By Kelsie Axelrod, Director, Consumer

Influencer marketing is still on a bull run. It has become an essential arm of any consumer marketing program and we are often seeing these brand advocates outperform traditional ad and marketing tactics — in the awareness, acquisition and conversion stages. But nowadays, influencer marketing strategy is about more than finding social media stars with big followings to post your products. 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 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 sales. It stretches marketing budgets more effectively and means your brand is promoted continually as an influencer’s audience grows.

Partnerships can be centered around content and posts, or via affiliate marketing programs. When influencers are rewarded by helping sell your products, and authentically believe in them, they’ll create convincing, highly converting content, typically on an ongoing basis.

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!

When considering “real people,” also consider representation in your partners. People care about this and it’s simply good for business.

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 performed great across channels. Just make sure influencers do follow FTC guidelines.

Invest upfront to boost content across channels

Using influencer content only for organic social? That’s just scratching the surface of potential. We suggest investing more money upfront to get usage rights to share influencer content across paid, earned and owned (like email and blog) campaigns, too. 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. It also delivers significant ROI, especially when it’s video, with some of the lowest CPC and highest conversion rates we’ve seen.

Consider all stages of the funnel & alternative goals

Influencers used to be mostly considered for awareness marketing, but now they often sit in the conversion pool of the marketing mix. Test a mix of CTAs and goals with influencers on both organic and paid content. This could look like having some influencers directly highlight a specific promo or app feature, while others primarily make brand content. Also consider entirely different use cases and compensation structures to meet your goals. We’ve successfully partnered with influencers to bring people in to live events and brand experiences, for example.

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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