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How marketers can successfully leverage social media influencers in their campaigns

5 minute read | Tina Wilson, EVP, Global Head of Product, Outcomes, Nielsen | March 2022

Influencer endorsements validate a brand’s offerings in the eyes of trusting consumers—but strategic influencer selection and campaign execution can’t be overlooked in the push to jump on this trend.

With marketers planning to increase their social media spend more than any other channel, influencer marketing is a ripe opportunity for B2C brands to more effectively connect with consumers while increasing engagement rates across platforms. A growing desire for interpersonal connections with the brands consumers engage with means that audiences are increasingly receptive to influencer campaigns. This validates the brand being promoted in the eyes of the influencer’s followers.

Many marketers are already seizing the engagement opportunity social media influencer influencer marketing presents. In 2020, nearly 75% of U.S. marketers leveraged influencer marketing–up from 55% in 2019. However, before launching an influencer campaign, brands need to first develop a sound strategy for the campaign to drive the strongest impact and optimize their marketing spend. Here’s how marketers can best leverage social media influencers in their campaigns. 

Identify influencers that fit the brand’s personality and purpose

When marketers enlist an influencer to increase brand awareness and boost a brand’s credibility, it’s important these campaigns feel authentic to audiences. Fifty-nine percent of consumers consider influencers who don’t seem authentic to be “annoying.” Worse than falling flat, campaigns with the wrong influencer can actively repel potential buyers from the brand the influencer is promoting.

Authenticity starts with marketers identifying an influencer whose own audience aligns with the brand’s, which will bring a greater level of receptiveness from viewers. Similarly, an A-list celebrity isn’t always a fit simply because they have a large following. Nielsen Scarborough found that only 19% of Americans make product purchases based on celebrity endorsements. More often, consumers want to hear from relatable voices, with 42% of Americans seeking the advice of others for purchase decisions. Shoe brand Aldo successfully noted this consumer preference when it enlisted influencers who aligned with the brand’s persona to promote its #StepIntoLove social media campaign. Targeted at Gen Z shoppers, the campaign encouraged viewers to create and share videos of themselves dancing along with the campaign hashtag for a $5,000 prize. The campaign generated 5B+ views and raised Aldo’s brand awareness by 2.5%, according to Nielsen InfluenceScope data.

The first step in identifying an influencer who audiences will perceive as authentic is looking at potential influencers’ content. If the products or services the influencer already enjoys using aligns with what the brand offers, the influencer’s audience will find it more natural to see the product promotion in their feed and therefore are more likely to engage with it. Marketers should also consider how followers interact with the influencer’s content (e.g., how sincere are followers’ comments?) to see how engaged their audience is and if the influencer is therefore worth the spend.

Leverage a mix of social media platforms

The platforms where marketers collaborate with influencers can also impact campaign performance. This is because different demographics engage with the platforms differently, and influencers can experience varying levels of engagement across the platforms they use. Reflective of these variances, influencers typically charge different rates for different platforms. Marketers may be inclined to choose the cheaper offering when just starting the relationship with an influencer, but this can sabotage the campaign’s impact even for an influencer whose personality and following aligns with the brand’s.

Against sharpening media fragmentation, marketers need to pinpoint the platforms that their brand’s target consumers are actively engaging with, instead of the platforms that boast generalized high engagement rates. Many influencers experience impressive engagement on channels like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, though there are nuances between audience demographics even between these platforms that could impact the results of influencer campaigns. For example, Nielsen research found TikTok’s engagement rate to be the highest across social media platforms, largely driven by a younger, female-weighted average demographic. If this isn’t the prime audience for marketers’ brand, then TikTok might not be the best platform to run a campaign on because the consumers that marketers hope to build more personal connections with may not be there.

Marketers can achieve impressive results when the influencer, messaging, and platform mix is right. e.l.f Cosmetics recently seized the buying power of TikTok’s Gen Z user base by developing the original song “Eye, Lips, Face” for a campaign on the social media platform. The campaign, which challenged TikTok users to use the song in their own videos, had one billion views within the first six days of launch, according to Nielsen InfluenceScope data. Now, the campaign has 6B+ views and has inspired 5M+ user-generated videos. Beauty influencer James Charles, known for his widely viewed makeup tutorials across platforms, was among the top influencers to promote the brand, with his posts on TikTok driving an impressive 12.88% engagement rate.

Prioritize continuous measurement to glean insights about influencer campaigns

Brands should approach influencer relationships as a long-term tactic to maximize the relationship’s impact. When an influencer regularly promotes a product or service, the influencer’s followers grow more faithful that it is something the influencer truly believes in.

Robust marketing measurements help marketers optimize their relationships with influencers. Monitoring how consumers engage with an influencer campaign shows marketers where there is opportunity for improvement. By looking at the posts alone, marketers may inaccurately judge the campaign’s effectiveness if audience members interacted heavily with the posts, such as liking the video, or following the brand’s handle. Without the ability to see what those audience members did next—the outcome of the engagement, such as whether viewers clicked through to the brand’s website to make a purchase—marketers may not realize that the influencer campaign showed little returns. Likewise, with marketing tools that reveal which campaigns are drawing the highest ROI, marketers can be confident they are using their social media spend wisely.

Influencer campaigns are one of the hottest trends in marketing today, but like every other promotional tactic, they need to be carefully considered before going live. Marketers must be judicial in who they leverage and how they leverage influencers if they want to make an impact on social media. 

This article originally appeared on Toolbox Marketing

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