In recent weeks we’ve been exploring the world of influencers and advocates by outlining who they are and why they matter to marketers. Today we’ll be wrapping up this series by considering what that knowledge means for us: now that we want to engage these groups, how do we go about doing so?
Here are nine principles to keep in mind whenever you’re working with influencers and advocates:
1. Know your goals: As we discussed in parts one and two, influencers and advocates differ in what they can deliver; while high-profile influencers can increase awareness at scale, they might not drive as much direct engagement as advocates can. Deciding early on whom you want to reach and what you want them to do will help you determine the structure of your campaign.
2. Remember the big picture: Your influencer or advocacy campaign is going to work best when all aspects — its message, its timing, its target — complement the rest of your marketing strategy. Although word of mouth is the most effective advertising available, much of its power derives from the ways it amplifies and supports your paid and owned efforts. Baking influencer or advocacy campaigns into your marketing plan early will make the entire mix work harder.
3. Choose wisely: This may seem obvious, but when you’re selecting influencers to work with, make sure that they’re relevant to your brand and influential within the specific target group you’re trying to reach. It might be tempting to pursue a well-known celebrity, but your customers may care little about Kevin Spacey’s opinions on diet cola or Maya Angelou’s favorite iPhone games.
4. Sell yourself: When you begin working with influencers, think hard about what you can offer them. Many of them get approached by brands all the time, so you need to show how a relationship with you will better help them connect with their own audience. Their personal brand, not yours, is their priority. And because they’ll all have different goals, different strategies and different levels of comfort with branded content, flexibility is key.
5. Hold on loosely (but don’t let go): Whether you’re working with influencers or advocates, give them enough room to really express themselves. Their story about their relationship with your brand should be personal to them and relevant to their audience, so avoid the temptation to give them a script to stick to, and don’t panic if the conversation goes somewhere you didn’t expect. That said, you don’t want a free-for-all, so provide enough information and guidance to drive informed, positive conversations.
6. Take the high road: The FTC is serious about its guidelines for word-of-mouth ethics, and as a marketer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that proper disclosure processes are in place. WOMMA has a great guide to get you started.
7. Shake it off(line and online): Whether you’re just starting to develop a campaign or analyzing one that just wrapped up, don’t forget about online and offline word of mouth. Social media activity may be easier to see than real-world conversations, but that doesn’t mean it’s more prevalent; in fact, the Keller Fay Group has estimated that as much as 90% of word of mouth happens offline. So prompt people to talk wherever people talk, and find creative ways to track it.
8. Make it worth their while: Advocates want to feel valued, and if you’re asking them to talk about you, be sure to offer up something in return. It could be early access to a new product, exclusive content, an invitation to a special event — anything that shows that you’re not merely asking them to do your marketing for you, but instead are trying to establish a meaningful relationship.
9. Have their backs: Perhaps most importantly, make sure that what you’re asking someone to share is something good, something that others will be glad to hear about. (Remember, nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.) Advocates and influencers put their own reputations on the line each time they recommend your brand, so don’t let them down. A true advocate’s value to your brand extends far beyond any current campaign — you’re trying to make fans for life — so keep your eyes on the horizon while crafting any word-of-mouth campaign.
Did we miss anything? What are your guiding principles when you’re working with advocates and influencers?