Influencer marketing is all the rage these days. It’s an age-old tactic – essentially word-of-mouth referrals – revived in recent years through the explosive growth of social media and hashtags. On the surface, modern influencer marketing strategy is basic: get famous (read: influential) people to promote your brand’s products or ideas. Basic, but with a big price tag. And most brands don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a few tweets or #sponsored Instagram posts, let alone thousands more to invest in a robust and/or ongoing campaign.

CMOs, let’s redefine influencer marketing strategy.

Authenticity matters.

It’s a fact that people – your customers – trust their friends, families and social networks more than what they read in the media or on your website. However, the millions of people who follow the Kardashians likely don’t really believe the sisters’ praise for everything from fat-burning tea to gummy vitamins for healthier hair. (Then there’s the recent addition of #ad on their posts, just in case you weren’t sure.) It’s an extreme example, but the point is this: Celebrities have the power to amplify your brand, but it’s short-lived. What you need is more organic, enduring – and authentic.

Strategy is everything.

One-off efforts that aren’t rooted in or backed by strategy aren’t going to make an impact. Period. Ongoing relationships with respected, well-connected industry influentials, on the other hand, will. These are the people who have the ears of decision makers – the people who have the power to buy what you’re selling. They have engaged, devoted audiences who listen and act. Take SAP, for example. Its Audience Marketing team partners with esteemed authors, academics and consultants. They attend the company’s annual conference, where the SAP team live-streams interviews them and then promotes the content via social and other marketing channels. The influencers help generate buzz around SAP events and keep the conversation going long after. But you don’t need to be a large corporation to do something similar – and equally valuable – for your brand.

Influencer marketing strategy can be powerful – if you leverage it the right way.

While modern influencer marketing is still emerging, marketers have long leveraged influential people to help sell products and services. What’s new is social media and the internet, which give more people an opportunity to influence, as well as easier ways to engage.

As trust in media and companies continues to dwindle, the value of influencer marketing will rise.Click To TweetAs trust in media and companies continues to dwindle, the value of influencer marketing will rise. But while it’s largely considered to be one of your paid tactics, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we recommend that it’s not. Look to your established networks – and those of your thought leaders – as a starting point. Then branch out from there. Find people who believe not necessarily in your brand, but in your mission and your values. These are the people who have the capacity to influence the customer journey, from awareness, to lead generation, to sales, to advocacy.

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For more than 10 years, Jen Zottola has helped bring clients’ stories to life – through media opportunities, digital and marketing content, executive presentations, employee communications and more. Fusing creativity with strategy, she crafts compelling, award-winning copy proven to reach and resonate with the right audiences in the most impactful ways. As editorial director, Jen collaborates with clients and account teams to provide counsel on messaging and voice, as well as writing and editing support. Her creativity isn’t reserved only for writing; Jen also gets a kick out of party- and event planning.