The 5 Elements Of Successful Influencer Marketing Programs

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in 2011. NASA regularly invites influential bloggers to document key events such as this one.

Businesses have always understood that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful ways to shape opinions and drive awareness, preference and sales. “Influencer marketing” is simply the new, fancy way to describe word-of-mouth. The difference now:  the spread of influence is directly measurable, and there are all kinds of tools designed to help you identify and manage influence marketing programs.

So what are the elements that actually make up an influencer marketing program? This is one of the many topics that Nick Einstein, Romi Mahajan, Scott Vaughan and I discussed on this week’s Tap the Power of Social Advocates panel at the Online Marketing Summit in Santa Clara.

Here are the 5 elements that every successful influencer marketing plan needs to address:

1. Identify

Who are the people that actually have the ability to shape the opinions and actions of your customers?  How can you find the right ones to focus on?  Influence measurement tools are definitely a place to start and should be part of any sophisticated monitoring strategy, but you’ll also want to look at other sources. Talk to your sales and customer service teams — they can help you identify customers or prospects who are likely to be passionate about your brand. Remember: you want to find not only people who are popular, but also people who are likely to be engaged advocates.

2. Engage

Once you’ve developed your target list, you’ll need to invite your advocates to participate in the program.  Make sure you deliver the invitation in a way that acknowledges their importance, and show that you value their participation. Be specific: how will you compensate them for their time and engagement?  The best reward is one that doesn’t necessarily money or tangible perks — often, being seen as influential by their peers will be enough motivation. There’s a thin line between a reward and a bribe:  whatever you do, make sure that the program and the perks are ones that you’re comfortable talking about publicly.

 3. Empower

Now that you have your advocates lined up, it’s time to empower them. What is the content you want them to share — and how do you make it very easy for them to share that content with their friends?  A steady diet of small easy-to-share updates will keep you front of mind and keep them talking about you on a regular basis.

4. Inspire

Having influencers who share your content is already a win. But having them create their own content, in their own words, about you — that’s taking it to the next level. How can you create a special experience for your brand advocates — one that they’ll be so excited about that they’ll blog, YouTube or Instagram it? How you do it will be different for every brand:  a backstage pass, an exclusive piece of research, early beta access to a new product or an invitation to play a starring role in an upcoming commercial. What is it that fans really love about you, and how can you fuel that passion?

5. Celebrate

Your brand advocates work hard for you. The best way you can thank them is to celebrate them. Put their names up in lights, or put their face on the side of your next plane. Showcase their influence. These people represent your most committed customers. Everything that you and your company do is about delighting your customers (it is, isn’t it?) — what better way to demonstrate that than to celebrate your best customers, as publicly and loudly as you can?

Want to learn more about influencer marketing?  Here’s the entire 45-minute panel discussion from the Online Marketing Summit, the discussion of the 5 elements begins at about 8:30:

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What kinds of influencer marketing programs are you running at your company? Which brands do you think are doing a good (or not so good) job of reaching out to their advocates?


To learn more about influence measurement and best practices in influencer marketing, check out The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools, our detailed analysis of personal and contextual influence measurement tools.