First and Foremost, Choose the Right Partners

This simply cannot be overstated. To run a successful campaign, it is imperative to select the right partners based on both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Partner with people who are organic fans of your products and brand. To do this, research their content, their hobbies and their interests. Utilize networks with existing, longstanding relationships, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to further qualify a candidate. Their message and endorsement will be exponentially more powerful if they were fans before you even identified them.

Beyond appropriately identifying people based on a demographic fit, you should look closely at their engagement and their growth trajectory. The rapid rise of influencer marketing and subsequent increases in budgets have meant a drastic increase in the number of prospective “influencers” with whom you can align. Unfortunately, many of the #sponsored posts coming across our feeds are from people who are simply looking to serve as a promotional vehicle for brands and collect a check. The industry is also now facing issues involving fraud, purchased followers and engagement, and bots. Look at the quality and context of the content and the engagement before making a decision. If their engagement tripled overnight from one post to the next, that’s a pretty good indicator that something is amiss.

Go All-In on a Single KPI    

Influencer and advocacy marketing are still in the very early stages and many marketers are still trying to hone in on the exact metrics and benchmarks that deem a campaign a success. The reality is that it can vary greatly from brand to brand, category to category and campaign to campaign, particularly because the size of influencer can greatly impact results one way or the other (and bigger does not necessarily mean better).

Often times brand marketers will measure success based on multiple metrics, but just as often those metrics compete against one another. For example, if your main priority is lead generation, then traditional engagement in the form of likes, comments and shares might be lower than if you were running a straight brand awareness campaign. You would want to look at website or form click-throughs and conversions. Conversely, if awareness and sentiment are your main objectives, you might look at creative tactics that aim to get people talking and sharing, such as a UGC campaign or sweepstakes. If you are looking to increase app downloads, then installs themselves obviously carry far more weight than comments on a post. And so on and so on…

Support an Overarching Campaign

With social influencers and advocacy becoming more mainstream marketing channels, it’s beneficial if your campaign works in support of larger brand initiatives, some of which might also be supported by TV, digital, PR and beyond. Product launches, tentpole events, seasonal initiatives and rebranding are great opportunities to because they are often treated as tests, which also makes it difficult to measure real impact – and ultimately, a poor test.

Social influencers, advocates and ambassadors can serve as powerful, reputable third party voices in support of overarching brand initiatives. Think of them as one spoke in a larger wheel. The creative aesthetic, brand personality and tone should all be compatible with the big picture.

Let Creators be Creative

The best campaigns are those that allow content creators to maintain their own distinct voice and style. It’s easy to identify content and copy that has been ideated and crafted by a brand behind the scenes.

When brands try to control the entire message and delivery too tightly, the content loses authenticity and, in turn, the intended power of influence. This goes back to choosing the right partners – work only with those you trust to effectively communicate your message without too much handholding. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be given a set of parameters and minimum requirements (they should), but from there they should be given the freedom to make the content their own.

Further, diversity in content is invaluable when brands are able to use the content on their own channels – one of the greatest advantages of tapping an army of advocates to tell your story is the breadth with which unique minds and personalities are able to tell it. Having a simple and transparent approvals process in place to confirm that basic requirements have been met will give you peace of mind while still allowing creators do what they do best – create.

Optimize Rinse and Repeat

Once a campaign gets going, you can see pretty quickly which platforms, types of content (e.g. photo, video, live, etc.) and creative (product placement, lifestyle, story building, etc.) are working best. By having a dedicated full service campaign manager work closely with you and your creative partners from start to finish, you can ensure that the most effective tactics are utilized and optimized all the way through. Having access to technology platforms that measure real-time results is critical to remaining agile throughout a campaign. Optimization requires communication and flexibility by all parties, but ultimately sets you up for the greatest success.