By Jonathan Long, founder of Uber Brands
Influencer marketing is a huge boon for marketers today. Many companies -- mine included -- are developing new brands with influencer marketing in mind as the number-one sales channel. The reason why is simple: Consumers turn to people they respect and look up to for recommendations.
From celebrities and athletes to industry experts and local personalities, you have the ability to leverage the influence these individuals possess to recommend your product or service and introduce it to their audiences.
Influencer marketing works well, but only when done right. It doesn't matter which platforms you are focused on -- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube. Here are five things you need to do to ensure your next campaign delivers the returns you are after.
1. Be fully transparent.
Make sure that any influencer you use to promote your offer makes it very clear that it's an advertisement. A simple #ad hashtag does the trick -- and platforms like Instagram and Facebook make it easy for influencers to note the post as a paid partnership.
There are two reasons why this is important. First, consumers are much smarter than they were years ago when it comes to promotional content. If an ad is posted without it being clearly identified as such, the comments will often turn against you. This is a bad look for your brand, as well as the influencer.
Second, the FTC isn't playing around about endorsements. To leave any and all doubt on the table, I recommend reading the FTC's updated guide.
2. Let the influencer dictate how he or she presents the offer.
While you may know your product or service inside and out, you don't know the influencer's audience better than they do. I see too many brands create content -- video and image -- and have an influencer post it.
It doesn't perform well because it sticks out like a sore thumb. It reeks of an ad. For the best results, give full control over how your product or service is promoted to the influencer. Letting them introduce it to their audience in a natural way will result in a better response.
3. Niche down your audience.
Stop looking at follower count. It's irrelevant. Let's say you sell high-quality iPhone cases with a built-in emergency back-up battery. Rather than approaching an Instagram model with 3.5 million followers, look for a microinfluencer that has a tech review YouTube channel or blog. Their audience, regardless of size, will be much more responsive to your offer.
Also, the cost for that promotional post will often be a small fraction of what you would pay a larger influencer. When you learn how to identify these microinfluencers, it enables you to scale your effort and see a nice return.
4. Have specific objectives and a way to measure overall success.
You can't just throw money and product at a handful of influencers, sit back and expect the sales to roll in. You need a plan.
While Instagram is the most popular platform for influencer marketing currently, it's also one of the most difficult in terms of measuring success and results. Instagram doesn't allow links in post captions, so most campaigns will often refer to a bio link or direct the audience to follow the account of the company.
While Instagram's "Stories" feature allows verified accounts or those with at least 10,000 followers to include a link, regular posts still pose a hurdle in terms of tracking. Clunky affiliate tracking links don't mesh well on Instagram, so I suggest incorporating a coupon code for tracking purposes.
If an influencer includes a code that offers a discount, it not only drives more conversions but also helps you determine just how much business was sent via each influencer currently involved in a campaign. You can also use coupon code tracking as a way to give bonuses to top-performing influencers -- you will often see a bit more effort in their promotional efforts.
5. Understand that a one-and-done approach will fail.
In my experience, brands that say influencer marketing doesn't work come to that conclusion after just one or two campaigns. If you are expecting instant results, save your time and money.
If you look at the brands crushing it via influencer marketing, you will see that they have long-term deals with their top-performing influencers. Why? Because it often takes multiple touches for an audience to bite.
Consumers that convert on promoted offers are doing so because they trust the recommendation of the person introducing them to the product or service, and achieving this level of trust will often take multiple mentions and introductions.
Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, an e-commerce brand development agency.