Alex Frias is founder of talent social, a social matching agency that connects brands with lifestyle social influencers to create and amplify content, and co-founder and president of Track Marketing Group, an award winning integrated brand experience agency that blends live event experiences and social conversations. Follow Alex on Twitter @iamalexfrias.
Influencer marketing has become a dirty word. Not because of the bastardization of the term or the immediate emotions that they stir up in the mind of every marketer, but because of the lack of evolution in implementation.
As digital advertising has ridden the evolutionary wave over the past decade--from email to display, rich media, social, and finally to the latest darling, native advertising--influencer marketing has been present in different incarnations along the way.
Unfortunately, influencer marketing's social maturation hasn't been as defined as digital advertising's timeline, with many marketers still implementing the same influencer/tastemaker/blogger (insert any other one of your favorite adjectives here) strategies as they were a decade ago, delivering empty impression-based results that look and sound good, but don't affect their brand's business.
That's not good enough anymore. Welcome to Influencer Marketing 2.0. Below are five ways to leverage social influence to drive real-world actions:
1. Co-create content.
One of the pillars of Influencer Marketing 2.0 revolves around co-creating socially native content with your influencers. Using stock photos of your product is too stiff and won't create the brand halo effect you are looking for. Your influencers will be turned off and their communities will see right through it.
You are tapping into influencers because you are looking to borrow their equity and need to give them the social authority to integrate your brand into their conversation sphere. The more authentic the activity, the more likely it will speak to your target consumer.
2. Customize each campaign to match each influencer.
As marketers, we are trained (or we learn by fire) to set goals and objectives, program plans, product roadmaps, content calendars, etc. For your influencer campaign to reach its maximum potential impression, reach and consumer influence, you must create a "Wide Lane" influencer program.
That is, we need to define our brand's challenge, set clear campaign objectives and define our audience upfront. That program setup will allow us to properly identify the best influencers for our brand, product and program. What we don't want to do is define what our influencers need to say, how to say it and when to say it. Consumers are savvy and can sense ghost copywriting (or tweet writing) a mile away.
One of my favorite "Seinfeld" episodes is the 150th episode, called "The Pothole." In it, Kramer repaints a four-lane highway to two extra-wide lanes with the intent to make it more luxurious. Unfortunately for Kramer, this only resulted in mass confusion and congestion from the highway drivers.
Creating a Wide Lane program allows our influencers to have the steering room to create something that's truly native to their audience.
3. Give your influencers something that they value (...that doesn't always mean money).
After years of speaking, working and spending time with influencers, I can safely say that true influencers tend to be right-brain dominant. For those of you who didn't pay attention in Psychology 101, that's the creative side of the brain. Money isn't the primary motivation; it's a secondary goal. Their primary motivator, much like many of the Millennials that we are targeting, is passion and excitement for what they do. That's why they are who they are, and that's why they have such a social following.
When you are evaluating how to incentivize a prospective influencer, remember this and think about what would resonate most with that individual. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you're trying to find someone to talk about something as exciting as a medical ointment, you might need to financially motivate them. But don't underestimate what a complimentary Uber car ride and a store credit can do to persuade someone who's passionate about their craft AND your brand's industry.
4. Set realistic goals.
Many influencer campaigns fail before they even start because of unrealistic goals. Are you looking to generate brand awareness? Are you trying to grow the brand's social footprint? Looking to drive mobile app installs? Are e-commerce sales the sole barometer of success?
Influencer marketing is a magical combination of data-driven ROI and intangible social awareness and brand halo. Make sure you define the objective and success metrics at the start of the campaign, as that will help you determine the programming platform, consumer call to action and most importantly, a realistic cost per acquisition--however you define acquisition.
5. Identify your 'social maker.'
The "mommy blogger" phenomenon the past few years created a digital revolution and, subsequently, a marketing stigma where popular online writers have almost universally been labeled as influencers.
Influencer Marketing 2.0 doesn't believe that is real influence. Real influence doesn't start online. It doesn't start offline. It's something that connects the social world and the real world.
At talent social, the social influencer agency that I founded, we define our influencer network as Social Makers. What is a Social Maker? Social Makers are influencers who have digital reach AND offline influence. These are influencers who are shaping, moving and creating things that their communities can actually look, feel, touch and ultimately consume.
Identify your brand's Social Makers and you can create a social influencer platform that drives social awareness AND real-world action.