On an average day, we at Blogapalooza get around 5-8 companies inquiring about our influencer marketing services. It's a good problem, if you think about it: we're top of mind when people think of influencer marketing in the Philippines. This must mean we're doing something right.
But what are we really doing and how do we actually do things? Influencer marketing is not rocket science and actually just entails an organized system of execution and implementation. For this article, I'm letting you into a our trade secret: the Blogapalooza secret sauce.
Brands and agencies that have worked with us can totally attest to how we've helped them structure their processes in doing influencer marketing. Most marketers are new to this, as social media influencers are also a very recent phenomenon and sometimes, extremely difficult to handle as well. And so without further ado, here are the steps in properly engaging influencers for campaigns:
1. Be crystal clear about the marketing goals and objectives you wish to achieve.
The best way to go about this is to ask yourself (or the client), "Why do you wish to engage influencers for this campaign?" How does influencer engagement fit the entire marketing plan? When do you need reinforcements from influencers? While bloggers and influencers are exceedingly powerful in this age of the World Wide Web and social media, remember that they are just part of the entire media mix and not the end-all and be-all of marketing. Influencers are just a slice of the pie; you've got to be clear about what the whole pie looks like. This means that while influencers will help catalyze the achievement of specific marketing metrics, they will not be the sole vehicle to help achieve all of your business goals.
I cannot stress enough why this is the very first step that one must take. Many companies also expect too much from influencers, thinking that they are some pool of enchanted individuals that would generate them millions in sales and propel their businesses to success -- in three months' time.
Influencer marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. (Such cliche, I know.) Sure, one-off engagements are cool and good to test the waters, but if you're stepping into the influencer marketing game, make sure you're prepared for the (very exciting!) universe you're getting yourself into. When you're stepping into war, influencers help you win the many little battles. You have to be clear about the strategy for war, not just the action plan for the battles. Again, it's not rocket science. It just takes clarity of goals and a more strategic approach.
2. Have a detailed but concise campaign brief -- and know your OMTM.
For starters, the campaign brief usually includes information such as (but not limited to) the following:
key marketing message/s
digital content mandatories (keywords or buzzwords, hashtags, URLs, etc.)
guide materials (deck, brand bible, high-res files, press release articles, previous features, etc.
For us in Blogapalooza though, we're very particular about asking our client-partners: What is your OMTM? It's something that we've learned along the way: when doing marketing campaigns, what is the One Metric That Matters? Is it just for branding/association? Are you more concerned about awareness/mindshare, share of voice, targeted reach, views, clicks, etc.?
We've worked with an Indonesian brand for an influencer campaign and their OMTM is valid contest entries. Their target was 1,000 valid submissions, using the pull power of influencers only. From there, we are able to assist them in coming up with an influencer engagement plan to achieve their targets. The campaign is still ongoing with another couple of days left and we're only 32 valid submissions behind. *wink wink*
Being clear about the OMTM of a campaign saves us all the time and effort (and actually, drama too LOL).
3. Have a "wishlist" of influencers you wish to partner with and allocate a (workable, reasonable, fair) budget.
The "wishlist" is important to us because while we do an algorithm-based process using our own system (we developed it ourselves!) that identifies influencers to match with and engage in campaigns, we wish to know the "personality" that the client hopes the brand to be associated with. This way, while we're expanding our narrow AI and "training" our system, we are also able to put our human insight to the matching process.
It is not at all important WHO the influencers in the wishlist are; the more important things that we look at are the following:
- What is the kind of "personality" that the client wishes to associate themselves with?
- Who is the target market of the influencers in the wishlist and how does this fit the client's target market?
- Can their budget match their wishlist? Can the budget still be maximized?
Sometimes the clients get their wishlist, many times they don't -- because they get an even better, more strategic roster. The Blogapalooza way of influencer selection and engagement is two-part: first, a purely objective matching through our AI-powered system, and then the second part is where the human insight comes into play. An objective-first, human insight-second approach to influencer engagement is important while we're preparing the market for a fully-automated approach.
The wishlist and budget are important because even before the actual engagement, we are able to assess the viability of the engagement and manage the expectation of the clients. ICYMI, here's my take on how much should brands pay influencers.
For brands and agencies who wish to work with us, I love/hate to tell you this: We pay our influencers. All of them. Under my management, not a single influencer has been engaged by Blogapalooza for a campaign without having been paid some cash. (Except probably for special cases, like if it's an invite-only event where we really just want to meet them, or if they're actually a part of the company getting salaries or have corporate shares. In that case, we call it "corporate duty" :P)
4. Have a content guide (usually included in the campaign brief) but let the influencers be creative about their outputs.
I've mentioned this again and again: in the influence economy, authenticity is the currency. While it makes brands feel more confident about the content to be posted when they nitpick, influencers just feel detached when what they post is just "not them" anymore.
Influencers know their audience better than we do -- what makes them engaged, what keeps them excited, what drives them to action. It would be in the best interest of everybody to allow the influencers some creative freedom to execute. Yes, that includes them using their preferred filters and presets too. ;)
5. Consistently monitor the process and metrics (or do spot assessments).
I know this is self-explanatory (and actually just common sense), but a campaign will not be successful if you fully entrust it to a third party or worse, leave it to chance. Still be hands-on, still consistently monitor or if you can't, do spot checks to keep tabs on how the metrics are progressing.
While Blogapalooza would gladly help, we do not have full access to your comprehensive marketing plan, tools, insights, and other technologies you might be using. We're only here to help you maximize what you can get from engaging influencers; that includes providing you with data and relevant quantitatives to help you improve your marketing strategy.
6. Have a follow-through plan, especially if you're doing one-offs.
Again, influencers are not the end-all and be-all of digital marketing. I'm sure you've come across brands that throw a massive launch party with top-tier influencers, but fail to have a follow-through plan to sustain engagement.
The "real estate" in marketing is mind share. In this busy, noisy world of social media, every day is a battle to remain relevant.
Having written all of those stuff at this point, I owe you the Blogapalooza secret sauce: as the company's Chief Executive, I can be proud of being in the space since I was 11-12 -- sixteen years now! My partners in the business, our directors, advisers, and mentors, as well as my team mates in operations are all immersed and active in the field for years, even before "influencer marketing" became a thing. We know this very well: the influencer marketing war still entails a lot of relationship play as ammunition.
At this point in time, systems and platforms have extremely limited power, and while they help speed up a couple of things in the process, we haven't really "taught" our systems yet how the dynamics, relationships, and even politics in this world of bloggers and social media influencers work.
Remember AI, deep learning, and machine learning? Yeah, we drown in that everyday, but they are still not as smart as the human brain AND the human heart -- at this point. Our systems still don't understand how the interpersonal relationships in the industry are like. We still have a long way to go while we're "teaching our robots." ;)