Social media has opened a universe of possibilities for brands and organisations. Beyond simply serving as a loudspeaker for their communities, they've discovered the possibility of identifying key influencers in their industry and interacting with them.
Last September, over 100 digital communications, social media and marketing professionals gathered for the Social Media Conference organised by Berlin's Quadriga University. We presented Augure Influencer Journey, our theory to develop mid to long-term strategies for influencer engagement.
Why mid to long-term relationships?
In June 2014 Augure's influencer search tool was mentioned in a review by one of Italy's top digital communications bloggers. On the day the review was published, Augure Italy received a hitherto unheard of spike in requests for demos. But this didn't just happen on its own.
Our interactions with this blogger go back almost a year. After having identified this key influencer in our industry, we began by interacting with him on Twitter. We monitored all his activity: the content he published, the events he attended, industry collaborations, etc. And we acted accordingly on our own social media.
We then invited him to our in-house events and held meetings with him (after all, offline contact is still very important in public relations) and lastly, he offered to test the tool for himself and give us his point of view.
It's just this process, from identifying the influencer to interacting socially with them and finally collaborating on content, that we've dubbed the Influencer Journey. It's a mid to long-term relationship and requires consistency and never forgetting it's a strategy.
The four stages of the Influencer Journey
Influencer engagement can benefit brands in many ways as is shown in our The State of Influencer Engagement in 2015 published last June. These are some of the benefits for brands:
But getting a top blogger to link to your website or to attend an event isn't easy. Which is why we should see influencer engagement as a mid to long-term process. The Influencer Journey is divided into four stages:
- Awareness: Initial phase of the relationship. The brand starts to become visible to the Influencer
- Credibility: the relationship is becoming more relevant. Influencers start collaborating with the brand
- Emotional connection: Influencers start being proactive in their relationship with the brand+
- Loyalty: Influencers are almost brand ambassadors. They naturally recommend the brand to the others
As part of each stage, brands can interact in different ways with influencers depending on the sector or nature of the business. But in general they share a common rule, it should be win-win for both parties, that is to say they should be mutually beneficial relationships.
You can take a look to this webinar about Content & Influencer Marketing in order to learn more about how to interact with opinion leaders.
Long-term strategies vs. one shot campaigns
However, when thinking of influencers some people immediately bring to mind those YouTubers or Instagrammers that are paid huge sums in exchange for mentioning a brand or product (recently Forbes Magazine published a list of the Best Paid Youtubers in 2015). Yes, they exist, and they're probably very profitable for brands.
However, let's not forget the value of a mid to long-term relationship with an opinion leader. For example, in a reputation crisis: a YouTuber that we've paid a fortune to showcase a product online can do very little if anything in the future to support our brand in a natural way. It's simply a question of cultivating a professional relationship with influencers as if they were our friends, so endorsing our brand doesn't depend on hard cash but on trust.
Both options, payment or long-term relationships, are perfectly valid. The difference resides in what we want for our brand.
It's like using SEO or positioning through Google Ads. In the former case, we work on mid to long-term content strategies that require greater effort, time and work. The latter option also renders results and probably more immediately, but they aren't reliable over time.
What is clear is that influencer engagement is beneficial for brands but is always going to require some kind of investment. Sometimes this means paying cash, on other occasions it requires time (preparing for an event), effort or human resources (to work on quality content).
The Influencer Journey is simply the starting point for your influencer engagement strategy. The capacity for establishing ties of trust with key influencers is one of the main challenges for your communications team.
You can take a look at the presentation we used for the Quadriga Social Media Conference here:
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