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Influencer marketing is one of the trends we’re watching in 2019. You may have heard the buzzword, but do you know what it is and how it could help you (even if you have a small social media team with a limited budget)?
Influencer marketing is fabulous for consumer brands who are selling things, but it’s also equally powerful for health and community organizations who are trying to influence opinion or educate consumers. Influencer marketing, at its core, is nothing more than word of mouth. It’s people talking to people, sharing their thoughts, opinions, and recommendations. The only difference from word of mouth of yore is that today it happens on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and a myriad of social media platforms. I like to say, “it’s word of mouth on steroids!”
Consider this, let’s say you get a medical diagnosis — terrifying or routine — when you see a medical provider, you’ll also get advice and opinions from your community. And, depending on the diagnosis, there’s a very good chance that the impacted community lives online. Influencers, especially micro-influencers, can spread healthy messages among their audiences. We’re presently doing a campaign with American Cancer Society around the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer, for example. We’ve sourced real people who have some relationship with this cancer and provide them with valid talking points to share.
Good question. Instagram is definitely the most “popular” platform today. We surveyed over 400 micro-influencers and asked them which platforms brands today request most, and the response was, hands down, Instagram. However, instead of asking which social media channel is most effective, you should probably ask, “what is the right platform for my health or community focused message?” If you’re trying to reach teens and tweens, you might want to focus on Snapchat or Instagram. Facebook appeals to an older generation (think the over 35 set). We’ve done information focused Twitter chats around pancreatic cancer. Blogs are excellent for longer form content. And don’t forget LinkedIn — while more business focused, it’s still a viable platform for sharing messages or building communities.
There are different types of influencers for sure. There are celebrity influencers — these are well-known figures that have built huge social followings along with their fame. Some YouTube influencers have become celebrities in their own right. Then there are micro-influencers — these are everyday people who have built a following on their social channels and have enormous sway over their audience. Recently, we’ve been hearing more and more about “nano-influencers.” These are influencers with a very small audience (under 1,000 followers) who have influence within their community. Within all these categories, there are influencers who specialize in different topics. You may find a food influencer, fashion influencer, or home décor influencer, for example. There are plenty of influencers who specialize in niche subjects — perhaps “raising special needs children” or “love of camping”. Different influencers also often excel at one platform over another. A teen influencer may focus on Snapchat, while a food influencer might create their best content on Instagram because of its visual nature. Every influencer is as unique as their topic and their audience.
Take the time to really define your goals and determine what you hope to achieve by working with influencers. Is there a specific action you’d like the community to take once they get information from the influencer? Are you trying to drive traffic to a specific site where they can get more information? Is your goal education? Once you’ve defined your goals, ask yourself how you’ll measure success.
There are a host of steps that go into building a successful influencer marketing campaign that go beyond sourcing the influencer. At our agency, we build a story architecture, which is a well-designed series of story prompts that help the influencer build out the best content. Remember, when you are working with influencers, you are not handing over a press release or copy that you expect them to repurpose. Influencer marketing, when done right, allows the influencer to write and create their own copy in their own voice. This one fact may be the biggest barrier to entry for health-related organizations that want to control their message.
If you’ve never worked with an influencer or have scant knowledge of what goes into it, I’d suggest taking the time to educate yourself. The Influencer Marketing Association is a non-profit organization devoted to educating agencies and brands on ethics and the steps involved in influencer marketing. That may be a good place to start.
It sure would be easier if there were standard budgets you could anticipate for an influencer marketing campaign but it’s not that simple. Despite a commonly held belief, influencer marketing is not free. Sure, if you have a compelling issue or cause you can probably find a few influencers who want to support you and will create content out of the goodness of their heart. However, most influencers have devoted years to building their audience, their platforms, and their following. They expect to be reimbursed for the time and effort that goes into creating quality content. You really need a budget for influencer marketing, and you need to devote the resources to doing it right. Think of it this way: you’d never expect to get a digital ad buy for free, would you?
Rates for influencer marketing are as complex and varied as any marketing initiative you want to launch. If I were a very small organization, I’d probably start by finding influencers who are already talking about my topic and reach out to them directly to develop a relationship.
Watch for more posts on influencer marketing coming soon from HIV.gov.