Influencer Programs are big right now, and for good reason - they work. But before you take the plunge, you need to know which influencer approaches are available. Or your plunge may be a cold shock to the system!
The PR approach
When influencer marketing started to gain momentum, bloggers and YouTubers were often treated like journalists. Brands sent them press releases, gifts, and samples to win their support.
While this general approach can produce results, it may lack the personal touch that resonates with influencers (they just want to be loved). So, if you decide to go the PR route, be sure that your brand cultures align, and that your product fits with the interests of the influencer. And if you really want to catch their eye, maybe send hand-written notes to infuse some emotion and personalization into your pitch.
Banners & Display
Placing banners and displays on an influencer's blog is certainly a marketing option, but probably not your best choice. Many influencers now live on social networks like Instagram or Snapchat and no longer maintain blogs. Of those that do, most don't want a website bloated with flashy brand ads anyway. Perhaps most importantly, banners just don't generate the audience engagement that today's brands are looking for. However, if your heart is set on using banners, then incorporate them thoughtfully into a larger cross-channel campaign. At this point, they're just not effective enough as a stand-alone option.
Guest-blogging & Social Takeovers
Guest-blogging and social takeovers are creative methods of promotion with drastically different levels of success.
Guest-blogging aims to drive website traffic by engaging (requesting/paying) an influencer to promote content directly on the brand's "owned media" channels. But guest-blogging is often perceived as less authentic, and not all audiences will follow outside the established "intimate circles".
Meanwhile, social takeovers give influencers control of a brand's social account to infuse some energy and fun into their content. The engaging, "un-scripted" feel creates an air of authenticity and excitement that audiences love. For example, luxury brand Gucci, enjoyed huge success turning the reins over to movie star Jared Letto.
Paying an influencer to mention a brand in a social media post is called 'sponsored content'. It's a common practice, but be mindful of certain guidelines.
First, you must maintain transparency with a disclosure that identifies the content as "paid-for" advertising. It protects the integrity of both the influencer and the brand, and the audience respects the honesty. When crafting your sponsored content, consider providing a brief that features clear guidelines but allows freedom for the influencer to relax and improvise. After all, the influencer knows best what resonates with his community.
Affiliate Programs & Discount codes
'Performance based marketing' is a potent mix of affiliate marketing and influencer punch. Most influencers have some type of ongoing affiliate programs, specifically in sectors like beauty and fashion represented by brands such as Sephora, Zara, or Asos.
Discount codes are another powerful linked opportunity and a clever way to incentivize both the influencer and the consumer. And best of all, it's easy to assess the effectiveness of such campaigns by using analytics.
Product testing & Reviewing
Just like Affiliate Programs, product testing is getting a fresh paint job for a new era. Bold players like Influenster and Trnd offer integrated platforms where brands and influencers can connect. The influencer then delivers an honest review of the brand's product (generally for free). Brands get unbiased feedback and Influencers get to try cool new stuff and grow their online presence.
Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways never go out of style. Modern influencers love them because they're a great way to get communities to react and engage, specifically when they're paired with a creative concept (an escape game for instance). To participate in the contest/giveaway, target members are usually asked to follow the brand AND the influencer. As a result, influencers can grow their audiences and track every participant's action down to the click.
Events are popular for brands because they create buzz, influencers love the star treatment, and the only limit is your creativity. This is big-league fun!
Urban Decay provided a powerful demonstration of events in action. They gathered influencers from across the globe for the launch of their new lipstick collection in New York City. The web was soon awash with hip and trendy images and videos from the event, and rave reviews for the new products.
A slightly different version of an event has influencers come to a physical store location or a unique destination of some importance to the brand. For instance, Chanel invited select influencers to Grasse to experience the roses used to create their latest perfume - L'eau N° 5.
Keep in mind that events are all about the experience and the "WOW factor". Influencers will capture whatever tone the brand sets at the event (good or bad), and amplify it using posts, videos, and stories to their audiences. So, big smiles everybody, and make sure your event sizzles!
Co-creation is a booming influencer program that builds trust and authenticity for brands in addition to boosting their sales. It effectively transforms the influencer's role from that of a talking head to a full-blown collaborator. The technique gained popularity as passive influencer participation lost its punch and failed to resonate with audiences. In response, brands gave the influencers more freedom to participate in the strategy and content creation, and audiences have responded. With Co-creation's growing popularity, expect it to expand into community co-creation in coming years.
Like many of the approaches on our list, ambassadorship programs signify a shift in recent strategy. As detailed in the Tracckr / Altimeter report on Influence Marketing, one-off marketing splashes are giving way to "always on" programs. It's an evolution that opens the door for long-term relationships between influencers, brands, and audiences.
As with any long-term arrangement, be sure to vet your candidates carefully. Ambassadors become the face of your brand and the heart and soul of your identity, so be careful of controversy unless that's part of your desired image. For example, if you sell Rum and your rock star ambassador gets drunk and destroys a hotel room, that's great press! If your brand supports funding for school music programs, not so much.
Leveraging the Power of Influence Marketing
There's a number of ways to integrate Influencer Marketing into your brand promotion strategy. But make sure you use the right technology as there are different types of solutions! Depending on your objectives, you can choose an integrated IRM solution like Traackr that bets on long term strategies enabling brands to manage influencers in the same way these brands manage customers. But other options can also be assessed: influencer marketplaces like Tribe or BrandSnob that offer paid-for options for brands looking to work with influencers, or other freemium tools like FollowerWonk or Buzzsumo to help you search for influencers.
For best results, be sure to infuse your marketing with creativity and integrate your chosen method into an overall cross-media campaign.
Once you find a formula that works, consider amplifying its success beyond a specific channel. For example: If your Instagram sponsored post generates a flood of comments ... promote it on Twitter to extend its reach. Also, consider showcasing select comments from that post on your website or OOH ads or in print advertising. You may need to experiment a bit before all the flavors mesh, but once they do, your brand is in for a marketing feast!