It stands to reason that influencer marketing is built on a foundation of relationships. After all, it’s a form of digital advertising designed to improve consumer engagement. Partnering with the right influencer is crucial to your brand image and the effectiveness of the promotional message they deliver on your behalf.
So, how does a business go about finding the right social media influencer for its needs? In a way, the process is like looking for love. Identifying common interests and building mutual trust doesn’t benefit just your brand and the influencer, but also your customers.
Start your search for the perfect partner—and an effective influencer marketing campaign—with these four steps.
Pick Your Platform
Just as every location where you might meet a romantic partner has its own unique atmosphere, every social network is distinctive in its style and content. That’s an important point to consider when you’re looking for a social influencer partner. After all, marketers must pick the platform that’s best suited to their brand.
To kick off an effective influencer marketing partnership, evaluate the sites at your disposal. Look at everything from the makeup and behavior of their audiences to the type of content their users are most interested in. Based on both internal and third-party research, social media management tool Buffer has found that Facebook users prefer posts that are educational and entertaining, but Twitter is mostly used as a news source. Facebook reports that Instagram users post about their passions and use the social site to monitor cultural trends. Meanwhile data from Pew Research Center shows the majority of YouTube and Snapchat users are between the ages of 18 and 29. This seemingly disparate data can paint an accurate picture of the environment you’ll be working with.
Adrian Falk, CEO and founder of Believe Advertising & PR, always starts the influencer marketing process by determining the client’s objectives before thinking about content and execution, but sussing out the ideal user base for the brand is a big part of that journey. “When deciding on which social media platform to use with influencers, you have to think about your target audience,” he says. “If they’re younger, then perhaps you wouldn’t do anything on Facebook and just focus on Instagram and Snapchat.” In other words, assess the information you’ve gathered on each platform in the context your campaign. The platform you choose should reflect both your target audience and your marketing goals.
Engage in Social Listening
When you’re looking for a partner of any kind, it’s natural to solicit advice from friends, listen in on relevant conversations, and observe others’ personal experiences. Similarly, by playing the part of consumer and looking for strong user voices, businesses can glean valuable influencer marketing insight.
“Social listening is a great way of monitoring what’s going on in the world of social media, and perfect for gaining an understanding of what your competitors are and aren’t doing,” says Falk. He notes that you can learn a lot about an influencer by reviewing just a handful of their posts. “If someone with 100,000 followers is only getting a few comments and likes on Instagram, then you could expect that they’ve purchased their followers or their followers don’t provide a great amount of engagement, and therefore this is a reason not to use that influencer for a campaign,” he says.
In fact, some of the best user engagement is generated by influencers with a smaller follower count. These “micro-influencers” often spend more time nurturing their fan base and building the kind of deep-rooted loyalty marketers hope will rub off on their brands. “The use of micro-influencers works wonders when you’re trying to first get a product out there,” Falk says. “What you’ll want to do is send some free merchandise or products in exchange for a post and related hashtags on social media. Many micro-influencers love getting (goods) for free if they’re passionate about that product.”As an example, Falk points to the value of sending the latest hemp kombucha to a dedicated wellness micro-influencer. “(The product) would be of interest not only to the influencer, but also their dedicated audience,” he says.
Another perk to this approach? Partnering with an up-and-coming influencer can save marketers money.”Working with micro-influencers often allows you to provide just product, not payment, so you’re able to get frequency and reach within your chosen segments while also offering a more targeted approach,” explains Falk.
Harness the Power of a Network
Small businesses and marketers with a limited budget may seek out influencers on their own. Meanwhile, many brands now work with social influencer networks. These networks provide access to a whole host of potential partners at once. Think of these platforms as dating sites. They can lead you straight to the optimal marketing partner for your brand.
“Influencer marketing without a platform is both painstakingly slow and prone to errors,” says Nicolas Miachon, CMO of social influencer marketing company Upfluence. Partner identification, outreach, and activation can take weeks, he says. Working directly with an influencer can make accessing promotion-related data difficult. So, marketers who choose this approach can’t easily track ROI.
By comparison, an influencer platform that automates the influencer marketing process can eliminate these issues. They also provide valuable analytics and workflow tools. “When looking for a platform, brands should focus on the ability to scale and the agnosticism or flexibility of the tool. These are the keys to an effective campaign in the age of martech,” Miachon says.
Evaluate Your Relationship
Once you’ve taken all of the aforementioned steps, it’s time to ask whether you’re happy with your new partner. Determine whether your relationship is, in fact, good for you. Are the influencers you’ve selected for your brand meeting your standards and expectations? Measuring your engagement rate and assessing your ROI are an important part of developing a sustainable campaign. This data can help marketers optimize their investment moving forward.
“Compatibility is everything,” says Miachon. “When we evaluate influencer compatibility, we look at niche relevancy, shared values, their affinity for the brand, and editorial voice match.” Just like any other partnership, brand-influencer relations “must be mutually beneficial for both parties.”
According to Miachon, this promotes feelings of inclusion and responsibility. Of course your goal is to meet your business objectives. But, you should also seek to keep your influencer partner happy. Relationships can be tough, but a happy influencer makes for a happy brand.