December 7 2016

Forbes: Are We Using The Term Influencer Marketing Wrong?

Thought Leadership, David Schwab, Forbes, Media, First Call

Octagon First Call's David Schwab continued his regular contributions to Forbes with this piece about what influencer marketing is really about today.

In the last few years, influencer marketing has come to mean everything and nothing. The term is so ill-defined that it takes away from a brand’s ability to develop an integrated strategy, and may ultimately end up limiting the brand’s business results.

When most marketers say they want an influencer campaign, they have already skipped over the strategic conversations and moved to a tactic of hiring a non-traditional celebrity with a big following or decided to hire lots of micro-influencers.

That isn’t influencer marketing; it is buying an online audience. Don’t get me wrong, buying an audience is still a credible tactic, and often what our team does on projects. But the tactic alone is not what influencer marketing is really about (it’s just a piece of it).

Remember, in today’s world, anyone can be an influencer.  They can be a feature film celebrity, a content creator with millions of YouTube subscribers, a chef with countless recipes to share, a SoulCycle spin instructor or your neighbor you trust for her fashion sense.

Proper influencers can establish trust with each handshake, social post, or advertisement and their content impacts audiences in the top tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization. When they publicly support and work with brands, it is a reflection of their identities and not just their jobs.

Before jumping straight to what people think influencer marketing is, brands need to take a step back, think about what they’re trying to accomplish and look at all the ways to make it happen. Change is hard. So here is a step-by-step guide to ensure you are hiring the right people, for the right job, at the right time.

These are the same steps we share with brands, agencies and non-profits in our daily celebrity strategy work. The process often evolves but the order does not. It’s always WHY, WHEN and HOW before WHO.

Step 1: Identify the brand need. What will drive business results?  Where are we losing customers?  Does your brand need help breaking down walls to a new consumer target? And who is the audience (age, gender, psychographics, etc.)?

Step 2: Match the most pressing brand needs to the ambassador roles that can help address those needs...different partners bring different benefits: amplification, deal closing, content creation, credibility and/or leadership. Each will bring their own benefits to a campaign. You should come out of Step 2 with a clear list of objectives and the ambassador roles that can help you achieve the brand’s goals.

Step 3: Evaluate all the types of people that your brand can partner with based on their ability to deliver against the identified needs. People can range from A-list celebrities to neighborhood leaders. Stay away from specific names during this phase. Think more about the types of brand ambassadors that can meet the brand need and play the role(s) identified in Step 2. This includes: celebrity, YouTuber, social media star, athlete, fashion model, chef, executive, mom, dad, and the list goes on…

Step 4: Now, you can start talking about specific people that fit all your criteria: brand need, ambassador role and type.  And make sure you consider one’s reputation, social footprint, cost, media profile and ability to deliver across all tactics.

Caution: We are talking about real life people here – and that means everyone on your marketing team is going to have a subjective opinion. Use your work from the previous steps, data and outside experts to eliminate personal, subjective thoughts.

This is a simple blueprint for how brand marketers can lose the term "influencer marketing" in favor of creating a strategy that addresses brand needs and identifies the right partners to help bring real results in 2017.


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