practices, challenges persist.

Challenges: Navigating a New Marketing Space

Brands use industry experts to advance the pickup of—and engagement with—newly created content. Data from Augure shows that 76 percent of brands use influencer strategies to impact product launch, 57 percent for help amplifying custom content, and 50 percent with webinar promotion. In fact, 44 percent of marketers reportedly collaborate with influencers during the content creation process.

Beyond all its benefits, an influencer strategy comes with its fair share of challenges. Top obstacles noted were identifying industry experts, grabbing their attention online, and measuring the ROI of their efforts.

While people with thousands of followers on social media could influence action in the marketplace, if they’re not a relevant fit, their actions won’t move the needle. Consumers can tell when someone is acting inorganically on behalf of a brand.

What’s Next?

An influencer strategy is built on reciprocal relationships, making the practice an expensive endeavor for businesses of all sizes. Before a marketing department launches any kind of campaign, it must outline a clear strategy that includes:

  • Defined Key Performance Indicators: Before you invest in influencer programs, define your goals and how you will measure success. What do you want your influencer group to achieve? Brand awareness? Conversions? Virality? Make sure you have a clearly defined strategy before you approach anyone.
  • Alignment with Influencers: Conduct preliminary research using solutions such as Traackr to identify potential influencers. Break down these experts into three categories: industry leaders, mid-tier professionals, and up-and-coming stars. Then, based on your budget and available resources, outline the volume of influencers you’ll attempt to win over from each segment, understanding that industry leaders will inevitably cost more to attract and manage. Always remember to make sure each influencer fits within your broader marketing goals.
  • Established Channels: Once you have identified the prospective influencers you would like to court for your strategy, evaluate which channels best match up with each person. This will help you put together an effective content marketing strategy and leverage the reach of your team’s social or Web audience.

After you have defined your goals, identified the influencers you would like to align with, and laid the framework for a strategy, you can begin to flesh out campaigns and execute your vision.

This post originally appeared on The Content Standard.

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