Industry research predicts that the influencer marketing industry will reach between $5 billion and $10 billion by 2022. The same research reports that 93% of marketers use social media influencers.
But they're not using them in the most beneficial way for their business, according to MarketingProfs instructor and influence marketing expert Jason Falls. "It's crazy how tunnel-visioned many companies are on using influencers for awareness," he observes. "There's so much more there."
And Jason would know. As director of digital and social strategy at Cornett, his digital strategies have helped some of the words most iconic brands.
I invited Jason to Marketing Smarts to talk about how influence goes far beyond "influencers," and how you can use "influence marketing" to get better results in every area of your business.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation.
Influencers' value isn't limited to YouTube and Instagram: They can help improve your SEO (05:49) "I don't think that very many companies or brands think of influencers in terms of 'how can they impact my SEO.' Why would you not want a person with a high-value, high-ranking, high authority website to link to you? It just doesn't make any sense. Now if you are engaging an influencer to do a product review on their site and link back to you, you're using it for SEO even if you're not thinking of it in terms of SEO. But we can be much more intentional and strategic with how we use influencers for things like search."
To track your influence marketing results, choose key performance indicators that align with your goals (12:25) "It all depends on your goals. If you're trying to use influencers to drive people to try or buy, then you've got to use coupon codes and you've got to use custom URL parameters and you've got to use landing pages where you can capture and measure where these [leads] are going.
"Here at the Cornett Team, when we do influencer programs and we're driving people to download a PDF on the website or trying to drive people to purchase a product or visit a landing page, we give each individual influencer their own UTM parametered link so that when it comes into our analytics system, it says 'here's everything you got from influencers' and then 'here's everything you got from this one influencer.'
"So we can actually drill down in our Web analytics and say 'this one influencer drove 250 downloads of this PDF,' and so we know that influencer is more or less effective than the other ones. After you do that two or three times, you start to figure out the five or six that are really going to be where you want to spend your money. It helps you be more efficient in the long run if you're planning to measure ahead of time.
"If you're trying to drive brand awareness, you've got to do a lot of social listening, reach and impressions data, to see 'where were we when we started and where are we now and how did that needle move?' and you can isolate each individual influencer in certain ways by having them use certain hashtags or searching for their names, but you measure based on your goal.
"You measure based on your goal. So depending on what you're trying to do, you set up your measurement ahead of time. The important thing, though, is to plan to measure, even if you're a nonprofit and you're trying to engage influencers to change people's minds about how they think about a certain topic, you've got to say, 'OK, how do I measure that?' Well, I have to do social listening or surveys on the front end, and then after my program I've got to measure the same thing on the back end and compare them to see if I made a difference."
Reviews from influencers can serve multiple marketing purposes (15:56) "[Influence marketing] can really check the boxes on every piece of marketing that you're trying to accomplish if you want it to.... There are plenty of websites out there where ratings and reviews are very important and impactful for your SEO. Most of them have terms of service that say 'we don't accept paid or even prompted reviews,' but if you are collecting reviews for your own website, you can collect reviews from whoever you want.
"And that's content for your website. That's social proof for your website because these are influential people, so you can say, 'Here's what Influencer A said about our product.' And you can use that both as copy and creative to capture the eyeballs when they're there, but you can also use that as the copy that you need to be able to attract those searchers to come into your website.
"There's lots of ways you can use [influence marketing]. It's really just a matter of sitting down and saying, 'OK, what are our overall marketing goals and how does an influencer angle work to accomplish that?' I don't think there's anything that you can't find a way to use an influencer to accomplish, if you really put your mind to it."
Jason and I talked about much more, including influence marketing for B2B organizations and what kinds of expenses to budget for, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Jason Falls, author, speaker, influence marketing expert, and head of digital and social strategy at Cornett. Learn more about Jason at JasonFalls.com, and sign up for his newsletter. You can also follow him on Twitter at @JasonFalls.