The first parallel session I attended during The Social Experiment was the Influencer Marketing workshop, hosted by John Meulemans from 3sixtyfive. In this report I explain why, according to Meulemans, Influencer Marketing can boost conversations around your brand.
Influencers and hotspots
Influencers or influencers are people who have the trust of the public. They have authority in certain areas of knowledge which gives them credibility. Think of journalists, bloggers, scientists, politicians and celebrities. Online influencers have influence through blogs and other social platforms. In addition to influential people, there are also influential places on the web, so-called hotspots, where people talk about brands, products and companies. Examples include social networks, online forums and communities.
Trust, Talks and Transparency
So much for the definition of influencer marketing, with a strong emphasis on the online channels during this session (logically given the social character of the event). Influencer marketing is a strategy to positively amplify the buzz around your brand. Factors that play a determining role here are trust (trust), conversations (talks), and transparency (transparency).
- Trust. People have less and less trust in companies because they do not meet the expectations of their customers. Taking the adage “underpromise, overdeliver” as a starting point, brands can repair the gap between what people want and what companies deliver to regain trust.
- Talks. “It's all about the conversation”. A new culture is developing in which we share everything with each other and where the use of social media is growing enormously. Why? Because it's nice to share something, it's a new experience. You can profile yourself with it, show that you know a lot about something. You can get attention, feel like a pioneer and seek confirmation. Another reason is to help your loved ones or to show them something really funny or informative. As a brand you have to be present and respond to the need to share information.
- transparency. “Information is everywhere”. Because we share findings, content and opinions with each other, information is accessible to everyone. People go looking for reliable information together instead of consulting companies. With this, the consumer has taken control of companies. As a company it is best to accept that this happens and above all make sure that what is said about you is positive.
In short, you have to gain trust, you have to participate in the conversations, and you have to take transparency into account. Influencer marketing can help with this.
Focus on earned media
Applying influencer marketing means a change in the way of communicating. Where in the traditional model the emphasis is strongly on bought media (such as advertisements), in influencer marketing you focus as much as possible on earned media: 'earning' as much buzz, posts and retweets as possible. The earned media are therefore leading, while the owned media (website, newsletters, Facebook Page, Twitter account) and bought media must support this. In summary, the advice is to shift the focus from advertising to conversations.
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Gain trust with influential experts
People trust experts, often even more than their own friends. With the right experts, trust can be gained effectively and positive word of mouth can be generated. How strong this effect is depends on the influence that an expert has. You can measure this influence with all kinds of tools, such as Klout or Peerindex. Companies are sometimes very creative in including these tools in their influencer marketing, with ethics sometimes not being taken very seriously.
Identify and validate influencers
A disadvantage of tools to measure influencer influence is that they do not look at the relevance of influencers to your brand or group. Therefore, measuring and identifying influencers is still done manually. This pays close attention to the sentiment around the influencer, to what he or she is talking about and how his sound resonates across the internet. In order to determine the influence of influencers as objectively as possible, three criteria are applied:
- authority. To what extent do people view this influencer or hotspot online as an authority in a particular area? Is the influencer credible and knowledgeable? Is the shared opinion relevant and can you rely on it? How many retweets and favorites?
- Activity. Is the influencer active online? How quickly does this person respond, how many updates, postings and interactions take place?
- Audience. What is the audience of this influencer? How many visitors, followers, members, readers, likers, fans and friends does the entity have?
Collecting and merging this data still requires a lot of manual work.
Identifying influencers is just the beginning. What you do next will determine your success in influencer marketing. That is why it is worthwhile to set up a well-thought-out influencer marketing program, in which you at least think carefully about the objective, relevance of the relationship and an appropriate approach to the influencer.
- Objective. Start by setting influencer marketing goals, such as:
- Communication. An influencer can convey a trusted message that goes deeper than your brand's message.
- Trust. An influencer can build trust by mentioning your brand in their communities.
– Branding. The influencer can step in for you and turn a negative perception into a positive perception of your brand within conversations.
- Relevance of the relationship. The influencer should be linked to your brand in a personal, credible way. Determine what the interfaces (the common ground) are between the influencer and your brand, so which domains relevant to your brand refer to the influencer. Find and endorse people who fit your values and goals. Think about how you are going to give the influencer a stage. You may want to invite them to events, be the first to hear breaking news, use them in your communications, work with your products and report, and have a role in product development. Make your influencers important and don't fool them.
- Appropriate approach. Before you make contact with intended influencers, determine how you will shape the interaction with them. Think about the frequency, the tone of voice, ensure buy-in from the management, determine who is in charge of the relationship and through which channels the communication takes place. But also about the follow-up of feedback and feedback to the influencer.
Influencers within the company can also be used effectively. They are often easy to manage, they support your brand and have in-depth knowledge about it. They can play an important role in the influencer marketing program and can also make an important contribution to embedding social media in the company.
After the workshop, I became even more enthusiastic about influencer marketing, which I believe is a powerful tool for online conversations to give a positive impulse about your brand. The many examples of how marketers managed to reach an audience of millions with one or a few influencers underline the potential of this strategy. What the above certainly also makes clear is that it needs a structural approach with vision, patience and direction. Otherwise, influencer marketing can turn into disillusionment for both the brand and the influencer, with all the consequences that entails.