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Influencer marketing best practices to reach millennials, Gen Z

To reach the millennial and Gen Z consumer, you need to build trust and create experiences. Follow these tips to spin up an influencer marketing campaign.

BOSTON -- Once upon a time, marketing to consumers was easy. Companies would place ads in print media, buy a radio spot and perhaps -- if they ran a big enough business -- put an ad on TV.

But times have changed. Now organizations have to pay attention to social media, audio and video streaming services, mobile apps and other channels. The market is seemingly oversaturated, so how does one cut through all the noise to reach the consumer -- specifically millennials and Gen Zers?

Businesses need to create experiences, which is possible through influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is about bridging and extending trust, said Brian Fanzo, founder and speaker at iSocialFanz, which teaches businesses to drown out the noise and engage with customers, during a session about 10 marketing lessons learned from the Fyre Festival, here at the Digital Summit.

"No one trusts your brand or logo; nobody cares what you do," Fanzo said. "But if you want to expand your brand or audience, you must establish trust."

Cutting through the noise

Fyre Festival is an example of a great influencer marketing campaign gone wrong. Organizers launched a promotional video with models and other celebrities in a tropical paradise. Influencers with large followings posted the video to their social media feeds, and it drew in thousands of people who bought tickets.

Brian Fanzo photo
Brian Fanzo, founder and speaker at iSocialFanz, talks about marketing lessons learned in the wake of the disastrous Fyre Festival during a session at the Digital Summit in Boston.

But organizers didn't deliver what they promised, going against influencer marketing best practices. Festival-goers knew they'd been scammed and took to social media in force.

"You must deliver with what you sell," Fanzo said. "When you evoke an emotion and don't deliver, it can blow up in your face."

But influencer marketing isn't just limited to music festivals and retail. Tech giants such as SAP also use it.

"SAP uses influencer marketing to break through the noise," said Ursula Ringham, head of global influencer marketing at SAP, in a Digital Summit session. "For us, video is a great way to reach people."

 Ursula Ringham photo
Ursula Ringham, head of global influencer marketing at SAP, talks about influencer marketing during a session at the Digital Summit in Boston.

However, while consumers crave experiences, not all businesses use influencer marketing. It depends on the company or brand, said Nicole France, principal analyst and vice president at Constellation Research Inc. 

"Some startups have built large parts of their marketing strategies around influencer marketing," France said. "For other companies, it's only one area of marketing investment among many. Some don't bother with [influencer marketing] at all."

Influencer marketing best practices

If you do choose to put this strategy to work, Ringham offers the following influencer marketing best practices to be successful.

  1. Social media presence. To get started, you need a presence on social media to reach your audience. Become a social media voyeur and observe other campaigns. Read, watch and listen to all the content you can get your hands on. Monitor and post engagements. Interact with influencers. Attend a virtual conference.
No one trusts your brand or logo; nobody cares what you do. But if you want to expand your brand or audience, you must establish trust.
Brian FanzoFounder and speaker, iSocialFanz

"Be authentic, share experiences and engage," Ringham said.

  1. Be selective. Influencers can be any number of people, including celebrities, customers, employees and media. Choosing the right influencers can make or break your program, so it's important to be selective with whom you work.

You might be overwhelmed with so many influencer options to choose from, so start by asking these two questions:

  • What does your brand stand for?
  • What can your influencers bring to the table?

Connect with other influencer marketers along your journey. Research potential influencers, then talk directly with them to get a feel for whether they're the right fit for your brand.

"[Influencer marketing] works best when influencers have a high degree of credibility and integrity and are open about why they support or endorse the brands they do," France said.

  1. Invest in good relationships. You want to focus on building long-term partnerships. Avoid creating one-hit wonders so you can build relationships over time. A blog series, for example, would help build that relationship.
  2. Build a strong foundation. There are multiple steps to take to build your foundation.
  • Get leadership buy-in by reading up on other influencer programs and showing the results of those campaigns.
  • Map out priorities for the year.
  • Choose the necessary technology and tools to run your program.
  • Design an influencer program.
  • Measure success.
  • Obtain the necessary budget and resources.
  1. Choose your content type. Content types include blogs, photos, video, live streams, podcasts and infographics. But no matter what type of content you choose, be sure that you discuss a topic and not a product. You should also always have a call to action.
  2. Play out the scenarios. Play out the best-case and worst-case scenarios for your influencer marketing campaign.

"You have to think about what happens," Ringham said. "Put on the table what exactly to expect from an influencer, and what happens if something goes wrong."

  1. Dot your I's and cross your T's. Be up front with influencers when discussing expectations and compensations during negotiations. Ensure that you meet GDPR and Federal Trade Commission requirements. And be sure you have contracts in place to reduce liability.
  2. Let go of control. Empower influencers to tell your story and don't put constraints on them.

"Make sure you let the influencer be themselves," Ringham said.

  1. Don't go it alone. You are not on this influencer marketing journey alone. Be sure to rely on internal collaboration and agency partners for ideas and to sort out any bugs.
  2. Never stop learning. Even if you think you have the process figured out, it's important to continue evolving using the following method:
  • Use technology and data to discover what's really working.
  • Keep experimenting and testing new ideas.
  • Evolve with your program, and let data and influencers guide your success.

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