Influencer marketing was once considered a brand’s secret weapon in engaging audiences and gaining a social following. Source: Vector Goddess/Shutterstock

Need to know: How businesses can utilize influencer marketing for effective campaigns

SUCCESSFULLY executing an influencer marketing campaign requires a nuanced approach, wherein brands identify marketing needs, find the right influencers, determine a good partnership model and are able to measure the returns.

However, concerns about the viability of an influencer’s image might be tarnishing this practice, taking brands down with it.

Influencer marketing was once considered a brand’s secret weapon in engaging audiences and gaining a social following.

The numbers have proven it.

For example, according to eMarketer, Seventy percent of teenage YouTube users say they are more likely to relate more to influencers than they would believe a celebrity endorsement. The same goes for businesses — half of businesses have increased their budgets for influencer marketing in 2017 alone.

Unfortunately, mistakes by brands, marketers and influencers have maligned the image of influencers and influencer marketing. In particular, some businesses have found influencer marketing is not achieving the right return on investment (ROI) for them.

To illustrate, audiences have started to view influencers as shills looking to jump from one brand to another, just to get quick money. With this image, audiences have started to compare influencers as similar to paid celebrity endorsers, and because of this, they now ignore the product because they understand it as advertising.

In essence, this negates the advantages of influencer marketing — the view influencers are power users who have the ability to, well, influence their peers, is now being replaced by the opinion they are just out there looking for attention, and that influencer endorsement has become the end-all be-all of their online existence.

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How to properly tap into influencer marketing

The question now for businesses is how to do influencer marketing differently, and how to tap into the right influencers so their business can get the right exposure – not just paying someone who is disinterested in your product in the first place.

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Here are some thoughts and ideas:

Choose the right influencers. Perhaps the hardest part of influencer marketing is scouting the perfect person for the job. There are thousands of people out there who can potentially be influencers, but what’s important is to find someone who is relevant in your industry and who already has some exposure or familiarity with your brand.

You will also need to ask questions like whether the person is a good fit for your brand, and if their audience is similar to your target audience in the first place. One good rule of thumb to consider is this: Would your company’s CEO be comfortable being photographed with this influencer?

Find the right platform. According to eConsultancy, influencers in Asia Pacific each have their own preferred platform where they engage their audience and make their daily social connections. Some emerging influencers, for instance, have solidified their fanbase on WeChat. In Thailand, however, YouTube is the most popular space for influencers to engage their audiences. Australian influencers mostly converge on Instagram.

Engage influencers the right way. There are influencer agencies that have emerged in the region, ready to connect businesses with known icons in their respective communities and industries. You can also directly connect with influencers through their chosen channels and pitch your products, ideas, or proposals. If they are already an avid user of your product, they may agree to feature it in their content. If they use a competitor’s products or services, then you will need to show them your value proposition, in case they decide to switch.

Provide value. The concern about being considered a paid promoter is, of course, a big challenge to overcome. You will need to provide something in exchange for getting exposure through the influencers’ networks. While monetary compensation might sometimes be frowned upon, a few other options would include complementary products and services, invitations to sponsored media trips and junkets, or free trips and accommodations at product launch events.

Sponsored content. Content marketing has proven to be an effective means of engaging an audience, and getting influencers to engage their audiences on your behalf is another potential benefit of influencer marketing. It does help if your target influencers are already longtime or loyal users of your brand, although they can also provide a big impact to the visibility of new brands that are just starting out.

Measuring impact and ROI

It will also be important to measure the impact of influencer marketing in terms of ROI. Socialbakers has proposed a standard metric for measuring influencer impact, through Average Post Engagement Rate and Daily Page Engagement Rate.

The takeaway: Measure, rinse, repeat

Of course, the main point with influencer marketing is reaching the right audiences with the least amount of resources possible. One thing brands and marketers will need to avoid is the appearance influencers are just paid promoters who would recommend products just for a quick buck.

Being selective with the influencers you approach, and ensuring the platform they use can adequately reach your intended target audience is of the utmost importance.

Effective influencer marketing isn’t just about hiring a popular YouTuber to sing about your brand. Nor is it just paying the most popular blogger you can afford to write about your product.

Rather, it involves taking a nuanced and step-by-step approach to identifying your marketing needs, finding the right influencer, determining the right partnership model, and measuring it effectively.