How to Get More Mileage Out of Influencer Marketing

2016 was a tremendous year for influencer marketing. Brands large and small realized that influencers could actually attract new customers and importantly, bring in revenue.

And many are predicting explosive growth for influencer marketing this year. But what is driving this change? We already know that consumers trust the opinions of influencers over celebrities when it comes to making purchasing decisions. And despite algorithms, we know that social isn’t going anywhere.

Then there is ad blocking. Many marketers are looking to influencers in 2017 as a way to combat ad blocking, but confusing influencer marketing with branded content.

Branded content is presented by a publisher in a similar format to editorial content, and can sometimes be classified as native advertising. On the other hand, influencers are responsible for creating and distributing content on their platforms, giving them creative control over your brand’s messaging. Your marketing plan may include both or only one, but don’t assume they are the same.

All of these reasons boil down to one key point: consumers are behaving differently. More businesses are recognizing this, thus the increased interest in developing influencer marketing strategies.

But what may be even more important now is that regardless of why more businesses want to work with influencers, the way in which they will collaborate has evolved. TapInfluence and Altimeter Group conducted a study that said marketers thought ongoing ambassadorships were more effective than other types of influencer marketing strategies, including product reviews and sponsored content.

Now is the time to start thinking of influencers as an extension of your business. Here’s how to get more mileage out of these partnerships this year.

Put money behind influencer marketing.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to start putting money behind influencers. Product in exchange for a video, blog post, or photo won’t sustain a partnership. Yes, there are influencers who are often willing to accept product for compensation, but you’ll be able to generate a greater ROI with a budget and campaign than a one-off product review.

Monetary compensation means you’ll need to create a well-defined campaign for you and the influencer. How will you measure success? Are you looking for more visitors, increased brand awareness, or sales? Determine your key performance indicators first. This will help you find influencers who align with the goals of your campaign. For example, you may choose to collaborate with smaller influencers with high engagement if your goal is brand awareness.

You need to be willing to reward your influencers’ work with monetary compensation. Investing in your influencers will create opportunities for long standing partnerships. And, it demonstrates your belief that they can provide value to your brand.

Partner on multiple channels.

Many influencers have strong followings across different social channels, like YouTube, Snapchat, etc. If you had success on one platform, don’t be afraid to try new ideas elsewhere, as well as repurpose influencer content for other channels.

This also prevents you from relying on one type of social platform for success. Partnering with an influencer with a strong following across several social channels is a key indicator that they really have the loyalty and attention of consumers.

And don’t forget about the channels your brand owns. You will always have control over your website, but the same can’t be said for social media. Think about creative ways to work with influencers on your channel, as this will help bring their audience directly to you.

Think on a bigger scale.

Brands that have had successful partnerships with influencers have thought outside of the box, or in this case, well beyond an influencer’s social platforms. Think of each influencer you partner with as a marketing channel with a unique voice and story.

Many brands have already capitalized on their work with influencers and expanded their partnerships. L’Oréal Paris appointed style blogger Kristina Bazan in 2015 to join Julianne Moore, Blake Lively and other celebrity brand ambassadors. The makeup brand knew the blogger’s voice could make an impact well beyond her Instagram following.

Fashion bloggers and clothing brands seem like a natural fit for partnerships that expand beyond content. Nordstrom frequently sponsors bloggers’ content, but understood that these partnerships could provide a greater value exchange. Emily Schuman, founder of lifestyle blog Cupcakes & Cashmere, created an exclusive clothing and home décor line for Nordstrom and Shopbop. It’s a tangible way for her audience to replicate her personal style.

Brands are even getting creative with pet influencers, finding pets with massive followings and developing a marketing plan around an influencer. For example, Budweiser used an Instagram-famous dog in a Super Bowl advertisement.

It can be harder to measure the direct impact of these types of projects compared to a smaller campaign, but it’s clear that the relationship between a brand and an influencer can have a tremendous impact.

No longer is influencer marketing focused on one-off campaigns. It’s time to focus on cultivating partnerships that will generate long-term success.