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Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing: What It Is & How Best to Leverage It

(Last Updated On: August 30, 2021)

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape where social technologies are forever changing consumer behavior and disrupting how brands approach marketing, the question to ask is NOT why you should be leveraging Influencer Marketing, but HOW you should be leveraging it.

Table of Contents

What Is Influencer Marketing Anyway?

According to Sproutsocial  Influencer Marketing is “a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from individuals who have a dedicated social media following and are viewed as experts in their niche.”
SEMrush defines it as “the collaboration between businesses and individuals who have large and engaged following online to promote their product and services”. Mediakix (2019) further identifies its top three goals as: increasing brand awareness (85%), reaching new audiences (71%), and generating sales / conversions (64%).

Why Going for It is Evident!

With Influencer Marketing Hub predicting influencer marketing growth to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021, and 15 billion by 2022 (according to Insider Intelligence estimates), no doubt the industry’s future looks promising.  Statista, &  additionally estimate a $ 370 million spend for the industry by 2027.

Looking at the stats: 

80% of Marketers find Influencer Marketing Effective
Mediakix 2019
49% of people say they made a purchase as a direct result of an influencer’s tweet
Twitter & Annalect 2016
74% of B2B Marketers say that their prospects rely on advice from industry influencers,
2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report
89% of people surveyed say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels.
Mediakix 2019
63% of B2B Marketers believe that marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program
2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report
73% of Millennials see it as their responsibility to guide friends, peers, and family toward smart purchase decisions
Fleishman-Hillard PR & Hearst Magazine

According to Mediakix (2019) 17% of companies budgeting for influencer marketing in 2019 were preparing to spend $500,000 or more. The most common influencer budget was $1000-$10,000 per year, followed by 100,000-500,000 per year.

Growth Despite COVID

What more, influencer marketing’s global reach grew by 57% despite the reduction in marketing budgets forced by COVID. Some industries: like CPG (consumer packaged goods) even started implementing it as core strategy; others like the gaming industry stepped up the gas. Tiktok’s popularity also exploded showing an increase of 130%  in collaboration compared to 2019. Sponsored stories also saw an increase of 32% with Instagram remaining the favored platform for influencer marketing across the board (Influencer Marketing HubSocialpubli).

“Covid really forced everybody to face the music and stop focusing on vanity metrics, and start focusing on results”

Pierre-Loïc Assayag,  CEO and Co-founder of Traackr Tweet

In a sense, it forced the trend towards more natural, unscripted content.

How Best to Leverage It!

There are three ways to leverage influencer marketing:

  • The DIY Manual approach
  • The agency approach
  • The platform approach 

Given that influence is fickle, and given that 60% of B2B marketers admit they lack the knowledge when it comes to executing influencer marketing programs, the questions to ask when implementing any approach are:

How scalable is it?
– How do you ensure proper influencer fit?
– How do you measure ROI?
– How do you move from a scattered influencer marketing approach to an always-on approach? 

Why the Manual Approach Fails!

Let’s assume that your in-house team did everything manually.

Your team set your campaign’s SMART goals using Hubspot or Hootsuite’s template, then identified your campaign’s target audience by developing buyer personas and preparing a creative brief.

The team tried to set the influencer marketing budget but fell into a dilemma when it came to selecting rates.
Do they select the rates cited on WebFx, or Influencer Marketing Hub, or do they follow one of the pricing models identified by Mediakix.
Who knows? Your team can price based on pay per Post (PPP), pay per campaign, pay per click (CPC model), pay per acquisition (CPA), or they can simply rely on what the influencer dictates!

After a tedious process and a long time researching the most appropriate rates, your team decides on a budget. However, they must still go through the hassle of finding the appropriate influencer.

The Hassle of Finding Influencers

Do they just choose the most relevant celebrity?
Do they simply rely on google keyword searches, or Instagram searches for relevant hashtags, tagged audience, etc…?
Do they spend hours reading comments and blogs to screen for the best influencers?
How do they ensure the chosen influencer suits their audience?
Do they check whether the influencer answers their followers? 
Do they check whether the influencer collaborates with other brands? 

If so, which type of campaigns did the influencer excel at?
The influencer may be famous, but if irrelevant to your brand’s audience there’s no point in testing the waters.
Your crucial focus should be on influencer reach, resonance, and relevance.  

Dealing with Them

After a thorough search your team comes across BuzzSumo, and BuzzStream, they identify five influencers, and reach out to them all. However, the celebrity influencer doesn’t respond. At this point, your team realizes they should have read Hubspot’s guide on how to work with different types of influencers.

It helps to learn about the different influencer types.

Influencer TypeNumber of Followers
Micro-influencer10K -50K
Mid-tier Influencers50K- 500K
Macro-Influencers50K- 1M
Mega-Influencers1M +

Note the category breakdown may differ from one source to another. SEMrush, and Influencer Marketing Hub showcase the same breakdown, while Hubspot’s is slightly different.

Following Mikhail Alfon’s advice, your team decides to focus on micro-influencers since they generate higher engagement rates and are flexible when it comes to deliverables.
The team then sets the brand expectations and makes sure the chosen influencers abide by the creative brief: a short deck or handout concerning the dos and don’ts pertaining to your brand’s collaboration. They then seal a contract with each influencer to avoid any mishaps during the collaboration process.

The Metrics Puzzle

Once the campaigns are over, tracking the results becomes an issue.
At least the team did something right, they aligned your brand’s KPIs with the required goals; they also tracked engagement (likes + comments/number of followers), reach, resonance, brand awareness, clicks and conversions, follower count, etc… but fell short when it came to measuring ROI.
Okay, they know that dividing return by cost of influencer marketing investment calculates ROI, but they forgot to track links with bitly for every influencer they worked with.
They also forgot to use UTM codes for one of the influencer’s campaigns.
Sure, google analytics is a great tool for tracking traffic to your brand’s site, it’s just that the team had to request statistics from each influencer to really understand true reach, engagement, and collaboration. 

What Else Could Go Wrong?

Well apart from finding it hard to search for influencers, losing a lot of money on an influencer with fake followers & risking the brand’s reputation, the spreadsheet approach failed to measure real ROI. It failed to scale especially after the recent changes in social media algorithms.

Nevertheless, your team found solace in knowing they were not alone!

According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 Statistics, 61% of marketers considered finding relevant influencers for a campaign difficult, and a surprising 33% of firms didn’t measure their ROI, plus only 53.37% of micro-influencers were fraud free. Nonetheless, your team was mostly consoled by Mediakix’s 2019 list of influencer marketing challenges listed below:

Chief Influencer Marketing Challenges

Consultant Yasser from the Middle East further confirmed Arab influencers were hard to deal with, brands were exhausted tracking influencers, and ROI was too problematic to trace. Additionally, a 2017 BPG Group survey  revealed 55% of  UAE marketers cited finding relevant influencers to be their biggest challenge, and 41%  cited negotiating terms and conditions to be a major issue.  Moreover, a recent report by Duff & Phelps added that one in six UAE-based businesses suffered a loss of $100,000-250,000 from a negative influencer experience, and 2019 stats by BPG Group and YouGov reported 79% of consumers in the UAE and KSA had unfollowed social media influencers.

The Agency Approach

Since hiring experienced in-house personnel is expensive and building influencer relationships requires a lot of time, you decide to hire an agency. After all, agencies are experts in their fields. They can easily connect your brand to relevant influencers, choose the right social media channels for you, and save you time. They know what’s worked for other clients, and they already have built-in relationships with the influencers, as well as an eye for emerging trends. With them, influencer discovery is a breeze. There’s less hands-on management on your part, and they really have the Instagram influencer and social media experience to back it up.

You go for them but guess what?!
You end up paying on average a minimum of $4,000 a month  to cover their costs. The charged fees may vary from one agency to another. Their fees mainly include creation of the campaign, strategy, researching, hiring, and contracting influencer, and developing creative concepts, and more. Some may even charge on the number of followers the influencer has, the campaign length, and goals. 

Other than breaking the bank, you also end up with less control. Remember you are relying on an agency to send you metrics for your campaigns.  So, bear in mind that you may not be the agency’s only client. It may probably take them 48 hours before sending you a report since they’re catering to other brands.
Add to that, the fact that they’re taking their influencer relationships with them. If you break ties, you’re left with no long-term strategy for your influencer program. Many of them may not even have the existing relationships with influencers they claim to have.  You never know they might even be using a platform.

Technology Matters!

By now, you should have realized that Influencer marketing is data driven.
For it to work, a lot of factors must come into play: influencer selection, price, KPIs, authenticity, and an array of other functions. Keeping tabs on your influencers is a must to properly track ROI.

It’s true you can create spreadsheets to compile and manage your CRM, your list of prospective & activated influencers, as well as your engagement metrics. However, once you start dealing with innumerable influencers over several campaigns across different channels, you’re going to reach spreadsheet breaking point.

What do you do ….

when you can’t handle everything internally?
when you wish to scale to more than 25 influencers?
when your program moves across different channels?

when your spreadsheets can’t track metrics or payments anymore?

Reach for a Platform!

Yes, a platform because it saves time, effort, and cost.
With a platform, you have more control!
It’s affordable, automated and puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to setting campaigns managing them, tracking ROI, payments and generating reports at lightning speed.

Furthermore, according to the 2020 state of B2B influencer marketing research report, the most successful B2B marketers :

–  use software to identify and qualify influencers
–  have a centralized influencer marketing program
–  have an always-on strategy as opposed to periodic campaigns  
–  have a documented strategy for their B2B influencer marketing program
–  use industry experts and analysts, blogs as platforms, and interactive content with their influencers.

How to Choose a Platform!

First make sure you identify your target audience.
Brush up on FTC regulations, or any relevant influencer regulation depending on the country you are targeting. Then look for a platform that consolidates all, so that your influencer marketing program is centralized, and your chances of success are higher.

Make sure to differentiate influencer marketing platforms by operational state.

Influencer Marketing Platform by Operational State

Both the managed service platform and the marketplace resemble the agency in their approach. They do not give you full control because they do not cut the middleman. The relationship with the influencer is short-term ( Klear 2016).

Hence, if you want full control, pick a SaaS platform.

Next, evaluate it based on the six criteria outlined by Mavrck: 

How it defines influence & is relevant to your audience
– How it recruits influencers and verifies their data
– How it activates influencers
– How its content workflow is managed
– How it handles legitimacy and regulatory disclosures
– How it measures performance

Shane Barker further recommends looking at the features it offers.Does it give you the data you need?Is it easy to use? & does its cost make sense? Does it help you find authentic legit influencers that are relevant to your audience with ease? 

Createvo: Insight, Foresight & Effectiveness

Now that you know the benefit of a SaaS platform. You google a little, and find AspireIQ but according to Capterra, it does not offer campaign analytics and influencer tracking. Even Traackr fails to offer campaign analytics, influencer tracking, and payment tracking.

Comparison of AspireIQ vs Traackr

You are looking for a platform which offers all key features listed on Capterra.

Your partner suggests Createvo.
Not only does it track anyone above 10K following, but it also promises a thorough quality check methodology, and an ROI driven decision-making process.

He’s tried it before, and he knows it’s based on laying the proper foundation for your influence premise. Once you’ve identified your premise and objectives, its easy interface allows for quick discovery of your audience’s most relevant influencers.  

It allows influencer discovery by searching according to geography, age, gender and interest of your audience.

Influencer Discovery

It evaluates influencers based on 5 criteria:

  • iScore
  • Creator Persona & Performance
  • Audience Affinity
  • Content Eligibility
  • Risk Assessment.
Influencer's Criteria

 iScore is an algorithmic benchmark that factors in the influencer’s audience viewership & engagement quality benchmarked against influencers with similar follower ranges. It basically sums up an influencer’s performance.

Audience affinity specifies how matching the influencer’s followers are to your target audience.

Content eligibility provides you with the most viewed and most engaging content the influencer created. (Note that reach, and video views in Createvo represent the number of people reached on average in the last 90 days, and the number of video views of at least 3 sec on average in the last 90 days). This constant influencer tracking and monitoring ensures you are dealing with authentic influencers with real followers not fake ones.

You even have the option of filtering them by iScore, avg engagement, avg video views, available channels etc ….

Filter Influencer

Moreover, clicking the influencer’s name showcases an inside view of their Persona and Performance.

Creator Profile

To contact them, you can simply click the phone, or email icon.  
This will allow them to download the Createvo app which tracks their reach, impression, story performance, and even retargets their audiences once their account is connected.

Additionally, if you’re still overly concerned about reputational risk, operational risk, and financial risk, rest assured. Createvo’s transparent open communication workflow ensures your values are aligned with your creators by allowing you to manage it from creator discovery to performance planning to performance tracking.

During the discovery stage, you can invite the influencer i.e. creator to Createvo, and add them to your plan.

Add Influencer to Plan

Once added to the plan, you both enter the performance planning stage.

Influencer Performance Planning Stage

 You can then manage the co-creation workflow by setting the influencer’s status.

Managing co-creation workflow

You can even edit any post you like based on your objectives. 

Edit Influencer Post

Even the status of the content can be set to : still being evaluated, created, published, or canceled.

Setting Post Status

You also have the advantage of estimating your campaign results and predicting costs before performing any campaigns.

Campaign Estimates

Let’s not forget the shareable dashboard which allows you to track granular results in real-time across different formats. Add to it, the downloadable report which presents all the granular results down to each post level.

To maximize your media amplification , you can also make use of the Custom Audience feature which enables you to remarket to look-alike audiences.

What more do you want? 

 Finally, you have the chance to master influence ! 

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Also published on Medium.

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