Integrating influencer marketing into your current brand promotion can be a daunting and seemingly complicated task. Of course, there are many, many, many ways in which brands can draw up an influencer marketing strategy and at CI, we are often asked for advice as to how to do so. To clarify the process and provide some helpful hints, we’ve taken to the keyboard to write-up our own preferred, failsafe method.
Based on the ever-popular SOSTAC planning process, created by PR Smith in the 90s, and still scarily relevant and accurate today, here are our six steps to influencer marketing success. We’ve even popped in some helpful links to past blog posts that explain everything in even more detail – you’re welcome!
Situation Analysis – Where are you now?
This should always be the first step to making changes in business, and influencer marketing is no different. To assess where you brand is within the frame of influencer integration, consider the following:
- Whether or not your competitors are working with influencers, in what ways, and whether or not they are having notable success.
- Who your current customers are, and where they are coming from.
- What direction your industry is set to head in – if there are any growing trends that you need to make note of when undertaking influencer marketing endeavours, e.g. the rise of live-streaming and micro influencers will have an effect on the marketing dynamics of most industries.
- Whether or not your current advertising and marketing is working. If so, consider integrating influencer marketing into your current process, as opposed to undertaking it as a separate endeavor.
- What internal resources you have that can be assigned to influencer marketing. These may be financial, staff related or even pre-existing tools.
Objectives – Where do you want to be?
This stage is arguably the most important, as it focuses on the desired outcomes of any influencer marketing project. Concentrate on these areas:
- What it is that you are hoping influencer marketing can do for you. Is it a surge in brand awareness? An increase in sales? Tapping into a new audience? A combo of all three?
- If there are any specific timeframes these goals need to be achieved by.
- What is the most important aspect of change to focus on – brand reputation, growth, sales etc.
- Can these overall goals be narrowed down into more specific ROIs?
Strategy – How do you get there?
At this stage, forming your overall goals into actionable points need only be done to a rough degree. However, it still requires a knowledge of how brands and influencers can work together, and to what ends. Focus on exploring these key points:
- What customers you want to communicate to, and how they are best reached. Are you hoping to greater engage your existing customers, or grab the attention of new ones? What type of influencer do these customers listen to?
- Try profiling the ‘digital day’ of those customers you are looking to reach. When are they online? Are there certain channels that engage them? What news publications do they read? This information can all be gathered using third party, customer insight and analytics tools like Google Insights.
- Are there any ways that you could potentially isolate customers through certain types of influencer marketing, and how should you avoid doing so? For example, if your customers are slaves to Instagram, spending time and money on a text based, blog-centric influencer marketing project is not destined for success.
Tactics – How exactly do you get there?
Now we’re down to the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of your influencer marketing plan. You’ve analysed who you are trying to engage, how they are best reached, and through which channels. It’s time to translate this information into a set of actions, with timescales, accountability and any other details required:
- From a narrowed-down pool of potential, how will you select the best influencers to work with?
- How will you approach your selected influencers, and convince them to work with you?
How will you communicate your vision to your influencer, so that they can represent your brand exactly as you’d like?
- How exactly will you do all of the above? Will you employ existing, in-house resources, which may save capital but will sap staff time, or will you pay more to employ an agency with endless experience and tools? Perhaps an influencer marketing platform offers the best of both worlds (hint hint)?
- What specific results are you hoping to see from these efforts, and when are you hoping to see them? Set out KPIs and timescales, and make sure your influencer agrees to them too.
Actions – What are the details of the tactics?
Although it seems laborious, the more detail you go into at this stage, the easier and more successful the project will be overall. Take each of your specified tactics, and think about it with regard:
- Who will be responsible and accountable for it.
Are there any key tools or skills required to achieve it? If so, how should you obtain them?
- By when does this need to be done? Is there any leeway or are the deadlines absolute?
- Has this been communicated to every person that needs to be in the loop? Have you left anything to chance that should have been properly laid out?
- The agreed payments, and when they need to be completed.
Control – How will you monitor performance?
You should already have a pretty comprehensive idea of your desired ROIs by now, as well as a number of KPIs that will keep the whole process on track. But the last stage of the SOSTAC process requires detailed knowledge of how to check up on the progress and success of your influencer marketing, and intercept any potential disasters before they happen. Think about:
- The ways in which the process can be measured. Are you looking at follower numbers on your social accounts? Rates of engagement with content? Website UUs? Conversion rates?
- What methods are you going to use to quantify these? Do you need UTM codes to track placements and mentions? Or will you use the good, old fashioned profit-and-loss account?
- Will you focus on specific product sales, or a more holistic figure?
- What specific, quantifiable results are you expecting to see and when by?
- What results are you responsible for, what is your influencer responsible for, and where is there joint responsibility? For your brand responsibilities, which teams are involved and which are accountable?
Yes, that is a lot of questions. SOSTAC is as rigorous as it is thorough, but, frankly, it works. Once you’ve completed this marathon planning session, any influencer marketing endeavour that you undertake is infinitely more likely to be successful, and ROIs to be all the more fruitful. Influencer marketing is only set to become an even more permanent fixture of the overall marketing mix as 2017 unfolds, so planning to integrate into your strategy is a wise move indeed!