Influencer Marketing From an Expert

an interview with
Teresa Caro Social and Content Marketing, Engauge

tahoe shotOkay, okay, I know I have been talking a lot about next week’s panel on influencer marketing.  Well, tough.  I’m not even close to done. Trust me, this is a hot topic and there are experts to be consulted.  Case in point, Teresa Caro, SVP, Social and Content Marketing at Engauge (just acquired by Publicis) who suggested the panel topic to MediaPost in the first place.  But before we get to Teresa’s insights, here for the record is the official description of our panel which is taking place near beauteous Lake Tahoe:

Your Biggest Fans: Best Practices for Engaging Influencers
Building and maintaining relationships with influencers can be difficult and sometimes time-consuming. But, when done right, the relationships can be rewarding for both brands and for the influencers. How do you identify the key influencers for your brand? How do you maintain those relationships and what type of monetization is required to keep those influencers engaged? Join our panel of brands, agencies and social media specialists as they take you through the best practices behind influencer marketing.

Now onto the interview which I for one found particularly interesting.  After all, how often does one get to use the phrase “influencer porosity” in a discussion?

Drew: How do companies begin to implement an influencer outreach program?
First off, don’t allow a tactic such as social influence marketing drive your strategies. Objectives and strategies should drive your tactics. So, the first thing to do is to define your objectives and the strategies you will use to achieve those objectives. This is especially important with influence marketing because there are so many different types of programs.

Drew: How should companies approach an influencer? Should all potential influencer relationships be thought of as a long-term commitment? 
The answer to these questions all depends on your strategic framework and which social influence marketing programs you choose to deploy. And yes, because it is time intensive to identify and ramp up your influencers, we always recommend a long-term commitment, yet we understand this is not always feasible and again, depends on the program you choose to deploy based on certain objectives and strategies.

A few examples of the many approaches include:

  • Surprise and Delight: You already have social influencers out there talking about your brand. Why not put a program together that surprises them with samples to share with their fans or a simple gift to say thanks. This is a good way to get a sense for how an social influence marketing program would work for your brand. For several of our brands, we start here and then evolve to the next bullet.
  • Advocacy/Social Loyalty Program: Are you looking to evolve to more of a social loyalty program, identify your most valuable advocates and reward them appropriately? Chances are you already have a strong relationship with your Tier 1 and Tier 2 consumers and can simply reach out to them directly to ask if they are interested. It can be positioned initially as an unpublished loyalty program and a test. Once you get it right you can role it out.
  • 3rd Party Influencers: For those brands who are looking to launch a new product or need to hit their numbers during certain seasons, incorporating paid influencers into a campaign helps to extend the reach and increase brand resonance. In this case, we spend the time to find the right influencer through organic search with the occasional 3rd party provider.

Drew: What are some best practices for understanding the influencer-fan relationship?
Let’s face it, we want to reach the influencer’s fans. An influencer’s success depends on audience satisfaction and, by proxy, so does the success of the brand within those audiences. Understand what the audience expects from the influencer. If the influencer is passionate about pure bread dogs, will a message about Rachel Ray Nutrish resonate with them? Unlikely, since this brand is focused on dog rescue. If the fans are looking to be entertained, is providing the influencer with information (which may be useful to some) going to work with this audience? Know what the influencer values and what the fans expect.

Drew: How should brands approach “influencer porosity” in terms of shaping content, building relationships, and simply starting the conversation? 
It means when brands work with influencers directly they need to understand their primary and secondary channels, their role and purpose, how they flow and how they can be leveraged by the brand. The more effort you take to understand the more effective the results. When brands are working with 3rd parties, it again depends on what you are looking to achieve and through what kind of medium. If you want an influencer to review a product, you need to work with the 3rd party to let them know the type of influencer and the type of content you want. What’s fantastic about influencers now (it’ll probably evolve) is if they love your brand and they’re excited about the experience, they’ll meet their commitment and do more. We just finished up one influencer program and were excited to see the abundant number of Instagram photos… something we did not include in the contract.

Drew: How do you remain attuned to your relationships with influencers and by extension, the fans when social is constantly changing? 
Channels change, people remain the same. If a brand has a long term social loyalty/advocacy program, you are going to evolve that program as you would any relationship marketing program: by asking your audience what they need and expect. With short term programs, we always recommend the 70-20-10 rule: 70% is allocated to those channels/programs that we know will allow us to hit our numbers and get our bonus check. 20% is for those areas you know you need to do. The market has already proven it works, a brand just needs to figure out how best to get it to work for them. We feel influence marketing falls in this bucket. The 10% is for those shiny objects that come by. By having a budget and a process for these channels and tactics, it allows you to test and discard (or optimize) quickly without disrupting the rest of the marketing plan.

Drew: How can brands make sure they “don’t suck” as you suggested in your Slideshare presentation?
This is more of a brand problem, one that can be exasperated by social. I’m always fond of saying that social is like alcohol: the more you drink, the more it enhances your underlying personality. Social is the same way, the more you engage in the social space, the more a brand’s faults come to the surface (and their good features too).

Drew: When setting up an influencer program what are the right metrics for success?
Success is in the eye of the beholder. Before you embark on any program, ensure you know your business objectives and you know the KPIs that align to those business objectives (share of voice, NPS (net promoter score), pre-/post- brand awareness/perception, etc. The metrics for that campaign depend on what you are looking to achieve. We had one client who simply wanted to look more innovative than another brand. We have another who wants to deepen their relationship with their audience. We have another who is media-focused and measures success based on impressions.

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