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The in's and out's of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is hot. According to this study, 93% of PR and marketing professionals consider using influencers in their brand awareness strategies. But before you dive into an adventure with a random influencer, be sure you know what you are getting yourself into and why. As with introducing any new strategy or platform, start out with defining your goals and target audience.

What is influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is using influential people to get your message across to target audiences. This practice isn’t new: in 1760, Josiah Westwood used royal endorsements to promote his pottery and chinaware brand. In this day and age, influencer marketing hasn’t changed too much. The message today is quite similar to that of Josiah Westwood’s endorsers. Influencers communicate with their audiences directly (mostly on social media), and are able to endorse a brand or product through their posts. Influencers and brands need to find a way to communicate with the target audience in a way that is authentic, suitable, interesting and entertaining.

One of the biggest differences between influencer marketing and, for example, television commercials, is the rules and regulations influencers need to consider. Since influencer marketing in its current form (focus on social media) is quite new, most countries don’t have a lot of rules and regulations covering sponsored posts and campaigns by influencers. Where ‘traditional’ commercials need to adhere all kinds of rules and regulations, influencer marketing has a bit more freedom to play with. Besides that, sponsored posts by influencers are being received differently than commercials on television or in magazines.

Influencer marketing and PR

Why is influencer marketing important for PR professionals? Influencers already have a following that trusts the influencer and his or her content. PR is about building relationships based on trust, influencers have already done that. By teaming up with a relevant influencer, their following will be introduced to your brand and brand story in a way they will take it more seriously. By building relationships with influencers, you are indirectly connecting with your audience in a very personal and valuable way. Also, influencers can provide valuable insights into your target audiences. Listen to what they have to say!

Word-of-mouth publicity is still the most effective way to promote your business, collaborating with an influencer will ensure a direct connection with your target audience in a way that is perceived as, more or less, word-of-mouth or personal endorsement. Boosting engagement and creating authentic content about a brand are the top benefits of using influencer marketing.

One of the best practices in influencer marketing, is focussing on smaller influencers to target specific audiences instead of focussing on reach. By focussing on smaller influencers, the conversion rates go up compared to the ‘big fish’ that have more followers. The feeling of authenticity and the genuine focus on a specific subject on the channels a smaller influencer uses, help boost the engagement of posts.

Sponsored posts will reach quality prospects when zooming in on a specific audience which is interesting for your brand, and it will increase the credibility of your brand. And, while we’re at it, focussing on vlogs is proving to be a very popular trend. While blogs were the way to go for the past years, vlogs are the name of the game nowadays. Cooperating with vloggers can be done in many ways. Inviting vloggers to your event, creating sponsored content for their online channels or providing interesting samples or trials vloggers can create a video on, are just a few examples of how PR and influencers can cooperate to create engaging content.

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Case study: Daniel Wellington

One of the most inspiring examples of how influencer marketing can help boost a brand, is Daniel Wellington. This brand was founded in 2011 and produces unisex watches. By focussing on influencer marketing through Instagram, the company sold their millionth watch in 2014. They reached out to both top tier and smaller influencers to boost their brand, and inspires their customers with photo contests to upload pictures with their watch using the hashtag #danielwellington. By providing unique discount codes for each influencer, they were able to track the traffic an influencer attracted and inspire the influencer to actively encourage their followers to buy a watch.

This resulted in a mix of professional and user generated content that all boosted the same hashtag. One of the reasons Daniel Wellington is doing so well, is that they were one of the first to spot and use influencers on Instagram to boost brand awareness. By reposting user generated content to their massively popular Instagram page, users are continuously invited to upload photos of their watches using the hashtag. The buzz that surrounds the brand has not faded and the focus on influencer marketing has proven to be a successful strategy.

Lessons learned from influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is not just a new trend in marketing, it is an indicator of the changing field of PR, marketing and content. The direct and authentic communication to a specific audience that makes influencers as popular as they are, is just one of the many reasons we should pay attention to the developments in this field. The main lessons we can learn from looking at influencer marketing are:

  • Target specific audiences to boost engagement and conversion, instead of focussing on reach. By focussing on a specific group, you are able to connect with them on the platform they are at in a way they like to be addressed. Your audience isn’t ‘everyone’, so don’t try to reach everyone.

  • Conversion is key. You could reach a million people with a post. If none of them subscribe to your newsletter or request information, what’s the point? Make sure the effort you make serves your goal.

  • It’s all about relationships. Your clients, prospects, audience and community, you need a healthy relationship with them in order to keep them satisfied. This means giving and taking, building trust and meeting the expectations of your audience.

  • Relationships are built on trust. Make sure you present yourself as a trustworthy source of information. Influencers who post too many sponsored posts are in danger of being viewed as a ‘sell-out’, which will defeat your purpose. Focus on sharing content that adds value.

  • Become a thought leader or even an influencer yourself by sharing valuable content, nurturing relationships with other influencers and your community, and focussing on a relevant niche.

Are you ready to dive into the world of influencers? Make sure you specify your goal, target audience and strategy. With that in mind, do some research to find the influencers that best fit your goal, audience and brand, and to think of ways to cooperate with these influencers. When you make sure your collaboration makes sense to your target audience, influencers might be a great new addition to your PR strategy.

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