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Successful influencer marketing campaigns can sway opinions, spark conversations, increase brand loyalty, and boost sales. In today’s noisy online environments, partnering with the right influencers can be the difference between a potential customer tuning out your message — or embracing it wholeheartedly. 

Influencer marketing has rapidly evolved to become a mainstream form of online marketing. Influencers (or creators/content creators, as many prefer to be called) are social media users who have built up their audience over time. Influencers have the ability to affect their audience’s buying decisions because of how they are perceived: trustworthy and relatable, expert in their niche, aspirational, and so on.

For today’s brands, the question isn’t “Should I try influencer marketing?” (The data is in: yes, you should.) Instead, it’s “What do I need to know to be successful with my influencer marketing campaigns?”

In this post, we’ll break down the critical elements of every winning influencer marketing program. While influencer campaigns are highly customized for specific brand goals, these are the best-practice strategies every marketer needs to know.

5 Critical Strategies for Influencer Marketing Success

  1. Understand Your Goals (And Your Audience!)

Before influencer marketing planning can truly begin in earnest, brands need to understand their KPIs (key performance indicators) for the campaign. Not only will this help clarify next steps, an influencer campaign can’t be measured without quantifiable parameters for success.

Having clear goals in mind is integral for strategic planning. Campaigns can be structured around any number of KPIs, including:

  • Boosting a brand’s social media following
  • Increasing brand mentions and overall awareness
  • Increasing brand engagements on social media
  • Driving website traffic, video views, app downloads, newsletter signups, and more
  • Increasing sales

It’s also important for brands to understand their target audience. The better the target persona is understood, the better an influencer campaign can be designed to appeal to that persona.

Some brands make the mistake of assuming that an influencer who’s strongly aligned with their target audience has a following that’s one and the same. While this can sometimes be the case, it’s not always true: many female gaming influencers have male audiences, for instance, and male beauty influencers tend to reach more female audiences. 

That leads us nicely to the next point, which is:

  1. Find the Right Influencers. The process of choosing the right influencer(s) can seem overwhelming, but it all starts with defining the campaign goals. Brand KPIs — key performance indicators — will help lay the strategy groundwork for deciding what sort of creator to partner with. 

There are a number of different ways brands can discover potential influencers. Influencer marketing platforms offer the ability to take a DIY approach by searching filtered lists of influencers. However, it’s important to note that selection is limited to only influencers who are signed up on that particular platform. 

With platforms, brands are on their own when it comes to influencer fee negotiations and communications regarding campaign requirements/expectations.

Influencer marketing agencies, in comparison, typically have access to a network of qualified creators. At Sway Group, we have over 30K authenticated influencers in our network, which means we can offer brands targeted lists of potential influencers that are based on specific brand goals. We also have a wide range of nano influencers, micro influencers, and macro/celebrity-level influencers to partner with.

Influencer marketing agencies often have valuable personal connections with influencers, including an understanding of their performance, aesthetics, and content style. This allows agencies to combine technology and personal know-how to identify influencers who are naturally aligned with a brand’s core values.

  1. Choose Your Platform(s). Your campaign objectives will determine which social media platforms to use, and those choices will help drive the content strategy for each platform. For example, beauty content is almost certainly going to perform better on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube than on Twitter. A product targeted to teens is much better suited to TikTok than Facebook.

While platform trends are an ever-changing landscape, they provide a useful starting point for campaign design. 

On Instagram, your content should have strong visual appeal. For TikTok, it’s all about getting creative with short video content. Facebook posts tend to do well with eye-catching images or video and short, compelling stories. Twitter is key to taking advantage of current trends and announcing short-term deals or contests. Sponsored blog content offers more flexibility: blog posts can tell a longer story, include visuals and be tailored to the blogger’s audience demographics.

In addition to platform considerations, it’s important to consider what sort of content works best for a particular audience. Printables are popular among craft enthusiasts, while foodies respond well to professional, easy-to-follow recipe demonstration videos. New parents tend to relate best to raw, personal stories from those who are also in the trenches of babyhood, while tech-focused readers gravitate toward content presented via podcast or video.

At Sway Group, we’re continually evaluating content to see what works and what doesn’t on individual platforms by tracking traffic, views, social shares, likes, comments, repins and follows. It’s our job to understand how consumers are reacting to content across multiple platforms, which in turn helps us guide our clients towards success. 

  1. Identify Useful Trends. Even the most compelling content posted on the perfect social platform won’t perform if the timing is off. On the flip side, building influencer campaigns in tandem with existing trends can deliver significant results.

Trends can be seasonal: health and wellness content is popular in January, parents begin paying attention to back to school shopping deals in July, winter holidays drive interest throughout November and December. 

By identifying the content people are already searching for, you can then plan your influencer content to support these topics and trends. An editorial content calendar can help you stay abreast of both social and search trends and keep you organized. 

Holidays and national days are always certain to trend across social platforms. They give brands and businesses an effective way to connect with their audiences by providing an easy segue into any conversation happening online. The hashtags are usually readily apparent: Christmas, National Bagel Day, National Dog Day, National Talk in an Elevator Day (yep: July 29th!) — the list goes on and on.

Platform-specific content trends are the latest and greatest bandwagons to climb aboard, particularly for Instagram’s Reels and TikTok. TikTok’s lightning-fast shifts in ‘micro-entertainment’ trends have spanned sea shanties to viral recipes to social activism, with all sorts of unpredictable standout personalities.

The best way to capitalize on platform trends? Partner up with the creators who are already immersed in the environment — and have the know-how for delivering on-trend brand moments that resonate.

  1. Let Influencers Lead the Way. When it comes to successful influencer marketing, perhaps the most important element of all is flexibility. Brands should allow influencers to use their own natural language, tone, and aesthetics in sponsored content. Influencers have built up their audiences over time, and a major deviation from their usual content is sure to stand out — but not in a good way.

Influencers need to know what is expected of them in a sponsorship. For brands who want to do their own influencer marketing in-house, we recommend providing an influencer brief for the campaign. A brief should at minimum document the campaign deliverables and associated dates. 

However, when it comes to the way the content looks, sounds, and feels, it’s better to let influencers take the lead.

The golden rule of influencer marketing across any platform is to avoid coming across like an advertisement, and this is particularly true on TikTok, where users expect creativity and connection rather than stale sponsor shout-outs. (Notably, even TikTok’s own ad language says “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks.”)

If you’re a brand who’s new to influencer marketing, it can be challenging to put aside what you know about traditional advertising. You may be tempted to provide the creators you hire with a rigid sponsorship deal that essentially turns them into managed, scripted spokespeople for your company.

The downside to this approach is that audiences don’t like overly-commercialzed influencer content, and influencers (the good ones, anyway) don’t like having to deliver stale brand shoutouts. 

Sponsored content that doesn’t match the influencer’s tone or language will come across as fake, which can alienate audiences and damage the reputation of both influencer and brand.

Successful influencer campaigns happen when influencers have the flexibility to tell a brand story in their own way. They’re the ones who know exactly how to connect with their audiences, and they need to be able to stay authentic to who they are and the kinds of content they create. 

Ready to Get Started?  

While there can be no one-size-fits-all answer for how to produce a successful influencer marketing campaign, these best-practice tips should help you get you on your way. Clarify your goals, pay attention to what works (and what fails), and partner up with the expert creators who know exactly how to make your message come to life.