How to get the most from an influencer partnership

Using an influencer in your marketing campaign can be hit or miss. Here’s how to find the sweet spot where brand, influencer and customer meet to make marketing magic.

In the age of social media, people are turning to their favourite personalities when making purchasing decisions. A study by the Digital Marketing Institute found that 49 percent of consumers depend on influencer recommendations. When properly managed, influencer marketing can help your business hit the ROI jackpot. Depending on your objectives, a lot can be achieved when a brand partners with the right influencer, or a combination of influencers. Here are some aspects to consider.

#1 Clarify your objective
Before embarking on a campaign with an influencer, be clear on what you want to achieve and whether or not an influencer would help or harm your efforts. Due to their reach, at their most basic, influencers are great for creating awareness. When the partnership fits, an influencer campaign can boost brand sentiment. Customers with an affinity to a certain personality are more likely to engage with a product that personality is promoting, provided that product is a natural fit with said personality. The product the influencer is promoting must be something that the influencer might genuinely use in reality, otherwise users won’t believe the influencer, casting your product in a bad light in the process. In an interview with Mediakix.com an influencer said; “I’m extremely picky about who I collaborate with. I’ll only work with a brand that I already love and use. If it’s a new brand I’m not familiar with I won’t collaborate with them until I have used their product and love it.”

#2 Understand influencer types
South Africa’s influencer landscape is only just beginning to define itself, and a clear hierarchy is emerging. In the early days, the number of followers was the biggest determining factor of whether or not to partner with an influencer because of the number of eyeballs that could potentially see your product. However, marketers quickly realised that reach without engagement doesn’t guarantee sufficient interaction (and ultimately purchase) of your product. The trend then migrated to influencers with a smaller audience, the logic being that influencers with fewer followers have more authentic engagements and are seen as more trustworthy than personalities with larger audiences, who also tend to be overused by various brands and lose their sense of credibility. Influencers can be broken down as follows; nano influencers refer to the everyday social media user that has a handful to a few hundred followers. Everyone has a sphere of influence and the ability to influence the purchasing decisions of friends and family. Then there are micro influencers who have between 1000 and 5000 followers. Macro influencers have tens of thousands of followers and are usually minor players in the TV and radio industry or succesful vloggers. Top of the rung are mega influencers, whose followers are in the hundred thousands and above. They are usually bona fide celebrities in other spaces and represent multiple brands. You may choose to work with a single influencer, or should your budget allow, having a combination of influencers across the spectrum can strengthen your message by making use of mega influencers at key moments in your campaign, with micro and macro influencers to keep the conversation going in between.

#3 Craft clear (but not too strict) guidelines for your influencer
Authenticity is the most sought after commodity online, and creating it in a choreographed relationship is not as easy as it may seem. Users are highly discerning and can sense when a partnership feels forced or a post is scripted. Give your chosen influencer parameters within which to post about your brand (e.g. time of day and phrases to avoid) but allow them the freedom to work your brand into what they would normally do during the course of their day. In an interview with mediakix.com, one influencer said; “I try to maintain an exceptionally high level of creative control – it probably makes me annoying to work with, but I feel my greatest obligation is to my audience. If that means walking away from an opportunity, that’s okay with me.”

#4 Monitor and adjust your approach if necessary
Review the engagements created by your influencer strategy weekly against your targets and switch up your approach if the likes or chatter doesn’t spike when your influencer’s post goes live. Also, be prepared for any sudden backlash and respond quickly. Your influencer may fall out of favour with their followers, putting your brand’s reputation at risk, or they may not fully declare the sponsorship of the post (which is now mandatory and brands in contravention are liable to pay a fine).

Influencer marketing is a double-edged sword where the risks are high but the rewards, if managed correctly, can be sweet.

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