Social Media

3 Ways Brands Can Evolve Their Thinking for the Next Generation of Influencer Marketing

July 26, 2012

This article was originally published in the WOMMA All Things WOM blog.

As the social media landscape evolves, so does the nature of online influence. The avenues where people are consuming content, the way they’re engaging with it and the role that brands play with those influencing that behavior reveal a discipline in-flux, changing in complex and exciting ways. And while brand marketers are no strangers to the impact of social media on their business, it’s likely that their approach to influencer marketing has not progressed at pace with the changing times.

Here are a few key ways to advance your current influencer marketing practice to the cutting-edge – and along with it your brand’s future social strategy:

Think Cross-Platform. Blogs represent just a fraction of digital media consumption, yet most influencer marketing efforts are still exclusively targeting bloggers. Consider how your brand can leverage influencer power beyond blogs to better reach your target and how they’re actually engaging in social. Whether it’s tapping into leaders on Pinterest or Instagram, identifying brand advocates on Yelp or Foursquare, or simply leveraging the real-time mobile Twitter capabilities of your current press contacts – these avenues are ripe with untapped earned media opportunity. Influencers can bring your brand to life in uncharted PR waters with greater authenticity, relevancy and reach than a brand-owned presence alone.

Think Shareable. For truly social word of mouth, marketers should focus less on promoting and more on creating. Consider how you can inspire social-sharing from your target audience through influencers, positioning compelling content, and storytelling at the core of your campaign. Publicists can no longer afford to just be messengers. To remain effective, they will need to create concepts that inherently have social potential and harness the pass-along advocacy between peers.

Begin with the nuances of why and how content is shared, and within which platforms, early in the planning process. Moving towards this “ripple-effect” mindset will shift the consumer’s brand experience from passive to active, maximizing both your reach and marketing dollars in the process.

Think Collaborative. The future is not about marketing to influencers – it’s about marketing with them. (This flaw in the term itself has surely resulted in the immediate deletion of countless pitches). Treating influencers as an extension of your company – rather than a distribution channel – will result in a more impactful experience for influencers and consumers alike.

Perhaps an influencer leads the crowd-sourcing of a new product flavor or live-Tweets as an official red carpet correspondent at an offline event! Understanding exactly why an influencer has built such a captivated following in the first place, and then authentically integrating your brand through that lens, will cut through the clutter and create a more memorable and lasting brand experience with your target.

As the social web continues to evolve, marketers will be challenged to take their strategies to the next level to better meet the needs of a new generation of online influencers. The landscape is fast-moving and multi-faceted indeed, but this presents an optimal environment for innovative brands looking to gain an edge with creative WOM strategies that empower influencers like never before.