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A number of years ago, I wrote a Blog here entitled ‘Why I don’t care about Influencers and neither should you’.

As someone who now runs an Integrated Marketing agency with a specialist Influencer Marketing offering, I felt it appropriate to revisit the topic and discuss how the industry has, and continues to mature.

Yes, the title of my previous post was supposed to be controversial. I’m well aware of the idea – if it bleeds it leads and headlines that agitate, draw people in. That being said – times change and I have recently asked myself, what parts of that original post still hold true?

Well firstly I’ll say, I really didn’t think Influencer Marketing was a buzz term that had longevity. I have always believed there are people who wield influence and in that lies an opportunity for brands, but I figured people would see it for what it is – a practice savvy operators have always done. The only difference is, the influencers and the industry they find themselves in has evolved and that won’t stop.

Today there are so many kinds of influencers who have varying degrees of authority within their chosen space. It’s why as an industry we must be very careful about the wide-ranging ways of identifying and engaging influencers and tread with caution to ensure we don’t over-simplify the process of connecting with them in a meaningful way.

Brand managers will tell you, the time and energy spent considering how to establish an identity, produce content, and then amplify it through the correct strategy can be gruelling. There are so many factors that come into it. So, while I’m a technologist – there is an arm wrestle playing out in front of our eyes that restricts analytical tools’ effectiveness in their ability to intuitively pair influencers with brands in a universally impactful way.

Do automation tools have a role to play? Certainly. But they are not a panacea. Ultimately what I wrote all those years ago still holds true – “you want meaningful connections that build trusted relationships”. Influencers at the end of the day are still people, so when you start thinking about them as Social Media handles in a database, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Like I said then, it means rethinking your motives. So, what should you be aiming for today with Influencer Marketing?

Collaboration

Despite what some people might have you believe, influencers are not advertisers – or at least they shouldn’t be. Influencers should have a real reason to engage with your brand and this should be part of a long term, integrated strategy that has real purpose and clearly defined measurements of success. To maximise your return on investment, make sure there is genuine interest in the brand, product or service. Get the influencer involved in the planning stages of your marketing strategy to ensure you are working with them. They can’t be an afterthought. You will be amazed at how much more impactful influencer campaigns are when you aren’t just thinking of influencers as a channel, as much as an asset that helps create an experience. 

Commercialisation 

Influencer campaigns are a fantastic opportunity to tell a story about how we can now show the financial return of the work we do. But you must plan for it from the outset with clearly defined KPIs. It’s not something you can report on afterwards if you really want to show the impact a campaign has had on your business. Not all influencer campaigns will be about making sales, but if you aren’t thinking about how the activity can drive the propensity to purchase you’re missing a trick.

Context

As mentioned earlier, there are many different types of influencers, but there are also many different moments that can be leveraged to hero these partnerships. Have you considered building an influencer program in its entirety? Something that’s not just tactical – but allows you to strategically deliver on micro-moments when they arise, as well as bigger activations when the time is right. Think too about how you can infuse their content across multiple channels. Is it fuelling your internal comms? Is it featured in your ATL creative? The thing is – influencer marketing works best when it becomes an omni-channel approach. This way you will always have context and can better deliver a more powerful outcome.

Yes, some things change, but others stay the same. If you aren’t thinking about influencers as people first you will fall short in connecting meaningfully with your customers. Don’t forget – that’s the point.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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