Done correctly, influencer marketing is a digital version of word-of-mouth marketing. People prefer to hear from others like them and people they admire, not advertising or corporate brand messages.
Unfortunately, influencer marketing often falls short of its enormous potential because marketers fail to implement the strategy effectively.
A Missed Opportunity
Influencer marketing opportunities slip through the fingers of many marketers, writes Ryan Pitylak, co-founder and CEO of Unique Influence, in AdWeek. It’s an incredible tool that few use effectively.
A major issue is that people realize that brands are paying influencers. The problem is so extensive, the FCC has stepped in and issued guidelines on disclosures and cited companies for not disclosing influencer messages as paid advertisements.
Pitylak suggests these steps to rejuvenate influencer marketing:
- Find influencers with moderate numbers of followers.
- Motivate them to share information they feel passionate about.
- Encourage them to promote that content to people with overlapping interests with them.
- Intelligently distribute the content that’s created by passionate, trusted influencers. Abandon the standard approach of sending mass messages to everyone in the target audience. Instead, find people who trust content from influences.
“Brands need to rethink what they’re currently doing in the world of influencer marketing, since it’s not working, but oh-so-close,” Pitylak says. “Brands know the customer is smart and they know they want to hear from people they trust and relate to more than an overpaid influencer.”
The Insider Influencer Impact
Doug Simon, CEO of influencer marketing company D S Simon Media, agrees that brands misuse influencer marketing. However, he offers a different solution: Instead of trying to transform influencers into brand representatives, promote your own experts as influencers, he recommends in O’Dwyers. A D S Simon Media report found that in-house experts outperform third-party spokespeople. Out of 200 company communicators surveyed, most (84%) reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their own expert’s ability to earn media, more than double the level of outside experts.
“By investing in your own people instead of outside experts you are positioning your organization for long-term growth,” Simon says.
In-house experts are more knowledgeable about company and its products and are more trustworthy than outside influencers, who have been known to make mistakes.
Outside influencers do have a role to play: Brands can bring their in-house experts to influencers, who can amplify the company expert’s message through interviews and sharing content. Treat third-party influencers like media instead of a brand rep to minimize risk, Simon recommends.
The Earned Media Emphasis
Many influencer marketing experts agree that the strategy can be more effective if it functions more as earned media rather than paid media. It should become more PR-like and less overtly promotional to improve chances of long-term success.
That means building long-term relationships with influencers and helping them produce content that’s original, newsy, authentic, interesting, educational and entertaining.
That PR approach will produce increased readership/viewership and better believability. Ultimately, influencer marketing that mimics earned media will boost audience belief in the message.
Bottom Line: Most brands do not gain the full benefits of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing falters when increasingly cynical customers realize that influencer messages are paid advertisements. People want messages from others they trust and feel an affinity with, not overpaid celebrities. These recommended strategies can help brands build stellar influencer marketing campaigns.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.