Influencer Marketing: How to Make It Work for Performance

Influencer Marketing: Truth bomb time – influencer posts are, more often than not, a total waste of money for us performance marketers.

We part with thousands of dollars for a single Instagram post or story from some D-list reality star talking about our product, and in return, we get bubkes. And by bubkes, I mean maybe a few dozen clicks to our website and zero orders.

Nevertheless, we’re tempted to try this costly strategy time and again due to all the buzz around influencer marketing and maybe also the appeal of a specific celebrity.

But unfortunately, we usually fail in terms of performance because the influencer’s audience is not our target audience, or, even if they are the right audience, they’re simply not engaged with the influencer’s content and aren’t receptive to their product recommendations.

In any case, with the low reach organic posts typically achieve nowadays, there’s a limit to what a single post can get us.

Does this mean influencers are of no value to performance marketers? Of course not. But if conversions and ROAS are what you care about at the end of the day, you need to be especially careful about which influencers you invest in and what you do with their content.

Here at Particle, a rapidly growing direct-to-consumer men’s personal care brand, we’ve managed to utilize influencer content to drive sales and revenue rather than just brand awareness or vanity metrics like Instagram Follows. What’s our secret? Here are a few key principles to follow to increase your chances of success.

  1. Run the influencer’s content, whether static images or videos, as branded content ads on Facebook and Instagram; that is, ads that run from the influencer’s profiles yet remain entirely under your control.

    Beyond allowing you to make use of the content over an extended period, these ads are often perceived by consumers as more authentic and relatable than traditional ads. After all, the influencer not only shot an endorsement for your product, but they’re also promoting it through their own social media channels.

    As shown in this case study from Meta, we saw a 24% improvement in return on ad spend by combining branded content ads with standard ads from our own Facebook and Instagram profiles.
  1. Choose nano- or micro-influencers with no more than 50,000 followers on a given social media platform and a $1,000 price tag at most.

    Since the most important factor in the ability of a branded content ad to generate sales is the influencer’s onscreen presence rather than the size of their audience, there’s usually no reason to pay more for more followers.

    Paying less per influencer will also allow you to try out more of them within a limited budget. 

    This is important because you don’t know what kind of influencer will work best with your audience until you’ve run an ad with them. So it’s best to keep your options open with a range of influencers in terms of age and other demographic traits, as well as looks and style, and run one ad with each.

    At Particle, for example, we were surprised when a video ad featuring a younger, buff guy took off with our audience of men age 45+: men, it turns out, can be swayed by aspirational imagery just like women.
  1. Work with influencers who are charismatic, natural in front of the camera, and have some experience filming themselves.

    This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of extremely low-quality content we’ve received over the years from influencers. While it’s true that unpolished videos can perform well due to their perceived authenticity, there’s no value in blurry footage of your product or background noise that makes your influencer inaudible.

    Having experienced influencers will save you time and energy on getting the content right; make sure to also provide specific guidelines and examples for them to follow.

Influencer marketing has become big business over the past few years, a lucrative destination for both social media users who want to benefit from the online audiences they’ve amassed and for brands looking for novel ways to reach, engage and convert consumers.

But for performance marketers, a few organic posts from a couple of influencers usually won’t be worth the effort in putting them together. So instead, try the best practices recommended here to achieve tangible, long-lasting, and scalable results.

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