With the recent explosion of content being created, getting your message heard through the noise and making a real connection with your audience seems daunting—especially if you don’t have a massive budget. But there is a solution, and it’s available for any budget. Derived from our experience working with hundreds of brands and tens of thousands of influencers on thousands of influencer campaigns, I can tell you that establishing an influencer marketing practice will help you cut through the noise with an authentic message that delivers better ROI results than any of your other digital efforts.
The first step is to allocate budget. 75% of brands are now including influencer marketing in their digital strategies, but for many, it is a new line item that can be difficult to identify and incorporate into a budget. However, with some careful thought and planning, anyone can find a way to budget for this performance strategy.
Consider where influencer marketing sits within your marketing organization. It may be part of the social media team, the PR team, the content team, the marketing communications team, the digital team…or it could have a place between all departments.
Next, the team or teams that own influencer marketing should take a test-and-learn approach. Identify your lowest-performing channel, take a small amount of its budget, and apply it to an influencer marketing campaign. Then, track that campaign and compare its results with the budget source (the lowest-performing channel).
You can also capitalize on an existing program. Look at your in-market programs and engage with a small group of influencers. You already have a performance baseline, so you can easily see how influencers impact the results.
Brands can also share the budget accountability across departments. An influencer program will yield valuable cross-departmental content, you should be able to quantify how influencers can save time and resources—in fact, with the right influencer marketing tools, you can reasonably save thousands of dollars. The following graph illustrates the resource savings realized when using an automated influencer marketing platform compared to a manual solution.
It’s common for in-house brand marketing teams to have limited budgets. However, many agencies that are interested in influencer marketing find themselves similarly strapped, and need to find ways to secure budget. My advice: Start small with clients who have shown an interest and would like to try a campaign. Allocating as little as $5,000 or $10,000 to an influencer campaign can deliver impressive results, and with each campaign, your team will gain experience and knowledge. The success of these programs can result in increased spend from existing clients, and also provide a clear differentiator for new business pitches.
Agencies can also leverage their creative teams more effectively. By keeping the team focused on a brand client’s tone and voice, they can extend programs more organically through the use of high-quality influencers. And since we know that banner ads don’t work, agencies can convince clients to move budget to campaigns that actually deliver value.
Selecting influencers is a key piece of crafting a successful influencer marketing program on any budget. But before jumping into influencer profiles and reach, marketers must ask themselves: “What are my goals? Is the campaign for brand awareness, building engagement, or am I trying to drive actual sales?” Even the smartest marketers have a tendency to be swayed by large reach numbers, but mid-size and niche influencers with great engagement have more impact that can ladder up to specific goals. It could justify the difference between investing $10K in one influencer, or $1K in ten influencers.
The next critical element of influencer selection is evaluating influencers based on their audience. There’s no room for error when working with a small budget, so targeting an influencer’s audience ensures laser focus. For example, at Tap we work with an alcohol brand looking to reach millennials who live a sophisticated lifestyle. But how do we identify influencers to reach that audience? We used Audience Targeting to find influencers who reach consumers who make $100K+ in household income and who live in cities where the product is heavily served in bars and frequently purchased for home consumption. By matching that audience profile to a set of relevant, high-quality content creators, the brand was able to reach their target consumers effectively and efficiently.
Once marketers identify a set of influencers who can reach their desired audience, they must evaluate those influencers’ Cost Per Engagement (CPE). Those who are new to influencer marketing may not know how much they should be spending on influencers, and in order to justify spending thousands, they’ll need help. At TapInfluence, we calculate CPE (rate versus value), which tells us whether an influencer achieves the desired engagements and shows us how they stack up against other influencers at different rates.
Measuring Your Efforts
Measurement begins with understanding your initial goals and associated metrics; different program goals require different metrics and KPIs. Experience tells us that trying to set up an influencer program that accomplishes everything—likes, comments, clicks, coupon downloads, views, sales—just doesn’t work. You can’t boil the ocean. As in any good marketing program, marketers must be focused on ways to grow specific KPIs. Think: What data truly impacts the business? That’s critical when telling the success story, which will ultimately help you secure more budget for influencer marketing.
Extending the Life of Your Content
The best influencer marketing campaigns don’t end with numbers in a dashboard. When working with a tight budget, knowing how to extend the life of influencer content matters even more. Think about when and how to repurpose influencer content to ensure it gets in front of key audiences again and again.
Repurposing influencer content on a brand’s owned channels is valuable to marketers because it’s free. It’s a great way to fill holes in blog editorial calendars and on social. It can also be used in social advertisements, as creative in cover photos and profile pictures. The text can be used as testimonials of specific products, or proof points that brands can utilize in multiple ways. If marketers build in a distribution play for every influencer program, they can gain predictability and the ability to drive scale with spend.
Influencer marketing can be done on a budget. There is a growing number of influencers who have engaged audiences and drive real revenue. Remember, it’s not about finding the largest reach, it’s about engagement and results. Working with the right influencers delivers a better ROI, no matter how small the spend. Getting started is the key. Once the team starts seeing results, more budget can be allocated to the practice—and that’s when the real fun begins.