By Kelsie Axelrod, Director, Consumer

Influencer marketing is still on a bull run, and we are all in. It has become an essential arm of any consumer marketing program. But nowadays, influencer marketing strategy is not just about finding social media stars with big followings to post your products and news. Today, it’s performance-driven — and that requires both art and science.

Based on the recent influencer campaigns we’ve managed for clients (and are loving from other brands), here are the tricks for getting more value out of current and upcoming influencer marketing initiatives.

Pursue long-term influencer partnerships

Short-term, one-off social posts are a thing of the past.­ We currently see way more traction with long-term, authentic partnerships. When you treat influencers as brand ambassadors, more trust is developed between the brand, the influencer and their followers. It typically generates better audience engagement, more creative content and stretches marketing budgets more effectively. It also means your brand is promoted continually as an influencer’s audience grows, reaching more relevant people.

Partner with “real people” content creators

Gone are the days of expensive celebrity endorsements as the only way to get impact. TikTok (and Instagram before it) helped give rise to “real people” influencers, with creators like Elyse Myers, Rod and Mikayla Nogueira growing huge followings with their honest product reviews and relatable storytelling. I’ve seen brands like Abercrombie, Cerave and Charlotte Tilbury experience significant brand lift over the past year, mostly built from “real people” reviews. Just look at how quickly products from these brands sell out as soon as a groundswell of reviews and tutorials come in. The Charlotte Tilbury contour wand was sold out for months after going viral on TikTok!

Create open-ended briefs

Creators are (as in their name) creative. While brands should establish clear KPIs and messaging, it is important to allow influencers enough freedom to actually create. When we let them put their own spin on content, brand messaging is pulled through in a more real way. We find it is usually these “posts” that get people watching, engaging and sharing, maybe even without realizing it’s an advertisement. We recently worked off an open-ended brief in a partnership we ran for client Blurb with Luke Bergg. It allowed us to get this amazing, personalized video from him that has performed great across channels. Just make sure influencers do follow FTC guidelines.

Invest upfront to use content across channels

Using influencer content only on organic social or influencers’ own profiles? That’s just scratching the surface of potential. We suggest investing more money upfront to get the usage rights to share influencer content across paid, earned and owned (like email and blog) campaigns, too. We’ve seen significant ROI on this, especially with video. Building influencer programs with this wholistic content approach in mind from the get-go is actually a cost-effective way to produce authentic, unique and convincing content in a way brands would usually find difficult (and expensive) to do on their own.

Get advanced in your tracking

The days of measuring influencer marketing strategy efficacy by engagements and impressions are over. With the increased investment often required by influencers and advancements in digital marketing, every single influencer marketing dollar and its impact can and should be accounted for. It’s important to set up a solid measurement infrastructure upfront. Not only does this help calculate ROI. It also lets you see what’s working and optimize campaigns along the way and in the future. We’ve connected influencer programs to top-line marketing goals via UTM codes to monitor site traffic, influencer-specific promo codes and audience giveaways, and more. When using influencer content as paid social ads, metrics can get as granular as specific conversions.

Overall, it’s still prime time for influencer marketing — and it’s effective in almost every industry to tackle marketing goals at every stage of the funnel. But influencer marketing strategy has a new creative- and performance-driven look. And you’ve got to play inside those lines to make it work (and keep working) for your brand.

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