A Practical Guide to Running a Successful Influencer Program

By Natasha Upal | January 5, 2020

Natasha began her career as a UX design consultant for Telco giant BT. Following deregulation, Natasha joined Fidelity-backed COLT Telecom to launch Broadband services. As Marketing Director of Yahoo! Search Marketing Europe, Natasha led the small business channel across twelve countries, spearheading a $40MM incremental pipeline. She also held senior roles in Canada with notable global brands Aviva Insurance group and Financeit, a Goldman Sachs FinTech disruptor. Now as VP of Growth at Clover Inc, a Toronto-based Social Networking mobile app, Natasha is driving scale across the US, Canada and Australia.

Learn more from her Mobile Hero profile.

Influencer marketing can be an important part of your mix, allowing you to do more tailored targeting than other channels and tell your story in ways that even the best creative teams couldn’t dream up. Here is my practical approach to running a successful influencer program.

Create an Influencer Strategy That Will Wow Your Boss 

Be clear on what you want to achieve. Growth or brand awareness are obvious ones but you may have more specific goals, e.g. to change brand perceptions or access niche segments.

Start with your audience – who are they and who do they follow? We were working with influencers for a while but were limited in scope and not getting much organic uplift. We knew we needed to build our brand image and resonate with our target audience more, while driving essential downloads. We conducted research on our target audience to understand their drivers, aspirations, passions and media consumption patterns. Unsurprisingly, we found that novel and authentic content converts more, but that we also needed to broaden our reach to many different categories – fitness, music, comedy, diversity, lifestyle etc. We also assessed our top geographies and prioritized influencers with a strong following in those cities.

Next, consider the size of the influencer; Nano, Micro, Macro and Power influencers all bring different value to the table. For example our Power influencers have huge reach but cost more, while some Macro influencers are more connected to their audience and can get better conversion. Nanos might work harder on content that does really well when boosted.

List the top platforms your users are on. Instagram is good for direct app downloads. YouTube gears well towards brand awareness while platforms like Tik Tok lend to novel content that ties in with ad opportunities like Hashtag challenges. Twitter or LinkedIn might suit other goals or industries.

Figure out your budget. Many companies provide product-based compensation – in any case, you want your influencers to live your brand. If you want to pay in dollars, map out how much you can afford. You can also provide bonuses on achievement. If increasing brand awareness is a key metric, work out your ideal CPM. If downloads are critical, think in terms of target CPIs.

Once you put all this together, you will have a kick-ass influencer strategy: 

  • Goals and key metrics for the program 
  • A target list of influencers and creators by category, size and geography 
  • Platforms that are first, second and third priority 
  • A well defined budget and compensation model 

Now all you need to do is execute!

Building Your Team (There’s No Biz Like Showbiz) 

Influencer marketing hinges on relationships. The ability to scout talent, sign them up and elicit great artistry will be the difference between success and failure. Influencer Managers may be more akin to sales people or showbiz agents than marketers – chameleon hunters and farmers who are high on empathy, hustle hard, work at odd hours and can work with multiple personalities. A good manager should comfortably be able to handle 10-15 influencers. You will also need folks to build reports, analyze metrics, drive content plans and keep the pipeline filled.

Finding Your Influencers (and Needles in Haystacks)

So how do you find the right influencers? You can outsource to an agency or do-it-yourself. Agencies can leverage existing relationships and tie in your performance campaigns. DIY gives you greater control if you can invest resources in trawling for profiles.

You can also let influencers come to you – post on your social channels that you are looking for brand ambassadors. Tools like Grapevine or Strawberry Socials help to quickly find influencers and assess their authenticity and performance. As an extra step, request audience insights from potential influencers to ensure they’re a match. And don’t forget cultural fit – choose influencers with a great work ethic and a passion for your brand.

Also note the difference between Influencers and Creators. Influencers tend to be more transactional, e.g. they may want content provided and only keep posts up for a limited time. Creators take pride in their craft and produce content with little direction in a way that is authentic to their following.

Closing Your Influencers (and Bartering in Between)

If you aren’t using a third party to broker the relationship, you can email or DM/message the influencer through their primary SM platform. Start by introducing your program and highlight the benefits of working with your brand. Once you have gauged interest, make it official. Create a simple contract laying out key terms but don’t go overboard – many influencers are young or inexperienced and long-winded paragraphs in small type font will scare them off!

Here’s what to include:

  • How and when will you pay them 
  • How many posts, what types of content, and with what frequency 
  • Captions and CTAs – what you need them to include in their posts 
  • Approval process – how and when content approvals need to happen 
  • Other guidelines and brand Do’s and Don’ts 
  • How to terminate if it isn’t working out 

Remember, each element of your agreement is a potential bartering chip. The more flexible you are and willing to help the influencer in their goals, the more likely you are to strike a great deal and get the best out of your influencer relationships.

Content Creation & Approval Process – Yay or Nay

Your influencer program should dovetail into your Marketing Communications calendar for consistent messaging across all channels. Hold regular meetings with the team to agree on post dates and content direction. Plan for at least 3 months out (include seasonal trends, special holidays and occasions) but allow for agility.

At the start of each posting period, give your influencers a clear brief. Book the dates you want them to run – maybe when their audiences are most active or during your peak times. Request content at least one week in advance to allow time for iterations. It’s ok to ask them to re-work something – it’s a learning process on both sides – but be kind and reasonable. It’s a lot harder to produce good content (think outfits, lighting, background, delivery) than you might realize!

Content Distribution – Go Forth and Amplify!

Amplification (or boosting) is one of the biggest tools in your Influencer kit bag. Like magic, you can take native content and reach new audiences far beyond your Infuencers’ follower base. This is especially valuable for smaller influencers who in turn appreciate the extra exposure. Companies such as #Paid and Lumanu can handle the amplification for you or you can run the content as a performance campaign through Facebook Ad Manager yourself.

Measuring Your Influencer Program… Because Let’s Face It, You’re Only as Good as Your Last Metric

There are two things you need you know: 1) how well is the program performing for your business,  and 2) which influencers are delivering the most value?

First, recognize that the true value provided by Influencer marketing is not 100% measurable. Provide UTMs or promo codes to each influencer to measure installs or sales and compare CPI and conversion metrics with other channels and between influencers.

Next, collect post-analytics from each influencer so that you can measure reach, engagement, views, clicks, etc and easily calculate CPM and CPE per influencer.

Last, apply an attribution method for organic traffic by comparing a baseline normal period with no influencer activity versus the time the influencers posted and look for the spikes. Amplified influencer campaigns deliver all the usual performance stats that you are used to – but don’t forget to include this as part of your “influencer value”.

After all, great ad content is a marketer’s mecca.