Influencer marketing optimization seems to be front of mind for brands and marketers across a broad spectrum of industries these days. After all, when you make the decision to invest time, money and resources in influencer marketing, you want to make sure to optimize that investment. The same holds true if you want to boost results for an influencer marketing campaign you already have in place. But how can brands and marketers optimize their influencer marketing when the concept might seem a little murky to begin with?

What Is Influencer Marketing

First, although there’s a huge buzz about influencer marketing, plenty of people are also perplexed by what it is. The waters may not be crystal clear, but the concept is really quite simple, and when it works well, it’s pretty apparent. Plainly put, influencer marketing is when a social media influencer or a blogger with a dedicated following teams up with a brand or company to promote a service or product.

The promotion is ideally done in a subtle way so it doesn’t look like traditional advertising or a pushy sales attempt. The influencer could be a celebrity with millions of followers, a micro-influencer with a few thousand followers, or anyone in between.

What Influencer Marketing Does

Influencer marketing is different from traditional advertising because of what it does. Rather than sell something with an ad that has a clever tagline and is all about the product or service, influencer marketing gives its audience valuable content — information that they can use that syncs with the influencer’s and their interests. Brands partner with influencers whose content and style reflect the brand’s identity and whose followings align with their target markets.

Influencer marketing helps spread brand awareness, and it builds trust in brands and positions brands as authorities on subjects of interest to their target market. This relationship-building process helps drive leads and sales.

How to Approach Influencer Marketing

You should approach influencer marketing optimization with the attitude that you need to soak up as much information as possible to develop your strategy. Knowledge is power, after all. That means you need to make research a priority before, during and after the campaign.

First, do your homework to make sure you know who your target market is and what they want and need. Second, do the necessary research to find the right influencer whose following and content mirror that target market and your brand image, and identify what social media platforms your influencer is most successful with.

Another essential component of influencer marketing optimization is to develop a data-driven strategy that you can track. Use SEO to help you find the right keywords for blog content. Do the research and work closely with your influencer to develop the most effective hashtags that make the most sense for your brand on social media. Analytics will tell what’s working best for you and help you decide if you need to make any changes in your strategy.

Common First-Timer Mistakes

Few influencer marketing campaigns are going to go perfectly right out of the gate. Be aware of these typical mistakes that brands have made in the past, and learn their lessons so you don’t make the same errors.

1. Failing to Properly Vet Your Influencer

Your brand can wind up with a bad image if it comes to light that your influencer is engaging in questionable practices or anything that could undermine credibility. The answer is fully vetting your influencer upfront. Make sure their numbers are legitimate — that is, not bought — and that they are professional, reliable and won’t do anything dangerous or offensive. Also ensure that their branded content is transparent and includes any necessary FTC disclaimers.

2. Choosing the Wrong Kind of Influencer

Your influencer might be totally squeaky clean and beyond reproach but still not the right match for your brand. Get a good feel for who they are and the messages they promote before you ink an agreement. Their followers will know if a campaign isn’t in the influencer’s voice or style or doesn’t seem realistic, and they’ll make their concerns and displeasure known — and not always in the most polite ways. Avoid this kind of misstep by studying the influencer’s posts and thinking carefully about how they align with your brand values.

3. Getting Seduced by Follower Numbers Alone

Engagement, meaning the number of likes and clicks posts get, means that influencers’ posts are connecting with followers. The best influencers also interact with their audiences to cull more information about their audiences’ content needs and preferences. Be wary of an influencer that has thousands of followers but very low engagement or one that doesn’t interact on a regular basis with followers.

4. Micromanaging an Influencer Marketing Campaign

You should have no problem avoiding the urge to micro-manage an influencer’s creativity if you’ve chosen one you trust. Give the influencer a clear set of guidelines for deliverables, but make sure to also give them room to do what they do best. Don’t stymie their creativity. They know what their followers respond to, and you’ll benefit from their savvy.

5. Failing to Set Goals

An influencer marketing strategy is woefully incomplete without putting goals in place. A huge component of influencer marketing optimization is tracking progress with data, so measurable goals are a must. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how will you get there?

Examples of Great Influencer Marketing

If you’re trying to upgrade your influencer marketing, consider taking your cues from these stellar influencer marketing campaigns to realize results that go through the roof.

Sprint

Sprint made a big splash in 2017 when it collaborated with rapper Jay Z on the launch of his 4:44 album. Sprint’s existing and new customers could download the album for free through Tidal and also get free Jay Z concert tickets. 4:44 quickly went platinum, and in 2018 Sprint saw gains in wireless subscribers that were almost double what was forecast. The campaign is a great example of the power of giveaways to grow awareness and sales and to expand a celebrity’s cool factor to a brand. It was a win-win for Jay Z and for Sprint.

Banana Republic

Fashion retailer Banana Republic partnered with dozens of lifestyle and fashion micro-influencers to reach a very specific yet sizable audience. The micro-influencers sported Banana Republic fashions in a number of different settings that looked authentic and un-posed and used different hashtags like #itsbanana depending on the campaign and the season. The influencer marketing campaigns cost-effectively reached more than 43 million consumers. It’s an example of successful influencer marketing optimization using a group of micro-influencers with smaller followings instead of celebrities with audiences of millions.

Mason Jar Storage

You don’t have to be a big brand to get great results with influencer marketing. Mason Jar Storage, a small L.A.-based business, worked with social media influencers to promote its Mom’s Mason Jar Rack product to a niche market interested in cooking and canning. The campaign helped to develop relationships with their target market and get an ROI of approximately 2.8 times in direct sales. When smaller brands try to target niches with smart, selective influencer marketing, the bottom line shines.

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