If you’ve tossed around the idea of using an influencer marketing campaign to promote your brand, but you hesitated because you weren’t sure what it involved or what some of the best practices were, read on to learn about some of the winning campaigns that brought home the ROI bacon in 2018.

An influencer marketing campaign is not a complicated concept. It’s when a company, institution or brand works with influencers to promote services or products to the influencer’s followers on social media. Companies that use influencer marketing campaigns run the gamut from small brands and local proprietors to Fortune 500 companies and mega-brands like Coca-Cola. A recent survey by the Association of National Advertisers reveals that 75 percent of marketers use influencer campaigns and close to half of them plan to boost spending during the next 12 months.

The audience for influencer marketing campaigns is the brand’s target market. After brands determine the target market they want to reach, they choose influencers to partner with for their marketing campaigns who are already engaging that audience.

Best 2018 Influencer Marketing Campaigns

2018 was a banner year for influencer marketing campaigns that hit it out of the park and offered top-shelf teachable moments for marketers along the way. Here are some of the best influencer marketing campaigns from 2018, with tips on what you can learn from these campaigns:

Lagavulin Whiskey

Conventional marketing wisdom says that shorter videos perform better online, but Lagavulin Whiskey and actor/comedian Nick Offerman of the TV series Parks and Recreation proved that maxim wrong. They partnered on a funny 45-minute video infused with a quirkiness that appealed to a younger audience, snagging 2 million views in one week. The upshot? The Lagavulin-Offerman video, one of the best 2018 influencer marketing campaigns, not only won awards, it also proves that taking risks can help you stand apart from the competition and mine a niche demographic.

Coca-Cola

On World Kindness Day, Cocoa-Cola partnered with four well-known street artists to create content for social media that promoted optimism as one of its brand values. Coke also encouraged its 8 million followers to share the upbeat content through social media posts with influencers who projected a similar optimistic mindset. Coke used authentic influencers, kept the message and artwork simple and eye-catching and tagged it to a holiday that oozes positivity. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that less can be more with influencer marketing.

Tiffany & Co.

When Tiffany & Co. partnered with Jack Morris, a young influencer who has 2.8 million followers on Instagram, the campaign focused on Morris’s appreciation for luxury goods and experiences. Along with his concerns about sustainability, Morris’s values reflected those that Tiffany & Co. wanted to promote. Morris gave Tiffany & Co. instant credibility and brand awareness among their target market — millennials. The takeaway? If you want to target a certain demographic, use influencers who are members of that market and who share your brand’s values.

Lyft

The ridesharing company Lyft partnered with celebrity influencers like Danica Patrick and Shaquille O’Neal, who posed as Lyft drivers and wore disguises in “Undercover Lyft” videos. In the videos, which aimed to position Lyft as a more casual, friendlier option than Uber, the celebrities removed their disguises and revealed themselves at the end of the ride after interacting with the unknowing riders throughout the trip.

Lyft also worked with not-quite-as-well-known names like fitness influencer and Bachelorette winner Bryan Abasolo, also known as Dr. Abs, and YouTube entertainer GloZell Green, who promoted Lyft and Earth Day in her posts. Working with different types and levels of influencers helped Lyft cover all of its bases.

Glossier

When skincare and beauty company Glossier partnered with micro-influencers, those with smaller followings on social media, the campaign’s reach gradually snowballed. Its success — to the tune of 10 million views a month — showed that you don’t have to work with celebrity or power influencers to have a killer influencer marketing campaign. Starting small can be a winning strategy.

And influencers don’t have to be celebrities. Here’s another way to think of them: Glossier’s founder and CEO Emily Weiss recently said in an interview with Kara Swisher on her podcast Recode Decode that she considers every single person to be an influencer. It’s a mindset that has paid off; Glossier boasts a $390 million valuation.

Bigelow Tea

Bigelow Tea partnered with influencers including Jamie of Creating Really Awesome Fun Things to craft posts that prompted an emotional response from her following on Mother’s Day. She assembled a Mother’s Day gift basket of items including Bigelow Tea for the post. Bigelow also collaborated with lifestyle and tea bloggers to create recipes using Bigelow Tea, including a wildly popular one for Bigelow Iced Tea with Lemonade Ice Cubes. Bigelow saw sales jump by 18.5 percent after the campaign debuted.

When working with influencers who have the creative mindset to garner emotional appeal and who can concoct recipes using your product, giving them the latitude they need to deliver can pay off in a big way. They know best what their followers will respond to, so let go of the wheel.

American Express

American Express teamed up with jet-setting luxury lifestyle influencers, who posted about their glamorous travels to places like Bali, Indonesia and France for its #AmexAmbassador campaign. The campaign resonated with a worldwide selection of followers attracted to high-style luxury jaunts and who had the financial means to experience them. They also wanted to do so in a hassle-free way, promoting American Express’s mission to make travel more seamless. When promoting a luxurious experience or product, make sure your influencers and their images have an equally high-end sensibility.

Bumble

Dating app Bumble partnered with DJ Marshmello, who has more than 30 million YouTube subscribers and 19 million Instagram followers, on a contest that offered his fans a chance to travel to Los Angeles to be in his next video. The campaign scored more than 559,000 likes on Marshmello’s Instagram account.

Bumble also collaborated with tennis superstar Serena Williams on the Make the First Move campaign, which promotes the importance of women making the first move in various aspects of their lives. Using different types of influencers, approaches and messages gave Bumble brand awareness among both tennis fans and music lovers and helped to build relationships with them.

eBay

EBay’s #fillyourcartwithcolor campaign used brand ambassadors and the chance to win free gift cards in exchange for Instagram likes to position itself as a more interesting place to shop than Amazon. The result? More than 343,000 followers engaged with the campaign, which invited consumers to express their unique personalities by filling their carts with color through videos on YouTube and Vimeo.

Following its success in the U.S., eBay expanded the campaign to the U.K. and Australia, proving that when influencer marketing is done well, it knows no boundaries. That, and the fact that people also appreciate having the chance to win free things and respond enthusiastically to contests.

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