Love it or hate it, it’s hard to argue with the rise of the ‘Social Media Influencer’ as a critical cog in a well-run digital marketing machine. Along with developing your own brand presence on appropriate social media platforms and having a clear content strategy, knowing how to engage the right influencers on behalf of your brand is digital marketing 101.

That said, beware that influence is a sellers’ market, with talent on platforms like YouTube and Instagram asking for fees 4-8Xs higher than they were just a few years ago. But also be weary of the hype—Here are 5 tips to help you get wise about working with social media influencers as part of your marketing mix.

1. Don’t just buy influence, buy talent.

They’re out there. So-called bloggers who write at barely a middle school level. YouTube talent who lack originality. And Viners, Snapchatters and [insert your platform of the month here] who churn out content without any discernable reason for being. Stay far away from these so called influencers. You’ll want to work with people who are gifted photographers, videographers and/or storytellers, regardless of the medium. They are going to need these skills in order to create worthwhile content in conjunction with your brand.

2. Ideas are the price of entry.

If influencer talent you’re speaking with isn’t pitching you on how they would create content for your brand, turn and run in the other direction. Having an idea behind the content created is the table stakes of solid influencer marketing. Assuming that simply having your brand and their mug in the same image is enough to create results for you is a non-starter. Beware.

3. Make your brand intrinsic to the narrative.

Chances are that good influencer talent became influential by being authentic—sexy, funny, clever, etc.—and will want to keep doing what they do best when plugging your brand. While you don’t want to compromise their authenticity, you do want your product or service to be more than just a prop. Find ways to make your brand an active, dynamic part of what they are doing, saying or showing.

4. Negotiate costs empirically.

Your marketing is calibrated to achieve concrete goals—reach, opt-ins, a sales target, subscriptions etc. So it only makes sense that your usage of influencers should also be based on concrete goals too. Measurements can be derived from the platform, type of content or desired user behavior. Metrics can include driving traffic to a web page, or social profile, video view or engagement score. Negotiating influencer compensation based on a concrete goal sets fair expectations and allows you to compare their effectiveness to that of other marketing tactics.   

5. Make sure to come away with content you own.

Securing the rights to use images, video, blog posts is critical when enlisting influencers to create content. In an era when most marketing channels are content-starved, it’s likely you’ll find opportunities to re-purpose influencer-created content on your website, in sales materials, presentations, in-store etc. 

By utilizing these best practicing, you’ll set up your brand to work with influencers in a credible and effective way. Feel free to share your perspective in social media or the comments section.


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