The client conversation around influencer marketing is changing. When agencies first began pitching influencers as part of a brand’s social strategy, they spent a lot of time answering “what?” and “why?” But as a recent study by Tomoson Research shows, influencer marketing is now “the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel—beating organic search, paid search and email marketing.” Not to mention, nearly 60% of marketers plan to increase their ad budgets to accommodate influencer marketing efforts in the year ahead.
With proof points like these, influencers are no longer a tough sell to clients:
- 92% of consumers are more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions.
- On average, businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent.
- Influencer marketing has 11 times the ROI of a banner advertising campaign.
- Marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.
While it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, there’s still much to learn about what makes a successful influencer program. And while agencies may not have to spend as much time answering “why?”—there’s still the very important question of “how do we do it right?”
Here are five of the most common questions about influencers and the answers an agency needs in order to demonstrate expertise in the space and gain buy-in from clients.
1. What Is the Goal of the Program?
Make no mistake, this is the single most important question to consider when developing (and eventually pitching) an influencer program. Before even thinking about who the influencers will be or what they will create, marketers must identify specific, measurable goals. Should the program increase awareness? Generate new followers? Drive sales?
According to a recent survey evaluating the current state of influencer marketing:
- 89% of marketers used influencers to create authentic content for their brand
- 77% used them to drive engagement
- 56% used them to drive traffic to their websites or landing pages
It should go without saying that the goal of the program should also align with the project brief. A successful influencer program is useless if its outcome does not address the ask of the client.
2. How Will We Measure Success?
For 2017, 78% of marketers have cited measuring the ROI of influencer marketing as a top challenge, making it important for agencies to identify which metrics they’ll monitor to measure the program’s success. Meanwhile, 81% of marketers cite engagement as their top metric for measuring influencer marketing success, meaning how many likes, shares and comments the various pieces of content received.
Marketers may also consider tracking traffic and conversions, especially if the program’s goal is an increase in sales. Using trackable links, promo codes and monitoring correlation are just a few ways an agency can propose tracking these markers.
3. Who Are the Right Influencers?
Marketers, repeat after us: fit over followers. One of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make when choosing potential influencers is focusing too much on the number of followers. What good is a million followers if they’re not the right audience for the brand? The personality, values and previous content of potential influencers have to be a good fit for the brand or the program will fail. And it may take a little research to find that information out.
When pitching potential influencers to clients, it’s helpful to include example posts that both demonstrate their fit with the brand and showcase the quality of their content. And even though it’s not the reason they were chosen, it may be smart to include their potential reach as well to strengthen the business case.
4. What Will They Create?
Once an agency has identified the influencer or influencers for the program, it’s time to decide what type of content they’ll create. Knowing the specific ask will help align client, agency and influencer expectations and will make reaching out to the influencer a much smoother process. It’s also easier to quote rates when the influencers have an idea about how much time and effort is expected of them.
Agencies should take into account the program goal, their desired measurement, as well as the influencers’ own content when deciding what to ask for. For example, don’t ask for a blog post if the influencer’s strength is photography.
Marketers also have to consider FTC regulations, which require influencers to disclose when content is part of a paid partnership. There are various ways to do this, but most often we see posts labeled with an #ad or #spon hashtag. It’s imperative that the branded content be just as compelling and entertaining as the rest of the influencer’s content—or else it will stick out like a sore thumb and the influencer’s audience won’t trust it.
5. Should We Pay Them?
To gift, or to pay: that is one of the most common client questions. And in order to answer it correctly, marketers must consider the pros and cons of both gifting and paying an influencer. The biggest pro of gifting is obvious—free marketing. But cons can include no guarantee of quality or positive sentiment, no control over the message and no ownership over the content that’s created. It also may be more difficult to find an influencer with good reach if they believe their value is worth more than just a free sample.
When you offer payment, those influencers with a strong, solid audience are more likely to be on board. Plus it gives marketers more creative, and legal, ownership of the content. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether an agency gifts or pays an influencer, a paid partnership must be disclosed to abide by FTC regulations.
Influencer rates vary and can depend on his or her follower count. According to a study done by Influence.co on Instagram influencer payment, the overall average cost per Instagram post was $271; an influencer with fewer than 1,000 followers (also called a micro-influencer) was $83 per post; and the average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $763 per post.
When offering compensation to an influencer, agencies need to take into account the type of content they’re requesting, the influencer’s follower count, the project’s budget and FTC regulations.
Influencers aren’t just successful in attracting new business for brands; they also recruit more loyal customers. In fact, Forbes.com found that customers acquired through influencer marketing have a 37% higher retention rate. But without the right strategy in place, poorly planned influencer marketing can backfire—and both brands and influencers can run the risk of damaging their respective reputations, or even running into legal trouble. Agencies who take the time to ask and answer the right questions will not only gain the trust and confidence of their clients, but it will also set their influencer program up for success from the outset.
Lizz Kannenberg: Lizz is the Director of Content at Sprout Social. A career social strategist and creative lead for social content, Lizz strives to create relevance between communicators and audiences through useful information and resonant stories. She has developed and executed social content campaigns for CPG, automotive, alc/bev, government and lifestyle clients by creating credible, compelling conversations between brands and communities. Offline she can usually be found playing bass in an indie rock band or out exploring with her husband and young son.