My last article on influencer marketing covered declining standards in influencer marketing. Many readers were left asking, “How do we then create effective influencer marketing programs?”
In order to be effective, communications professionals must first remember what influencer marketing is and isn’t:
Influencer Marketing is the process of identifying, researching, engaging and supporting the people who create the conversations impacting your brand, products or services.
Furthermore, marketing professionals must equip themselves with the right tools, ask the right questions and have a concrete understanding of outcomes they’re seeking from their efforts. In order to do that, we must rely on more than just intuition or be usurped by pretty visuals; we need concrete tools. Here’s a look at two softwares and two areas of understanding – context and ROI – that any marketer must have knowledge of in order to be successful.
How To Identify Media Outlets and Individual Influencers
Want to find media outlets and individual influencers? Start with GroupHigh. GroupHigh is influencer identification software that allows brands, marketers and communications professionals to manage influencer marketing efforts in efficient ways. The company believes that the secret to successful outreach revolves around building relationships, and it has designed the software help accomplish that.
Example: So let’s say you are creating a campaign that needs to target influencers and media outlets in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco with large presences on Instagram and YouTube, allows guest posts and heavily influences the conversation around social cause awareness. GroupHigh will help you find the appropriate outlets.
GroupHigh is the evolution of more traditional PR tools such as Vocus. Their software allows users to import their existing media lists from spreadsheets, lists of direct urls (it even scans blogrolls) or create lists from their custom search engine that covers hundreds of thousands of blogs.
Once a media list is created, users will not only get the blog’s contact information, they will also get all of that outlet’s SEO, social media and traffic data. The social media analytics include total number of followers, individual followers numbers, likes by network (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram), average number of post shares and frequency of article posts.
The SEO data, a combination of Compete and SEOMoz, provides the total monthly traffic, MozRank, unique views per month, number of inbound links and Alexa ranking. The information the software provides also tells you which outlets allow guest posts, sponsored posts and giveaways. It also lets you filter by topics an outlet heavily influences or that an individual is passionate about.
GroupHigh then allows you to customize lists based on geographic location, topics, and social media networks you’re looking to target. Best of all, an individual or a team can track the communication stages as GroupHigh allows users to track and organize their outreach campaigns via the software and their own email inboxes.
GroupHigh is predominantly used by PR and marketing firms. But, according to co-founder Bill Brennan, in the past year, one third of its clients have brought marketing in-house and now leverage the software directly. This includes companies such as Home Depot, Williams Sonoma, Hills Pet, Mario Badescu Skin Care, Omaha Steaks and the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Communications professionals are starting to understand that they can establish direct relationships with bloggers,” said Brennan. “They’re finding that they’re able to create an ongoing alignment to brand campaigns. Judging by our clientele, brands are starting to understand the long term benefits of building direct relationships. By owning the relationship and engaging the blog or influencer themselves, as opposed to paying for posts via a blog network, they lay the foundation for future engagements as well.” The end result of in-house influencer marketing has been higher response to brand initiatives as tailored pitches are better received.
Influencer Identification and Strategy Development
Once you’ve identified the right outlets, you want to make sure you reach the right people. In some cases, marketers are not even concerned with media outlets, and want to go straight to the individual people fueling conversations and dialogues around trends and topics relevant to their product, cause or company.
Well, this can’t be achieved with general social monitoring tools, they only help organize the noise. To have an impact, you need a way to filter out the noise and focus on the people at the heart of conversation and content that matters to your business. That’s where Traackr comes in.
“Everyone wants insights, those golden nuggets of information presented in the right context at the right time that will help you make the best decisions and take the right actions,” says Evy Wilkins, Vice President of Marketing for Traackr. “Every piece of information we surface is intended to help communications professionals build effective strategies, stay on top of dynamic conversations and coordinate social initiatives with confidence.”
In 2007, influencer marketing was still being developed. But now, brands and communication professionals know the value points they’re looking for and they want simple, efficient ways in which to identify influencers. But with that, they need to surface meaningful data as well, and that data is based on contextual analysis of an individual person’s relevance, reach and resonance on a particular topic or set of topics.
According to Traackr CEO, Pierre-Loic Assayag, context is the most accurate way to identify the people who move the social conversation you’re interested in. Context is defined by the topic they engage in, the intent behind your campaign, the location of influencers (both physical and virtual), and the timing. When you engage people in context via the social (Twitter, Pinterest) or digital (blogs) channel you’ve chosen and provide them with content by that platform they’re interested in, you’ll get the best results.
Contextual analysis provides several added benefits that I don’t think many marketers, let alone general communications practitioners, understand yet.
Strategically, contextual analysis allows for editorial planning and strategy development. Contextual analysis allows preemptive strikes. The ability to access real-time data that you can then filter to an event or set of relevant events allows for companies and marketers to assess conversations that would positively or negatively affect product or campaign launches.
Tactically, contextual analysis allows our conversations to remain socially dynamic, fluid and flexible. Context is about timing. So contextual analysis and monitoring of social conversations allows us to create content relevant to trending topics and events as they’re happening and gives us the opportunity to ride a wave already forming. When there’s a change in conversation, the content we’ve created can be redirected or removed based upon how it may be or may not be received. We can also change the conversations we’re having with our core customers to maximize or diffuse an event or situation.
Contextual analysis also provides powerful market research and trend forecasting alternatives. It can provide marketers with a 10,000 foot view of what’s coming next, especially if they know what they’re looking for. By monitoring what questions are asked, marketers can identify where there are holes in conversation that they could strategically fill. The conversation NOT happening around an event is a powerful way to gain the eyeballs you’re seeking.
For example, during SXSW this year, I was watching the [lack of] conversation surrounding Big Data. While many media outlets and marketers felt SXSW failed them once again, the insights from VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, Nate Elliot, surrounding contextual use of data has led to online and offline conversations for weeks amongst agencies and media professionals.
Elliot’s conversation was yet another tipping point for direct and secondary questions around who owns data. Existentialists are questioning if we are creating artificial intelligences that no human can understand while agencies are trying to figure out how brands can humanize technology and how they can own data that they can then sell to their clients.
These questions will automatically lead to conversation increases surrounding the topics of privacy and government regulation of data. If I worked for a company with products tied to data and predictive behavioral analysis, I’d be figuring out how to leverage these conversations immediately, not find myself reading about Grumpy Cat’s SXSW excursions.
Content Is King, Context Is Emperor
“If content is king, context is emperor.” says Assayag. “The bottom line: to succeed in online influencer relations, you first need to discover the right people.” Traackr’s sophisticated algorithms surface actionable pieces of information. The software not only helps you identify the right people, it provides qualitative and quantitative analytic insights to influencer impact and competitive analysis of share of voice and sentiment of like company products or services. “While Radian6 gives a good high level picture of the online conversation, Traackr narrows the playing field to hone in on the top people,” shared Assayag. “Their opinion carries more weight and has more impact as those people represent more than themselves; they represent the community behind them. Smaller playing fields also mean manageable playing fields to surface actionable insights and tailor an engagement strategy.”
As with GroupHigh, Traackr has seen a shift in its clientele. In the past two years, its brand clients have increased from 10 percent to 33 percent. Brands are bringing the practices of influencer marketing in-house and connecting it to their enterprise software suites powered by Salesforce’s Radian6 or Adobe Social.
The Evolution Of ROI & ROR
There’s been extensive maturity in the ways marketers look at the meaning of ROI. When you’re a traditional company, you need to measure return on investment for business. You’d look to your campaigns to provide cost effective solutions to increase revenue.
So in the past six months, there has been a surge in awareness around influencer marketing, engagement techniques and the tools available to marketers,” shared Wilkins. “Marketers know that popularity-based applications such as Kred and Klout created confusion about true influence. There is now a very clear and accepted distinction between social scoring platforms and contextual influence softwares.”
Marketers realized that metrics only had meaning if they were tied to revenue, just as a “Like” on Facebook or Pinterest only has value if it to were tied to an action. But today, there are no universal metrics for success, because success of a campaign depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
“When social was just getting started, some players in the industry were able to sell to major companies based on very shallow success metrics that if you were to just scratch the surface of what they truly mean, you’d doubt the realness of their impact on the business,” said Assayag. “Brands have now realized that those who generated the most buzz and impressions didn’t necessarily move the needle.” Marketers are going to see influencer marketing and performance being correlated to data and sales.
As marketers change the way they measure ROI, they’re also seeing the rise of ROR – or the focus on Return on Relationship. ROR balances ROI, as starting a relationship with an influencer make take time to build and meet the end goal of company marketing initiatives.
Another trend that was present at SXSW 2013 this year, though unbeknownst to most of most of the attendees, was the need take the influencer marketing conversation to the next level:
Popularity should not be confused with influence.
There’s a dire need for marketers to move from building campaigns to building relationships. It’s no longer about pushing campaigns out; it’s about people/conversations/media.
Marketers need to rethink scale. They should not be seduced by big, yet empty numbers; they should focus on a smaller few to reach a bigger, broader, more engaged audience.
In essence, it’s time to focus on the art and science that influencer marketing is becoming. If brands and marketers focus on cultivating their processes, they’ll be able to create fruitful relationships with influencers.
Example: Make Influencers Lives Easier
Marketers need to find opportunities to make influencers’ lives better in some way. If you’re a B2B marketer, if you can help them develop original content, that helps the further cultivate their community. Give them studies you’ve conducted at no cost. For Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing, this can yield more than a 1,000 social shares in a few short days.
Influencer Marketing Now Varies By Platform
Another new influencer marketing strategy is that communication efforts are now also being sliced by platforms and channel. When you’re creating an engagement strategy, you may find the influencer you’re targeting may not blog or tweet; they pin on Pinterest or have large audiences on YouTube. So now, the content sent to influencers is shifting.
The short answer is that an influencer cannot be defined. You can’t force someone to lie down in an influencer mold and there they will stay for every campaign for every brand. You can’t quantify an influencer with a number like Klout or Twitter followers. In fact, an influencer is unique to every brand and brand’s campaign. Popularity doesn’t equate to influence. – Kristen Matthews, GroupHigh, Community Manager
Thinking Dynamically and Non Traditionally
It’s important to take into consideration that platform popularity ebbs and flows; all things rise and fall. If marketers rely too heavily on one platform to run a campaign, they may be looking at the wrong set of data. So it’s important to work across channels, look at the entire digital world. Since marketers can’t control distribution of media or methods in which it’s distributed, it is important to remain fluid.
Marketers may find the need to include infographics, visual content created specifically for Pinterest and videos directly related to vloggers to come into play in their content strategy. However, the must be able to change the content required for success if what they’ve provided doesn’t work.
It’s also important to remember that influencer softwares aren’t a silver bullet in building successful programs. These softwares are the starting points to build a project, campaign or longer term marketing program. You need to build a strategy around the information they yield and integrate it your action plans.
Photos: Inception The Movie & Get Hooked 360