The influencer marketing industry is bigger than it ever has been. Brands are now engaging both the largest influencers and micro-influencers, and at my agency, we've even adopted the unconventional strategy of having me act as our in-house influencer.

The rewards for a well-run influencer campaign can be great -- but as a brand or a business owner, what do you need to do to get the most out of an influencer marketing campaign? Beyond all the buzz, what does it take to structure and execute a successful influencer marketing campaign?

Here are three bullet-proof guidelines you can use to make the most of your influencer campaigns -- along with some real-world examples to illustrate each point. 

1. Product always comes first.

It goes without saying that all business success starts with a great product, but this becomes especially true in influencer marketing campaigns. That's because ultimately, the goal of a large-scale influencer campaign isn't just about paid posts: it's about using those paid posts to generate organic placements from smaller influencers. The better the product, the easier that will be and the higher the ROI of the campaign.

In my own experience with influencer marketing for my agency brand, product quality has been essential. We created a lifestyle fashion line around Rootstrap's brand and used influencer marketing to promote it, but it would've been useless if the clothing wasn't great on its own. Ultimately, influencer marketing is a form of word-of-mouth marketing -- and word of mouth only works if the product is good enough to warrant spreading the word.

2. Aim for the ripple effect.

Gaining conversions from a sponsored influencer post is great, but using your paid influencer posts to generate organic posts from smaller influencers is even better. This is something that INIKA Organic, a breakout makeup brand that's recently cracked the U.S. market, did flawlessly in a recent influencer campaign.

INIKA's idea was to use paid placements strategically to create a "ripple" effect, choosing large influencers who would create the social proof necessary for smaller influencers to review the products organically. To that end, the goal with each sponsored post wasn't necessarily to create a high monetary return from that particular post -- it was to influence the mid-tier, small, and micro-influencers within that influencer's network to pick up the products on their own. For INIKA, the strategy worked well. From only 5-6 paid posts, they generated more than 20 organic placements with smaller influencers, reaching over 20 million on-target customers.

The secret to success here is to choose your larger influencers carefully. For example, one of the influencers INIKA engaged for the campaign was Liz Turner, a vegan supermodel who only uses vegan products. This not only fits INIKA's target demographic, but it also allows it to organically activate smaller vegan beauty influencers. This video by the YouTuber CrueltyFreeVeganBeauty is a perfect example: it's an organic product review by a small influencer, given freely due to the buzz around INIKA's products.

3. Use a pyramid-shaped campaign to create a wave of buzz.

That said, no influencer campaign can work by operating only at the highest levels. The idea is to create the illusion of a movement, which then precipitates the movement itself. To do that, it's critical to engage multiple tiers of influencers. Jewelry brand APM Monaco's new #APMFunCrazyLove campaign provides a great example of this: they engaged both A-list fashion icons like Kristina Bazan as well as dozens of fashion micro-influencers like Chloe Lloyd.

The result is something of a "pyramid-shaped" influencer campaign, with the brand employing a few high-level influencers and a larger collection of mid-tier and micro-influencers. The pyramid approach feels more like an organic wave of buzz -- and consequently, it's more likely to create one. This is a powerful strategy, especially when each influencer is selected strategically to activate smaller influencers in their network.

In my opinion, influencer marketing is one of the most important channels for any business moving forward. I've seen the power firsthand at my agency. As digitally-savvy consumers lose faith in traditional advertising, social proof and social selling will only grow in importance -- and influencer marketing is a vital piece of any B2C company's marketing strategy over the next five years. By structuring campaigns strategically and following principles like these, you can ensure it's a piece that generates massive ROI for your business.

Published on: Jul 18, 2018