Customer Experience, Digital Marketing, Four Steps to Executing A Successful Influencer-Driven, Word-Of-Mouth Campaign
Influencer marketing -- leveraging relationships with advocates and influencers to help share your brand’s message -- is poised for explosive growth. Are you ready?

A Zuberance survey of consumers’ online behavior found that 90 percent trust a recommendation from the people they know while just 24 percent trust online ads. Plus, influencer marketing campaigns drive 16 times more engagement than paid or owned media, according to a recent study from SocialChorus.

So how do you catch this wave and ride it to success? The best approach is to learn from those who are pioneering in the field

Based on my experience, and in speaking with fellow practitioners, I've learned that executing an effective influencer campaign requires following a four-step process.

Step 1: Identify

The key ingredient in a successful influencer campaign is, to no surprise, the influencers themselves. Identifying the right influencers to work with is crucial to determining the success of your campaign.

A case in point: given the millions that have read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and the millions that have seen the movies, it’s remarkable that only 43 influencers drive the lions' share of conversations. But it’s the reality.

Whether an influencer is a good fit for your brand or not depends on a number of contextual factors such as the industry, specific, audience and the actions their communications generate.

Today, this research can be time intensive, which is why some practitioners attempt to shortcut the process using tools like Klout, Kred or PeerIndex. These tools are great when it comes to providing a high-level glimpse into who’s having the most conversations within a broad category like books or technology. But they’re not effective when it comes to digging deeper into the context or identifying whether their audience is the right fit for a brand. Better tools such as LittleBird, Traackr and Appinions take into account the influencer’s area of expertise, authentic voice and audience. I am also partial to Twitter influencer maps like NodeXL for taking a closer look at whom the influencer impacts, and on what topic.

Step 2: Cultivate

After you have identified the influencers that are a good fit with your brand (typically 5-40 people), you need to cultivate real, meaningful relationships with them based on win-win outcomes.

Start by offering your influencers something of value if they work with your brand -- things like behind-the-scenes access to people or technologies of interest, exclusive access to content or financial incentives. But beyond these short-term incentives, cultivate relationships with influencers that are built on a foundation of shared core values. This will allow you to work together to achieve a common goal.

Step 3: Manage

An influencer campaign has many moving parts, so being organized is essential. Relationships take work, and you must work diligently to maintain yours with influencers.

A second, but equally important, aspect of influencer campaign management includes monitoring the influencers and their actions. Make sure they have the information they need to move forward, and track each time an influencer mentions your brand, where and with what outcome. A handful of vendors are developing tools to help automate this process, but I have yet to use one that truly streamlines the campaign management process end-to-end.

Step 4: Measure

No marketing campaign should go un-measured, and the same goes for influencer marketing. How are you going to explain to your next client or another business unit that your campaign was successful unless you deliver measurable results? It’s all in the numbers.

Measuring an influencer campaign looks very different based on the type of campaign that’s running, and the goals of the brand. Some choose to measure the actions of the influencers themselves: How many tweets about the brand did they send? Others prefer to measure the actions the influencers caused: How many followers clicked on the link in one of those tweets? However you measure, keep it consistent and as close to real-time as you can so you can learn, adjust and deliver the best results.

Marketing has always been about telling a highly resonant stories to the right people, in the right context. Influencer marketing gives you the opportunity to refine that process to the nth degree: you can micro-target relationships with thought leaders who have built trusted relationships with their target audience, and share the stories people like. You can measure, in real-time, how successful a campaign is and learn from that experience. And thanks to social media, you can activate communities of thousands forging strategic relationships with a select few.

So expect big changes to come -- those businesses that can adapt first will be the leaders in the new world of marketing.

Title image courtesy of Strejman (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: For a different take on influencer marketing, see Word of Mouth: Content Marketer's New Best Friend