Blog, Boelter Lincoln, Influencer Marketing, Millennials

Influencers are essential to marketing in the digital space. These social figures develop and engage with a community of followers around a certain topic of interest (for example, healthy eating, outdoor adventure or even topics as narrow as claymation). As brands try to tap into these hyper-focused communities, ”influencer marketing” has emerged as a valuable strategy. It’s frustrating though that this term has become such a buzzword that the variety and complexities of successful campaigns go unnoticed.

When it comes to finding, selecting and collaborating with influencers, think about it like picking an ideal circle of friends, surrounding yourself with people who share the same interests. The goal is always to garner organic relationships and exposure, but in many word of mouth driven product categories, such as food and beverage, high-impact influencers are increasingly looking for paid partnerships. To help evaluate these proposals, we’ve developed a process for systematically ranking influencers (called the Influencer Power Index or “IPI”), which uses a blended output of both qualitative and quantitative data for both paid and organic opportunities.

Even without an equation-based tool, marketers should take some basic steps to evaluate influencers. Here are four tips to consider when publicizing a brand via the dense, diverse network of digital influencers across social platforms, blogs and even, *gasp* traditional media.

  1. Are they the life of the party?

When first casting a net to find brand friends, it’s easy to be star struck by the numbers, specifically sheer follower count. A hefty following is only a qualifier for a worthwhile influencer partnership. Instead, determining the engagement within a given community is key.

Let’s say a product is mentioned on Instagram page A that totes a follower count of 200,000 and averages 2% engagement (4,000 followers engaged). Instagram page B only has a follower base of 90,000, but averages a 7% engagement (6,300 followers engaged). In this case, Instagram page B offers a greater quantifiable impact, despite the smaller following.

Even if the impact of B had been slightly lower than A, the small, tight-knit community of Instagram B might still be your best choice. In fact, 54% of consumers believe the smaller the community, the bigger the influence.

  1. Are they authentic?

Strong friendships usually form with people who are honest and trustworthy. Quality influencers are no different. They develop a following with consumers because they offer an unbiased, insider opinion about a niche segment of culture.

The fact is, only 22% of brands are trusted, emphasizing that any worthwhile digital influencer will produce content that is honest and retains a non-sponsored tone no matter if the partnership is paid or organic. Even more glaring, 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. The quickest way to a failed campaign is to put a brand story or product in the hands of an influencer that resorts to sales jargon 101. You know your brand voice. Gut instinct doesn’t lie when it comes to an influencer’s ability to keep that voice genuine.

  1. Do you share common interests?

Community size? Check. Authentic? You bet. Now, decide if this influencer is entrenched in your target market and if they can speak to the existing branded content.

Establishing 5-10 key content topics is a good start. This could be healthy recipes for a whole-grain bakery or mountain climbing for an outdoor apparel company. Scoring potential influencer partnerships on whether they cover each brand topic will rate the relevance of their content. As 83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising, it’s essential that digital ambassadors are experiential experts in the brand space and can share those highly regarded recommendations with confidence.

  1. Are they only friends with you for your money?

Finally, establishing influencer relationships should be more than just a monetary exchange. If they immediately send a pricing sheet before a simple introduction, it might be time to find new friends. Never forget that the influencer boom sparked a community that only continues to grow, meaning plenty of worthwhile and organic partnerships are out there for you to discover.

Influencer marketing is not a fad. It’s an insightful strategy to assist in spreading a brand voice, while permeating dense communities of a specific target demographic. If brand engagement from consumers is the goal, it’ll first start with quality, long-term relationships with an influencer network.

In many ways, the philosophy of influencer marketing is very similar to an age-old piece of parental advice:
Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you really are.

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