It isn’t easy to activate influencer marketing programs across digital media channels, but it can be done. This post will discuss the strategic and tactical rules of engagement and how to start influencer programs across paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media channels. I also share a few influencer marketing case studies to help you understand the best practices for activating influencer programs.
Budgets for influencer marketing in the U.S. will grow by more than 20%, according to eMarketer. They forecast spending to exceed $3 billion in 2021 and surpass $4 billion in 2022. But with that comes more pressure to show a return on investment (ROI). And that means understanding how to activate influencer programs across all digital media channels and deliver results.
I think very black and white. My brain is linear, and that’s how I function, plan, and activate influencer programs. I have ADD, and my mind can quickly erupt into chaos when there’s no structure. It helps me contextualize everything.
Using PESO to Activate Influencers
When I think about activating influencer marketing programs across the digital ecosystem, I use the PESO model–paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media.
Most marketers will want to activate influencers across all digital media channels simultaneously. This is not the right thing to do. It’s a progression. The process requires nurturing influencers through the purchase funnel. You start with basic influencer relations at the left and move slowly to the right.
It’s important to note that PESO isn’t meant to describe the order in which you might activate influencers. Instead, it’s an acronym that describes integrated marketing and how all the channels fit together.
You’ll notice below that the PESO marketing model is not in the same order as the acronym. You start with earned media because that’s the easy way in. Anybody can do this, and it doesn’t require much effort or budget.
The process works like this: You identify the top influencers, add them to a Twitter list, segment them by topic areas, and several times a day, scroll through the influencer’s content and like, comment, share — like, comment, share. And this is something you should always do in addition to your branded content, paid social, and everything else.
With shared media, you should be creating content based on what is trending within the influencer conversations. You are acknowledging their expertise in the market through targeted engagement. Naturally, they will engage with you by following your account and sharing your content. That’s precisely what you want them to do.
In this phase, tech influencers must be added to a custom listening panel. I often write about audience analytics, but an audience is a group of influencers.
Once you add them to a social listening panel like Brandwatch, you should monitor what they are saying as a group or individually to get actionable insights that will then inform your content.
Now then, you move into paid media.
With paid, activating influencers becomes more expensive and more strategic. So assume you engage with the top 500 influencers and journalists in digital transformation. You create content based on what those influencers say and target them with it. It’s an influencer cycle that works effectively:
- Identify tech influencers
- Build influencer profiles
- Add them to a social listening panel
- Monitor their conversations
- Create content based on what’s trending
- Target them with that content
By the way, you can’t do this with a cheap influencer marketing research tool. It takes time, more time, and money.
But the beauty of this is that it works exceptionally well.
Moving on to owned media, there’s a lot you can do here when you activate social media influencer programs. It’s as easy as inviting an influencer to blog on your channel, company blog, newsroom, or your company LinkedIn page. You have gone through all these processes; you’ve built a relationship, and now you are asking them to be a part of your brand by participating in thought leadership and creating content.
Another way to do this is to invite them to contribute to an eBook or white paper. Again, you give them complete editorial control and promote it with very targeted creative content.
And let me tell you. Spending six months diligently doing this day in and day out will produce results. Here are more details about influencer activation.
Influencer Activations with Paid Media: Sponsored Content and Ads
In paid media, influencers can be used in two ways: through sponsored content or ads. With sponsored content, the influencer creates a post about your brand, product, or service and then promotes it across their channels. The key here is that the content must be authentic and align with the interests of the influencer’s audience. If it’s not, the sponsored content will likely be ignored.
Ads are a bit different. Here, the influencer promotes your brand, product, or service through paid ads on their channels. These can be static (like a banner ad) or video ads. The advantage of using influencers for ads is that they come with built-in trust. Their followers already know, like, and respect them, so when they see an advertisement from an influencer, they’re more likely to pay attention to it.
For example, Sephora used Instagram influencers to promote its new foundation launch. The influencers posted photos and videos of themselves wearing the foundation and included Sephora’s brand name and product in the caption. These posts were promoted across Sephora’s paid media channels, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Sephora also ran ads featuring influencers using the new foundation. These ads ran on Sephora’s owned channels, such as its website and app, and paid media channels, like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Activate Social Media Influencer Marketing with Earned Media
With earned media, influencers can help generate publicity for your brand in two ways: through publicity stunts or partnerships.
Publicity stunts are a great way to generate attention and get people talking about your brand. But they need to be carefully planned and executed. The goal is to develop an idea so creative and out-of-the-box that it gets people’s attention and has them talking about your brand long after the stunt is over.
Partnerships are a bit different. You team up with an influencer to promote your brand, product, or service. The key is finding an influencer with a similar target audience as you. That way, you can reach new people and expand your reach.
For example, KFC recently announced a partnership with Jack Harlow, also from Kentucky. The partnership includes a new “Jack Harlow Meal,” which consists of a spicy chicken sandwich, mac & cheese, french fries, a side of ranch dressing, and a lemonade.
This partnership is an excellent example of celebrity influencer collaborations and consumer brands working together to capture consumer attention. Last year, McDonald’s partnered with Mariah Carey for a unique menu rollout called the “Mariah Menu.” In addition, they have partnered with Travis Scott, BTS, and others.
Other consumer brands have used similar influencer partnerships.
- Burger King partnered with rapper Nelly, Brazilian artist Anitta, and TikTok influencer Lil Huddy.
- Dunkin’ partnered with TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio
- Taco Bell announced that Lil Nas X would be the chief impact officer
And the list goes on.
Shared Media: User-Generated Content (UGC)
First, shared media is any content created and shared by users, also known as user-generated content (UGC). This can be anything from a photo or video to a blog post or social media update. The idea is that it’s a media channel “shared” with other users–customers, prospects, influencers, and more.
One of the benefits of UGC is that it’s often more relatable and authentic than digital marketing content created by brands. That’s because it’s not coming from a corporate entity–it’s from real people sharing their experiences with your product or service.
Another benefit of UGC is that it can help you reach new audiences. For example, when users share your content, their followers will see it, which tactics like ads or email marketing wouldn’t necessarily get.
Finally, UGC can be a great way to get ideas for new content. You can see what kind of content your users create and use to inspire your digital marketing strategy.
Owned Media: Activating Influencers on Company-Owned Channels
While shared media is any content created and shared by users, owned media is content published on channels you own and control. This can be anything from your website and blog to your social media channels and email list.
One way to use owned media is to showcase influencers on company-owned channels. This helps you reach new audiences and expand your reach. It also allows you to control the narrative and ensure that the content aligns with your brand.
For example, you run marketing for a large fashion brand and partner with an Instagram influencer. You can feature their photos and other creative assets on your website and social media channels.
Whatever approach you decide to take when you activate social media influencer marketing programs, it’s best to integrate it into a more effective digital marketing strategy.