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Stop Chasing Followers: 4 Ways to segment and vet effective influencers

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 26 May, 2017
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Your influencers need to be able to effectively represent your brand

Influencer marketing is more than a passing craze for brands. According to a recent eMarketer survey, 84 percent of marketers said they have an influencer campaign in the works that would launch within a year. When utilized correctly, influencers can help companies achieve immense returns without heavy startup investments.

For every dollar companies spend on influencer marketing, they see $6.50 in revenue, according to another recent poll conducted by Tomoson. That doesn’t mean brands can simply throw money at an influencer, sit back, and watch the profits pile up, though.

To execute a successful influencer marketing strategy, you have to understand how to identify effective influencers and make the most of their talents.

What Makes a Good Influencer?

When brands think about partnering with influencers, they usually think about macro influencers — big celebrities with millions of followers — not those micro influencers who have 10,000 to 90,000 people following their social media accounts. However, many of these smaller influencers are beloved among their niche audiences, which means they can deliver superior engagement and more meaningful conversations about a brand for a lower cost.

When brands overpay for mega influencers, they might reach a wider audience, but each person within that audience is less likely to engage with their posts. One study discovered that as an influencer’s follower count rises, his or her engagement rates actually decrease.

Authenticity is key when it comes to using an influencer to boost engagement. Aligning with an influencer who doesn’t match your brand’s persona is not only ineffective, but it’s also downright harmful — especially given that 43 percent of Millennials value authenticity over content, according to an article in Forbes. They want to trust companies or influencers before they will even consider looking at their products or content. Consumers today are so inundated with ads and sponsored content that they can easily filter out canned, insincere messaging.

Common Issues With Influencer Marketing

Don’t try to control the content itself. Instead, invest more time in selecting the right influencer; then, trust that person to make the right creative decisions.

Building trust with influencers doesn’t mean brands should overpay for partnerships, though. While brands used to pay massive fixed fees for influencer support, the payment landscape is shifting to a fairer exchange based on performance metrics such as clicks, orders, and sales. Managing influencers through an existing affiliate program on a revenue share or cost-per-action basis gives you the tools to manage a large group of partners and ensure they measure performance properly.

Sometimes, influencers fail to disclose when native posts are actually advertising. This happens frequently in influencer marketing because it’s challenging for brands to sufficiently monitor all their partnerships. Because sponsored content is governed by specific rules from the Federal Trade Commission, you must be vigilant in ensuring your paid promotional content is labeled appropriately.

Missteps by Lord & Taylor and Warner Bros. (wherein they did not disclose that they had paid influencers for promotional social posts) provide cautionary tales of the dangers of misleading consumers with influencer content.

How to Vet Effective Influencers

Using these strategies, you can identify and collaborate with influencers who are popular within their entertainment niches and capable of being productive partners:

1. Look for brand alignment.

An influencer’s subscriber volume is important, but alignment with your brand determines whether your content will be successful. Look for influencers with similar audience demographics, and decide whether their regular content is aligned with your brand’s messaging. Too many companies pick the most popular influencer who will work with them without understanding the nature of the influencer’s content or the nature of a brand partnership with existing content.

Does the influencer’s audience care about what you’re offering? In the best-case scenario, the influencer would already be covering topics relevant to your brand for an audience similar to your target market. By selecting influencers who regularly produce high-quality evergreen content, you can get more mileage from your branded campaigns, reach people who will convert, and get the most from your influencer investment.

What does proper alignment look like? Just ask Madewell, which leveraged its #totewell campaign by partnering with five rising fashion influencers to reach upward of 1 million targeted consumers.

2. Prioritize channel type.

Different social media platforms have different strengths and demographics. Identify your target audience, what action you want the audience to take, and what type of content would achieve that result. Then, partner with an influencer who drives the right message on the right channel. If you want to use visual content and reach Millennials, a photo on Instagram typically yields more engagement than the same photo posted on another platform.

Stitch Fix, for example, works with influencers who create content featuring the latest fashion trends and then shares that content on its Instagram account. This drives engagement from the influencers’ followers and steers traffic to the brand’s website and Instagram profile.

Different channels measure different metrics. Determine who you want to reach, what your message should be, the action you want consumers to take, and the metrics you want to collect before deciding which social media platform and influencer will best suit your needs.

3. Seek engagement over volume.

Seek out influencers whose audiences are engaged with their content. Likes, comments, and shares are good indicators that people are actively consuming the content and not just giving it a passing glance.

The tool below is useful for evaluating different types of influnecers and how they can benifit your brand.

If they’ve done previous influencer campaigns, try to figure out what their activity has been like and what the results were. This will help you understand what might happen with your own campaign. Also, be aware of the frequency of their posts — it’s a good idea to steer clear of influencers who share sponsored posts too frequently, as your brand’s messaging gets lost in their stream.

4. Reward partners for performance.

While brands used to pay upfront assuming results would follow, the landscape has changed.

Now, brands are looking to integrate individual influencers and influencer networks with the affiliate model to build scalable, measurable partnerships. The performance partnership model allows influencers to tap into your brand’s existing affiliate program, and it allows you to reward influencers when they've delivered on your marketing goals. By managing influencer marketing through an affiliate program, you can achieve better tracking and accountability while improving your bottom line.

For example, Stella & Dot, a boutique jewelry and accessory brand, recently ran a campaign to increase awareness of its brand and engagement with customers through a network of fashion influencers. By measuring results through its affiliate program, Stella & Dot was able to track results and reward influencers based on performance — all while ensuring the promotion remained aligned with its brand.

The outcome? In one week, Stella & Dot received 150 proposals from high-quality style and fashion influencers. After 16 related posts were made on blogs and Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, the brand saw 18,000 engagements in just seven weeks.

Influencer marketing is about more than follower counts — it’s about finding the right partner who can deliver the right message to the right people to execute an effective, brand-aligned strategy. Use these tips to get the most from your influencer marketing efforts and find out what your brand has to gain from building better performance-based partnerships.


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