The business of influencer marketing is estimated to reach $10 billion by 2020, and more marketers than ever seem ready to jump on board. In fact, a recent survey from the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) revealed that 75% of advertisers are currently using influencer marketing, with 43% planning to increase their spend on it in the next 12 months.
As the industry grows, so do the opportunities. I’ve been involved in influencer marketing from its inception. I founded my agency on the belief that influencers have enormous power when it comes to boosting brand awareness and perception, creating original brand content and driving sales.
Today, influencer marketing is no longer limited to brands. We’re seeing that special interest groups have also begun tapping into influencers. For national brand boards and associations, influencer marketing can be an effective method for reaching precisely targeted demographics with the kind of on-trend messaging today’s audiences respond to.
Here are five ways to make it work for your organization:
Put authenticity first.
Associations are focused on helping their brands rise, but traditional advertising no longer works with today’s savvy consumers. Classics like “Got Milk?” and “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” feel outdated. Audiences want stories, not slogans. Give influencers the chance to spread brand or commodity messaging in a relatable way, and the content is much more likely to resonate.
Influencers connect with audiences because they feel like a trusted friend; they provide real-life, genuine stories and images for their followers. In order to preserve this dynamic, associations should prioritize influencer partnerships that are a true organic fit, because audiences stop listening when a message feels forced or insincere.
To make sure you’re partnering with the right influencers, do your research. Tune in to your Social Media mentions and blog posts about your industry. Set Google alerts for relevant keywords to find influencers who are a strong contextual fit. Another option is to partner with an agency that can help with in-depth influencer targeting and recruitment. Keep in mind that consumers don’t want to be sold to, especially millennials, who overwhelmingly say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.
Make content relatable.
National associations often have the goal of awareness and engagement rather than direct sales, and influencer posts are ideal for starting conversations and sharing ideas. As an example, when our client the American Christmas Tree Association identified a rising consumer trend of buying artificial trees, they used Social Media and real families to help boost the concept of tree-cutting as a cherished family tradition.
When influencers are writing sponsored content for associations, they should incorporate personal stories and images in order to make the topic relatable to readers. Evergreen content has long-lasting appeal and is more likely to be shared (especially when including a Pinterest-worthy graphic or two). Aim to boost conversations on Twitter and Facebook with branded hashtags, but don’t overdo it. Too many hashtags and audiences tune out.
Know your audience, but don’t be afraid to break stereotypes.
National associations may have been thought of as sterile or even stodgy in the past, but today’s influencer campaigns have the kind of modern messaging needed to connect with younger audiences.
From food bloggers to beauty experts, content creators can boost industry visibility and perception with the tone and language that’s best suited for their followers. For instance, millennials and Gen Z tend to respond well to humor and an informal voice, while older consumers often appreciate a no-nonsense approach.
Influencers know what type of content their audience is looking for, so let them be creative in how they execute your key messages.
Focus on powerful storytelling.
The best influencer campaigns should provide audiences with a genuinely rewarding experience, whether it’s by being entertained, learning something new or fostering an emotional connection.
Great content often translates to great performance: Views, likes, shares and comments are all driven by top-notch storytelling and media. For example, if a dairy association’s mission is to boost cheese sales, a selection of food-focused influencers could create content about setting up the perfect wine and cheese party. This could include recipes and instructions for crowd-pleasing cheese plates, complete with wine pairings and downloadable label designs as well as table decor and invitation design ideas.
Associations should partner with experienced influencers who can leverage content in creative ways. And don’t overlook micro- or nano-influencers — they often have more sway than their more popular peers.
With influencer marketing, organizations, boards and commodity promotion programs have an amazing opportunity to spread the word in niche verticals, across specifically chosen demographics. Associations should carefully consider each partnership to make sure there’s a strong contextual fit.
It’s always been a big task to promote the views of an entire industry, but today’s groups have a secret weapon with influencers. Start by truly understanding your market. Reach out to influential content creators, and work together to bring your association’s goals to life.