Since I started at my new job, one of the things I've noticed on almost every account is that we utilize influencers. At first I really had only dabbled in them. I'd never actually identified them, but I remember sending product to some and then frantically checking their blog daily to see if they'd posted about the item.

Pricing

At the time, I hadn't been identifying them or negotiating terms and conditions with them of posts, but since then the market has totally changed - and that was only two years ago. Now, I'm using several different platforms to identify them, and negotiating with their agents (yes, they have agents) on price points for not only blog posts which can start at $1,500 but also just a regular social media post! If you have a few thousand followers, you can charge up to $750 per social post just to write a 2 line caption about a service or product. Some of my clients think it's ridiculous to pay this kind of money because they don't immediately see the ROI, but others are solely fixated on pouring large chunks of their budget because they believe it works.

Effectiveness

Does it really work? There's certainly ways to measure but the same golden rule for PR applies to influencers: "likes" do not equal sales. Some clients are very results-driven. They want to immediately see a revelation in their sales as soon as you launch an influencer campaign and just like building a reputation with PR, it takes time. Sometimes it takes a full year to see if a PR program is really effective. It's just like dating - you don't immediately know if you and this person are compatible, sometimes it takes a few dates to figure it out and even after several months of being together, you notice quirks and learn new things. Measuring the success of a campaign can be done using specialized links like bitly to gauge how much traffic is being driven to your site. However, the programs that can measure sentiment are still in the works and continue to pop up each day - especially Instagram. 

Strategy

Something our digital team continuously preaches is that before you start looking for influencers you need a content strategy. If you don't' know what kind of content you want then how are your influencers supposed to accommodate the needs of your brand? You need a clear and concise idea of what you want to accomplish by recruiting these influencers to join your cause, and they also need to know what is expected of them. Many times when we reach out, one of their first questions is, "How much of a time commitment will this network/project be?" and that question is totally fair. You're not their only project and they likely work with other brands so they need to know how much of their time needs to be dedicated to you so they can continue to pursue other opportunities. Chances are, they rely on these projects for a paycheck, so giving them an idea of what to expect is crucial when it comes to their decision to accept or deny your invite.

Selection

Once your strategy is in place, the hunt begins! Looking for influencers can be challenging when you start from scratch, but there are some resources that help. Lots of agencies invest in sites like Hypr, Traacker, Little Bird and more to search for influencers. Some tools are so in-depth that they can tell you how to find influencers based on income and marital status. Making sure your influencer aligns with your brand's goal is the most important aspect. Just because their following is awesome, doesn't mean they're a perfect fit. If you're looking for a certain category, you have to be careful because sometimes you get a mix of all kinds of conflicts! Example: if you want a health influencer take note if they're very workout-centric, holistic or overly-branded with content since these might be turn-offs for your client. Keeping true to what your goal is difficult since there will likely be LOTS of searching involved, but seeing an effective program makes it all worth it. 

Do you think influencer marketing is an effective tool?