It seems there are regular news stories these days about actors or other celebrities being paid to wear, feature or talk about someone’s product. For the average company, this type of program seems out of reach. It probably is, but that’s also a good thing because having a celebrity sell your product may not be what is best for you or your audience.
Beginning with this post, we’ll explore the world of what are now being called influencers and how smaller companies can use influencers to help them get their message across. The New York Times has even started talking about these types of influencers and calls them “nanoinfluencers.” We call them targeted and smart ones.
What Are Influencers?
Quite simply, an influencer is an individual who has the power to affect others’ purchase decisions because of his or her position with an audience or niche. In today’s world when consumers are looking for what they think are authentic and real companies, using an influencer can be an important program tactic.
Can They Help You? How?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it takes a bit of planning and research. You need to choose the person (or people) who will help you reach your goals. More importantly, someone who will help you do this within the capacity your business has to respond. In other words, if Beyonce talks about your product on Instagram and that post goes viral, you may not have the infrastructure to process all the orders. That would turn her endorsement into a negative faster than you can imagine.
Authenticity, relevancy and relatability are critical to any communications program. The voice and tone of a program is a critical component in that strategy.
Where to Start?
Like everything we discuss regarding communications, you need to start with a plan. And, it needs to be one that has identifiable and measurable objectives, target audiences and evaluation methods.
In June we talked about how to create a plan and provided some starter questions for you. We do this type of planning all the time for clients and are happy to help you determine the best ways to go for your business.
That plan is the basis for everything, including determining if an influencer program is right for your business, which influencer(s) are best, where you want them to be influential, and how.
Identifying the One(s) for You
Once you’ve identified what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to reach, it becomes a bit easier to start identifying those who can best help you achieve those goals. Some ideas:
Avid social media users
Local athletes and standout youth
Each of these comes with their own set of issues related to what they can do, how much they might charge and what you can ask them to do. Before choosing them, look at the individuals’ writing, their social exposure, where they are active and with whom. It’s not only the number of followers an individual has but also the topics and style of what they are writing and the platforms where they are active.
But if you start by looking at who might work best, you can then move to what they can do.
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Small businesses especially come to us asking to have people do things for them without paying them. But, there’s really no such thing as a free lunch, especially if you want to get something from it.
If you’re creating a program where influencers will get something for free, be sure you have a set of criteria that defines who that influencer is. Otherwise, you could have many people applying for your “free lunch” who don’t meet your criteria. It’s harder to say no.
The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on disclosures from a wide range of companies and individuals using their influence on social media. Make sure you understand the disclosure guidelines and that the influencer with whom you’re working does as well. Generally, a sponsored blog needs to be disclosed at the very beginning, and a social post needs that disclosure in the body of the post.
Get it in Writing
A contract is critical. Without a signed, written agreement you don’t have a leg to stand on when the person doesn’t do what you asked. Be sure there’s an understanding of exactly what you expect. As the so-called influencer market grows, so do the number of those looking to make some money. Be sure you don’t pay for services in full until they are rendered. Consider paying no more than 50% up front.
Odds and Ends
Match personalities and passions with your needs. It’s more than likely not a good fit to choose a football player to increase awareness about a cake decorating class. But it could be a good choice for a series of grill lessons.
Say thank you. When the person you’ve asked/hired to influence your business does so, be sure to share it widely. Add your own comments to show your appreciation and spread the cheer.
Influencers thrive on shared relationships so make sure yours goes both ways. This is true when you’re creating the program as much as when you’re thanking and sharing. Remember to think about what’s in it for them.
Some larger companies are beginning to use bots to communicate the messages from their influencers. But states like California are trying to close the lid on that practice.
In case you’re curious, the Influencer Hub keeps a live list of YouTube’s most influential people.
There are a number of tools to use that make this easier, but we’ll save a review of those for another post. And remember, we can help create and implement a program so you’re free to run the business.