Navigating Through the Age of the Influencer

Written by: Kathleen Hayn

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com

The days of traditional advertising have long been over and like it or not, we are currently living through the Age of the Influencer. Since 2010, there has been a drastic rise in the practice of working with individuals and organizations with significant followings on social media to promote a business. We have now come to know this as Digital Influencer Marketing.

This concept isn’t entirely new. Brands have leveraged celebrities and other figures of influence to sell products for decades but with the ever- increasing use of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, we have seen a new pool of digital creators emerge and create entire businesses that are centered around promoting products they believe will resonate with their audience. This strategy is now being utilized by companies in every industry, including hospitality which has always relied on word-of-mouth marketing. With the use of influencers, we can use that trustworthy approach but on a larger and more targeted scale.

In the early days of Influencer Marketing, brands would send their product or gift a service at little to no cost and in return would receive promotional posts from their targeted influencer. Unfortunately, those days are gone and there is now an entire industry devoted to these sponsored and promoted posts on social media. Now that this tactic has become a formal practice, marketers need to know the basics of how to correctly utilize influencers within their larger integrated campaigns. Here are just a few tips on how to correctly leverage influencers to grow your business:

DON’T Use the Wrong Platform

It was 1964 when Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “the medium is the message” and in 2019, this still rings true. When it comes to Influencer Marketing, Instagram is looked at as king. According to CreatorIQ, 93 percent of Digital Influencer Campaigns included Instagram in 2018. But before you begin snapping curated photos, knowing your audience (or target audience!) is crucial. Whom do you want to impact with this campaign and what social channels are they utilizing most? Do you want the content to communicate visually or verbally or both?

Though the influencer you’re working with will help your business’ brand recognition, in order for that to convert into ROI it is crucial to ensure you’re sharing the right message to the right audience on the right platform. These drastically differ across social channels.

For instance, if you’re looking to attract affluent adults aged 50-64, you might what to focus your campaign on Facebook when you look at 72 percent of internet users in that demographic have a Facebook and 77 percent make $75,000 or more per year. If you compare that to Instagram, only 13 perfect of users fit that demographic and only 31 percent of internet users who have an Instagram account make more than $75,000 annually.

DO Budget Appropriately

Influencer Marketing has become a lucrative business and the industry is set up to reach up to $5 to $10 billion in revenue by 2022. Influencers have turned their large audiences into a career. They are now content creators that curate posts specifically for your brand and this will now come at a (sometimes expensive) cost. In fact, 69.4% of influencers share that their main goal with their platform is to earn money and most influencers will charge per post when working with a brand.

So, when working with an influencer, it should be viewed as any other business partnership with payment and expectations clearly outlined and agree upon. When it comes to figuring out what compensation is appropriate, there are tools available that can calculate metrics to determine what an influencer’s post would be worth. Remember, there is a large pool of influencers on social media today which means a wide range of costs so there is bound to be a perfect match to fit within your budget. 

DON’T Overlook Micro-influencers

Because Influencer Marketing has grown exponentially over the past five years, the cost of working with these individuals has risen at a similar rate. If you’re working within a budget, keep in mind that an influencer does not need 4 million followers for your business to see ROI. In fact, the average audience of influencers used in an Instagram campaign is 500,000 which is down from about 1 million in 2016. Also in 2018, we saw brands increase their use of nano-influencers or those with just a few thousand followers. Sometimes working with these smaller-scale influencers can give brands a foot in the door to a long-term partnership as the influencer’s audience continues to grow.

These individuals tend to be more cost-effective and have a very specific, devoted following that could be perfect for your business. Utilizing micro-influencers or even nano-influencers can also be a great entry point to earn the trust of those in your company who may not yet understand the benefits of Digital Influencer Marketing and need campaign executed on a smaller scale before moving forward with more ambitious projects.

DO Make it Authentic

An influencer’s audience is well-versed in how posts generally look and an influencer’s usual tone of voice. This means that any sponsored posts should be written in a similar format and any related assets like photos should be stylized in the same manner. When choosing what type of influencer to work with, their posts, copy, and engagement should all be observed to ensure that it aligns with your company’s brand. Your posts will be living on their platform so it is best practice to work with the influencer on the content rather than dictate the content to them.

Unfortunately, some brands don’t collaborate with influencers when creating these posts. According to Influence.co, 12 percent of influencers shared that they have little to no control over the copy for a brand’s sponsored posts. It is shortsighted to not give influencers creative freedom as they have built their following from their original content and their audience’s trust is important to them. To earn the trust (and the business) of their audience, make sure the content creates a win-win situation for your company and the influencer’s audience.

DON’T Forget to Abide by the Rules

With the number of brand utilizing Digital Influencers growing daily, it has become imperative to ensure that influencer’s posts abide by FTC Guidelines. Since the world of Influencer Marketing is still fairly new and these guidelines have updated numerous times, some companies have faced fines when working with influencers who fail to comply with these regulations because they have either not known the rules or chose to move forward without adhering to them. The good news is that 71 percent of marketers report that they’re up to date on the latest disclosure guidelines from the FTC.

One of the largest issues when it comes to Influencer Marketing is clearly disclosing that the influencer is working with your company and providing a sense of transparency for the influencer’s audience. Influencers appreciate these regulations as much as companies because they value the trust that they have built with their audience. When working with an influencer, make sure these rules are clearly stated in any agreements and review posts as soon as possible to avoid any issues

DO Monitor the Metrics

As more companies begin to embrace working with influencers, the ability to monitor related data to the sponsored posts has become more advanced and will give the ability to see if your campaign was a success. These metrics can be categorized into four areas: brand engagement, awareness, conversions, and improved image.

  •      Brand engagement can easily be calculated by observing posts likes, comments, and like-to-follow ratio. Another way to monitor a post’s success from engagement is to compare the post’s engagement to the influencer’s organic content. If you’re seeing a large discrepancy, you can adjust the copy and other assets in order to resonate with the influencer’s audience.
  •      Brand awareness shows how the post is helping support your brand. To show this, it’s crucial to monitor impressions, your brand’s social media growth rate, growth in website traffic, and any changes in audience data. All of this information shows how this post is promoting your business and most importantly, who your new customers may be.
  •      Brand conversions is a way to monitor direct ROI through affiliate links, discount codes, and monthly revenue that are driven directly from Influencer Marketing. By utilizing these assets within your campaign, you will be able to see tangible results from each post.
  •      Improved brand image can be determined by looking at the qualitative data from the posts like mentions and sentiment within comments on your sponsored post. This metric can often be overlooked but in the world of Influencer Marketing, it can be truly informative for future campaigns.

As the Age of the Influencer continues, there will be additional changes to the practice, but these tips will continue to be the core components that will guide your brand to a successful campaign. By monitoring the metrics with each success, your company will be able to adjust and expand the target demographic for future campaigns while producing creative, authentic, and engaging content along the way.