Think | The Art and Science of Great Influencer Marketing

Ever since we launched Whalar back in March 2016, one of the things I’ve found most interesting is why marketeers choose to collaborate with influencers and the sheer divide in opinion.

Influencer marketing has made its way into pretty much every brands’ marketing budgets; if they’re not already doing it then they’re planning to soon. Yet it’s clear to me that there is still a lot of uncertainty and caution.

I feel that many are collaborating with influencers just because everyone’s talking about it, just because they feel they have to and just because they’re pretty sure it’s doing... something. However, to articulate exactly why they are doing it and the impact it’s having on a brand is unclear and inconsistent.

For me, this fundamentally comes down to the fact that brands perceive it as a combination of an art and a science. They see it as a bit hit or miss; an element of planning and of surprise; a bit of luck. They feel it works overall, brings benefit, but isn’t a strategy that could clearly be justified at scale.

And I understand why. The space is still relatively new, there hasn’t been an industry standard structure or measurement and so people don’t quite get it. Even here at Whalar, where as a Facebook & Instagram partner we’re seen as one of the leading voices in the space, we’re still innovating and testing boundaries.

So is it an art and a science? Absolutely not, or at least, not when it's done well.

The rationale behind working with influencers and the process of doing so should be completely scientific. As with anything new it’s an iterative process to get consistent results… You shouldn’t expect to hit all home runs on your first outing.

The only time the word art should come into the equation is to describe the creative output the influencers produce.

We believe we have a good system for helping brands collaborate with influencers and below is the science behind our approach:

1. Understanding

It may sound obvious, but the first thing we do is make sure that whomever we’re working with has a clear understanding of what collaborating with influencers can do, and the core rationale behind doing so. Plenty of people might hold differing opinions on this - and to a degree that’s fine, so long as you are clear on the technique.

2. Objective Setting

The success or failure of any collaboration will often come down to the communication between the two parties, which is true of influencer marketing or any other form of collaboration between two or more parties.

Did each party understand clearly what the objectives were? Did each understand their role in the collaboration? And as a result, are each party confident they could achieve these goals?

You need to identify the Why, What and Who of your campaign motives.

Why – Why are you doing this? What’s the core motivation? What is the desired outcome?

What – What content do you want? What type of creative? What aesthetics? What’s your message?

Who – Who are you trying to reach? Who is your consumer? Who's perception are you trying to change?

3. Matchmaking

I suspect this is one of the areas that people have mostly considered as ‘art’ and I imagine this has been driven by the fact that steps 1 and 2 hadn’t previously been considered in a detailed enough way.

Once you have identified your ‘why, what and who’; then the process of finding the right influencers is completely scientific, it’s a process of matchmaking a brand to an influencer against the laid out criteria from the previous steps and, if available, the analysis of any results from previous campaigns.

4. Briefing

The completion of the brief should be the final thing you do. Having followed all the previous steps will help produce a clear and succinct brief. The extra component to add is the brand story, your values, who you are, and who you aren’t. This is vital to help the influencer really understand who you are and how they can help you to convey your message.

It’s then time to hand over to the influencer. We view these individuals as creators with influence, so it’s vital you give them the freedom to do what they do best.

If you’ve got the right understanding, set clear objectives, chosen the right influencers and given the right brief then you’ll get the best out of them. They are platform/channel experts and this is where they close the gap between you and the consumer, so let them do it. Too much interference and you risk losing creative authenticity - which is what you came for, right?

If not, refer back to step one.