Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that brand interest in influencer marketing is skyrocketing. While estimates for total brand investment in the sector vary, it is widely believed that major brands will spend $5 billion to $10 billion a year on influencers in 2020. Of that total, an estimated $2.2 billion will be spent on Instagram alone. So everybody’s doing it but only a fraction of the world’s largest brands are doing it as well as they should. Like any other area of marketing, results are best when a program is guided by both sound strategy and a well-planned marketing process. If you want to launch highly effective influencer programs, here are seven simple steps to getting influencer marketing right. 

1. Nail your objectives before planning your program

Like every other marketing channel, influencer programs perform best when goals and objectives are clearly defined before program development begins. Influencer marketing can support a host of different objectives, from new awareness to influencing consideration, delivering product news and promotions, driving purchases, and even fostering evangelism or advocacy. However, the tactics and influencers you use to deliver against each of these objectives might vary considerably because the goals and measures are so different. By taking the time to focus on clear objectives, you empower yourself and your team to craft exactly the right program and tactics for your business. Many brands try to rush this step. But careful consideration here helps ensure that all aspects of your influencer marketing initiative are aligned to real business needs. 

2. Get sound measurement in place

Whatever your goals, it’s critical that you accurately measure the impact of your influencer program on these dimensions. Obviously, the metrics you use for one objective like awareness building are very different than for programs that are intended to drive direct sales. Fortunately, new alliances are forming between partner and affiliate toolsets and influencer platforms. These partnerships facilitate all types of measurement necessary for typical marketing objectives. Make sure your internal stakeholders are comfortable with the measurement approach you choose before fielding a program so that you can accurately measure outcomes. 

3. Identify the right influencers

Though this one may seem obvious, it bears mentioning that the right influencers are essential to delivering meaningful results, whatever your objectives. Influencer identification is also the place where lots of brands go wrong. Getting influence right is about finding the people who have the right audience, credibility, and passion for the category or product. Naturally, the number of followers and their engagement level varies considerably by influencer. Some have literally millions of followers, others only thousands. To be sure, scale matters but so equally do credibility and authority. While a mega-celebrity endorsement can be right for some brands, many find that passionate experts with more compact followings deliver better results, particularly for brand objectives other than awareness. Vetting the engagement level of an influencer’s audience can be an important part of the process. Research shows that there tends to be an inverse correlation between influencer engagement and follower count. 

4. Align your compensation model to your goals

There are four key compensation models for influencer: pay-per-post, pay-per-engagement, pay-per-sale, and gifting-product-for-consideration. Many programs incorporate more than one of these payment models, particularly when they are built around multiple objectives. The best programs align payment schemes to business objectives. For example, a program designed to drive direct sales is going to be best served with a compensation approach that places some or all emphasis on pay-per-sale. 

5. Set your content strategy and parameters

With influencer programs, you can develop content jointly or rely on influencers to do it themselves. Unless your brand has very challenging brand guidelines or regulatory requirements, allowing influencers to develop its own content generally yields greater participation, increased influencer commitment, and often, better results. The key is to carefully define the parameters for great content – the do’s and don’tsthat can help guide influencers to create messages you will welcome. Enabling influencer creativity can also help a brand build a big set of assets for future marketing.

6. Field your program

Kick-off your program and provide clear and frequent updates that encourage your influencers to do more. Celebrate their successes. Give them insights into what is working with other influencers. For your most important influencers, provide updates on their performance so they can take appropriate action to get the best possible outcomes. Keep a constant eye on the performance of your campaign against its key goals. Watch for signals that specific initiatives are performing really well – or poorly. 

7. Pay on time every time

Many influencers earn most or all of their income from their followings. The best way to forge a great relationship with an influencer is to pay them well and on-time. To boil it down to an oversimplification, people have to make rent. If you and your brand pay according to your stated terms, you’ll find the best influencers anxious to work with you – now and into the future. 
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