How to Put the Ultimate Third-Party Endorsement Strategy to Work

User-Generated Content (UGC), which includes testimonials from average product buyers posted to your company’s social media, can be considered as a barebones form of influencer marketing. After all, prospective customers trust a brand more when they see that people like themselves do, too.

But true influencer marketing is something entirely more complex and powerful. Endorsements by nationally and internationally recognized celebrities, or by people who have become Internet celebrities in their own rights via their channels on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok – you name it – define the real deal of influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up with their followers; recommendations from them can serve as a form of proof to your brand’s potential customers. While it may often appear to be unsolicited, freeform endorsement, it is typically paid engagement of the influencers by a brand’s in-house marketing team or advertising/PR agency. The costs associated can range from simply offering free products to influencers that they can showcase and sell on their social channels, to professional fees paid that are negotiated.

The value of influencer marketing has grown to be no small budget category in the advertising industry. Adweek notes that the influencer marketing sphere is set to top $10 billion in value by the end of 2020, and will continue to rise in 2021 and beyond. Where there’s smoke that commands that much of the marketing spend, there’s fire. 

Aside from bottom-line expenditures on influencer marketing, though, the more important metric to consider is ROI. Of advertisers surveyed, 89% said that return on investment from influencer marketing was comparable to or exceeded that of other elements in their media plans. Similar industry surveys also showed that influencer marketing delivers 11X higher ROI than other forms of digital media outreach.

So, Where and How Do You Start with an Influencer Marketing Strategy?

The first step is research. Choose one or maybe two networks you want to use based on your own observations of subject matter prevalence, and monitor them to see what influencers – whether social media stars or pro entertainers and athletes – use those channels to focus on topics that fit your product or brand niche. Social channels tend to line up with certain industries when it comes to influencer marketing. For example, health and beauty are more popular topics on Instagram and YouTube. Video games do well on Twitch. New home builders have more pull on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Once you’ve identified social media influencers who would align well as ambassadors for your brand, reach out to them directly through the channels they use, or through their managers or talent agents. No matter who the influencers are, be sure to do your homework. Really look at their content and not just the number of followers they have. Does the content they share on a regular basis align with your brand? Are they currently working with or have worked in the past with any of your competitors? Take it one step further. Google them. What other information can you find online? Have they been involved in any scandals? Are they active on any other platforms that you could possibly include in your partnership? It’s important that you do all of this research upfront because your followers and audience is smart and believe me, they will be doing this research and probably already have. So once you align yourself with a particular influencer you are aligning yourself with everything they’ve done to date.

Research is also important when it comes to evaluating engagement. Nowadays there are countless ways for social media users to inflate their social media presences by paying for followers, likes and comments. When you take the time to research each influencer it’s quick to see if followers and engagement is real or purchased. Does the number of followers they have and the number of likes they’re getting seem realistic? When you look at their comments, do they look automated? If you click on a user who has commented or is following the account, they seem like a real person? Meaning, do they have followers of their own and post their own content or does that seem to be fake as well?

As great as influencer marketing can be for your brand it is critical for you to take the time to do your research in order for it to be a successful partnership for your brand and reap all of the benefits.

Tracking the Results of Influencer Marketing

One aspect of influencer marketing campaigns that can make advertisers shy away is the trackability factor. However, it’s not as vague or inconclusive as you may think. Specific hashtags woven into your influencers’ outreach messaging let you follow what’s being talked about. You can also use media monitoring aggregators like Sprout to follow conversation topics through the use of certain keywords. (This tactic is helpful not only in tracking results, but also in determining where and how you want to launch your influencer campaign to begin with). To more directly track sales generation, having your influencers use affiliate codes or tracking links can show how much that influencer is contributing to your sales. Additionally, you can track your own brand’s social media analytics to see if there is an increase in engagement and followers around the time that your influencer is posting about you.

For generations, there’s been an old adage that the most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth. It’s very true, and that philosophy has exploded through the power of social media. Influencer marketing may seem like a foggy landscape in foreign territory, but the core tenets are the same as most other marketing campaigns:  research the channels that fit your brand best, determine goals, set a budget, find and engage the right influencers, then continually review and revise your campaign based on observed results. 

Influencer marketing is the burgeoning outreach strategy that everyone is talking about…because it works if you do it correctly.