The Art of Investing in Influencer Marketing

As founder of The Cirqle, a startup that enables brands, communities and businesses to launch influencer marketing campaigns, I’ve watched the days of exclusive press releases/events disappear. The Internet has changed the inception process. In 2017/2018 companies seed products through influencers, leak "exclusives" to reporters, bloggers, and consumers, live-stream launch events globally and reward brand advocates with pre-access. The velocity of the news cycle and the uprise of social media makes launching a new product far easier in some ways—and more difficult in others.

In 2017, product launches require different takes. The social web levels the playing field for brands of all sizes when reaching consumers– yet the ability for consumers to share their opinions freely on social media can provide huge hurdles for brand messaging. Thus, individual entities have proved to be more valuable then entire agencies all together. Cutting costs significantly on traditional content production with examples of producing content of such quality that brands are interested in licensing.

Brands often forget the target audience they're marketing too. Take note: 95% of Gen-Z uses Youtube and 79% has no problem with branded content at all. There's a new consumer that's intelligent, digital savvy and requires a new approach.

1. Complement your social strategy with advertising or offline activations that have impact/scale. Snapchat absolutely nailed this with the launch of their Snap spectacles. Product dispensers, placed at high-traffic location throughout the city of New York, exclusively provided a select group of consumers the opportunity to buy their $150,- pair first, ahead of the curve. The excitement and momentum caused heavy chatters around the brands product launch. This was a clever use of offline activations and social media, where the latter became the carrier of information throughout the (social) web. Snapchat put substantially more muscle behind the launch by activating an integrated social media strategy.

2. Measurement is important, but no indicator for success. Some companies have placed so much emphasis on measuring "impact" of campaigns that they fore-go the power of discovery. Some networks are millions strong and provide outsized returns but lack the reporting that may justify the spend to management internally. Overnight success comes to those who do not exclusively focus on justifying budgets but on platforms that enable creativity and virality.  

3. Know your target demographic and their social media preferences. My team speaks much too often to brands that want to work with influencers every other brand works with, without knowing their target demographics or audience composition all together. Start your conversation by understanding who your customer is and build your marketing around that customer by trying to target similar demographics accordingly. 

4. Use social media to host contests that foster loyalty and reward brand advocates. Rewarding brand advocates and fans with the chance to win products through social media drives engagement and repeat fans. New product launches lend themselves perfectly to these contests, because brands can use product samples as giveaways to entice consumers to try before they buy. 

5. Create a tailored influencer strategy to help distribute your product through the web. Last year we helped our clients run monthly influencer programs with 60-80 micro influencers (<50K followers). It resulted in a continuous drumbeat of highly engaging content at a fraction of the cost traditional programs cost. 

6. Use social media to let your consumers create your next product. Brands want to create products consumers will buy. Consumers want control. Social media allows for both. When launching a new product, social media doesn’t have to be strictly promotional—it can play a starring role before manufacturing begins. Hence the success of platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. 

7. High risk means high reward. Musical.ly is still a relatively unknown network (to some). But in silence, the company has amassed over 150 million monthly active users. No matter what the product or campaign, build your teams—marketing, sales, advertising, PR, Web development and more—with forward thinkers who enjoy reading tech blogs, industry news sites and downloading the latest apps. Learn about new social apps like Meerkat and Periscope before they hit the mainstream media sphere (or are replaced by others). You don’t want to waste time, money and passion implementing an outdated launch plan that features yesterday’s social media channels.

Disclaimer: this piece was partially inspired by HBR article: https://hbr.org/2015/04/10-tactics-for-launching-a-product-using-social-media