In the ever-evolving world of social media, communicators and marketing professionals have the advantage of being at the forefront of many innovations that affect the industries around us. With the influencer marketing industry set to grow to approximately $13.8 billion this year, this type of programming is without a doubt something we’ve been educating our clients on for several years and working into programming more often in 2021.
Our team has been taking what they know about social media, Internet trends and project management to build influencer marketing programs from scratch. Between starting from the ground up, refining and reworking influencer marketing programs and managing budgets…it can certainly feel overwhelming.
In this blog post, we lay out:
- The foundational elements that can help bring structure to your program right off the bat
- The tools and software that have helped us move the needle for our own clients
- The project management best practices that help a program grow and flow
While this article isn’t intended to be an A-Z handbook for influencer marketing programs, it can help take the stress out of getting started and save you valuable strategy time.
Build Your Foundation
As overdone as house analogies are, it makes too much sense not to use one here! So, just like a house, you need to focus on the foundation before anything else. First, refer to your brand or client’s overall business goals. Then identify the high-level goals of the influencer marketing program. These “whys” should always be integrated and referred to in all steps of the program. They’ll help you begin with the end in mind, identify the type of influencer you want to attract to the program and work with, as well as determine the ways in which you’ll advance the program.
Next, have a brainstorm session to get a feel for the type of influencer your client or brand wants for their program. Chances are, they already have a few examples in mind, so start there and then begin to refine the search. This can be as specific or high-level as you’d like, but below are demographics we usually look for in our own programming:
- Social Media Platforms
- Following Size
- Mega: 1M+
- Macro: 500K-1M
- Mid-tier: 50K-500K:
- Micro: 10-50K
- Nano: 1-10k
Don’t hesitate to revisit your search criteria a few times a year. Trends change, new influencers emerge and different social channels shift dominance. Nothing about an influencer marketing program should feel stagnant, especially your partners.
Build a Structure
If we’re sticking to the house analogy, think of the tech as the plumbing. Sure, it can be done without it, but things run a whole lot easier when it’s there! Without some structure and support in place, building and running an influencer marketing program would require a lot of your time and energy. Thankfully, there are a multitude of tools and technology available for just about every budget that can help you build a base for processes like influencer discovery, outreach/communications, tracking and more.
- Intelligently track influencer activity. Between keeping track of sales and making sure you pay influencers correctly and on time, leveraging a tracking tool like Affiliatly (available through Shopify) will help keep things organized and streamlined. It allows you to track both campaign/program effectiveness and also track your payouts. We also like using Affiliatly because it generates affiliate codes/links and integrates seamlessly with e-commerce sites and other helpful tools like Carro (influencer discovery).
- Establish consistent, ongoing communication. Communication is the key to making your voice heard and for your influencers to feel supported. One of the easiest ways to execute this communication is by sending out tailored monthly newsletters. This will ensure they have an idea of what samples you intend to mail them, upcoming sales/promos, new products/merch and whatever else you want them to know. At Franco, we like using Klaviyo, as we’ve found it best meets the needs of our influencer communication and our clients’ B2C and wholesale marketing programs.
- Set up a collaborative digital space that you and your client/brand team can easily access. This last one might be a bit obvious, but it’s critical to keep updated planning and reference materials like slide decks, contracts, workflows, marketing matrixes, tracking documentation, etc. in an easy to access, collaborative environment, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. This will help minimize panic and confusion often associated with accidentally using outdated collateral or messaging.
Develop Process Management to Scale
Finally, think about what makes a house a home. Who is responsible for fixes, making additions and transforming it into a truly special place?
The people, of course! With your influencer program, the people – the influencers, you, your team, etc. – are who makes it all possible, so make sure everyone has a crystal-clear idea of what their responsibilities are and what the order of operations looks like.
At Franco, we typically start in these three areas:
Discovery and Outreach. First, base how often you actively seek out new partners and perform outreach around how many influencers you’re looking to recruit into the program and ultimately have on board. At all times, you’ll want to at least have discovery or outreach happening (simultaneously is ideal) so you have a steady pipeline of prospective and onboarding influencers.
Onboarding. Once you’ve gotten in touch with a prospective influencer, coordinate a meeting between you, the influencer and the person who will ultimately have the final say in major decisions of the program (i.e. head of marketing, a co-founder, etc.). This initial meeting typically entails an overview of the company/program and finishes with discussing specifics of the unique relationship – which platforms they will be promoting your brand on, how often they’ll post, commission percentages, whether their affiliate link will live in their social media bios, etc.
Once you’ve all agreed upon these parameters, it’s your turn to incorporate the influencer’s program specifics into an agreement for them and your brand representative to sign (you can snag a free template from Wonder Legal and customize it). These types of templates can also give you an idea of points to include in your onboarding slide deck.
Once both parties have signed and you’ve filed it, you officially have a new influencer on board! In addition to monthly newsletter templates, it’s also nice to have a welcome email sent to each new influencer once they’re officially in the program.
Activity Tracking. This is often the most fun and least time-consuming part of the program – this mainly entails looking at their social channels once a week or every two weeks to make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain (make sure you keep the info stored in a central location like a spreadsheet).
Be sure to acknowledge when an influencer is going above and beyond with content or sales, but also be prepared to tell your brand or client when an influencer isn’t quite hitting their benchmarks. If this happens, we suggest leaving that conversation between the influencer and the brand so they may determine next steps.
If you’re not on Shopify, you can still establish KPIs to track the performance of your influencer partnership. The most popular KPI is revenue and conversions, which can most easily be tracked in your e-commerce platform by assigning your influencers their own unique affiliate link. All purchases made via this link can be traced back to the source via Google Analytics.
Additionally, sales aren’t the only KPI worth noting – be sure to pay attention to social media traffic after you’ve solidified the relationship. If your pageviews, impressions/reach and social media engagement increase shortly after they feature the brand in their social media content, that’s no coincidence…it’s an indicator of the influencer driving action!
Once you get these processes nailed down, you’ll likely start to see your program evolve into a well-oiled machine. However, it’s important to remember that influencer marketing programs take time to establish and produce results.
While influencer marketing programs may not generate overnight wins (most of the time), they do have the potential to generate strong ROI over time if you stay tenacious!
Or, you could work with Franco to build your influencer marketing program and look to us to do all the relationship outreach and program management! Contact us to learn more.
Kaiti Horn is an integrated communications specialist – digital at Franco. Connect with her on LinkedIn.