Word-of-mouth has always been a suc­cess­ful form of mar­ket­ing. When it comes to spread­ing this word on social media, influ­encer mar­ket­ing is one of the most effec­tive meth­ods. A recent Tomo­son study reveals that busi­ness­es are earn­ing $6.50 for every $1 they invest in influ­encer mar­ket­ing. The top 13 per­cent of busi­ness­es make more than $20 for each dol­lar spent on influ­encer mar­ket­ing.

How­ev­er, giv­en recent trends and changes, brands might need to rethink the way they approach influ­encer mar­ket­ing. Con­sid­er­ing there’s a bot­tom 18 per­cent that does­n’t make any rev­enue as it is, those who don’t pay atten­tion to these changes will find influ­encer mar­ket­ing even hard­er.

Just recent­ly, the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion (FTC), for the first time, had to set­tle charges against two social media influ­encers. As a result of the process, the FTC has set a new prece­dent: Going for­ward, influ­encers will have to clear­ly dis­close their rela­tion­ship with the brands they are pro­mot­ing. As part of implant­i­ng the new rules, the FTC has issued an endorse­ment guide for both influ­encers and brands.

Today, it’s rel­a­tive­ly easy for aspir­ing influ­encers to pur­chase fol­low­ers and offer their ser­vices on var­i­ous mar­ket­places, and brands are wis­ing up, learn­ing to approach influ­encer mar­ket­ing as a long-term rela­tion­ship rather than a quick-grab media buy. And this is the case in both the busi­ness-to-con­sumer (B2C) and busi­ness-to-busi­ness (B2B) spheres.

In light of such changes, brands will have to rethink their influ­encer mar­ket­ing strate­gies. Here’s how you can improve your strat­e­gy this year.

Relat­ed: 10 Laws of Social Media Mar­ket­ing

Develop your own influencers

An influ­encer mes­sage has to be authen­tic because audi­ence mem­bers now have a clear view of who’s behind the cur­tain. Know­ing that a mes­sage is inspired by mon­ey, rather than earnest appre­ci­a­tion, breeds skep­ti­cism.

As buy­ers turn to niche blogs and their social net­works for assis­tance with their spend­ing deci­sions, there will be new lay­ers of scruti­ny involved. The per­son behind the mes­sage and his or her rela­tion­ship with the brand in ques­tion will cer­tain­ly become a more sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor. And an influ­encer being close to the brand won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly be a bad thing. Even as they watch out for bias, con­sumers will also want to hear from some­one close enough to the brand to know what they are talk­ing about.

Your employ­ees are best posi­tioned to dis­cuss the prod­uct and con­sumers are very like­ly to believe them. They work direct­ly on your prod­ucts and are actu­al­ly the peo­ple behind the prod­uct fea­tures. Who bet­ter to talk about those prod­ucts? No one.

“When an employ­ee talks about their work expe­ri­ence or shares lessons they’ve learned work­ing for a com­pa­ny, it res­onates in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent way,” explains Roope Heinilä; CEO of Smarp. “So imag­ine what sort of mes­sage a com­pa­ny can share online if it can orches­trate entire depart­ments of employ­ees to work togeth­er and make their voic­es heard. That’s extreme­ly pow­er­ful.”

Clear­ly, employ­ees have been an untapped resource for influ­encer mar­ket­ing that may prove invalu­able now.

Relat­ed: 10 Mar­ket­ing Influ­encers That Every Entre­pre­neur Can Learn From

Employees as information hubs

Accord­ing to the Wasp Bar­code 2017 State of Small Busi­ness Report, 30 per­cent of exec­u­tive lead­ers sur­veyed have asked their employ­ees to use their per­son­al social media accounts to share and com­ment on con­tent. Besides hir­ing des­ig­nat­ed sales and mar­ket­ing peo­ple, this was the most used tac­tic.

What’s the rea­son for this? When it’s about mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing, peo­ple still trust their peers more than they do brands. A report pub­lished by Fast­Com­pa­ny shows that con­tent shared by employ­ees can receive up to eight times more engage­ment than that shared on brand accounts. So, not only do per­son­al accounts help boost the read­er­ship of the com­pa­ny’s mes­sage, they also help gen­er­ate buzz for your brand.

“We have been so sur­prised in terms of engage­ment and down­stream out­comes,” says Dana Hyland George, a recruit­ment man­ag­er at Philips Light­ing. Speak­ing of the advan­tages of enlist­ing their team mem­bers to help boost the com­pa­ny’s brand as an employ­er, she explains, “we saw a gap where we could use an employ­ee advo­ca­cy plat­form to help us ampli­fy our sto­ry at scale . . . We want­ed to human­ize our brand, tell the world who we are and what dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from oth­ers.”

How­ev­er, it’s not always easy try­ing to get your employ­ees to share your mes­sage on their per­son­al accounts. While employ­ee com­mu­ni­ca­tion and brand advo­ca­cy do have sim­i­lar­i­ties, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that this will be a new thing for your employ­ees, and you’ll need a plan to imple­ment it effec­tive­ly.

Relat­ed: 4 Ways to Mar­ket Your Busi­ness for Free

Turning ambassadors into influencers

So, how do you turn your employ­ees into known con­nec­tors that can help cul­ti­vate trust in your brand and its prod­ucts? “The best way to cre­ate advo­cates in the orga­ni­za­tion depends on build­ing a great cul­ture that co-opts employ­ee involve­ment,” notes Don Charl­ton, the founder of Jaz­zHR. “Don’t just sanc­tion cul­ture from HR. Ask your employ­ee advo­cates to have an own­er­ship stake in uncov­er­ing the cul­ture.”

Employ­ee edu­ca­tion is going to play an impor­tant role in ensur­ing suc­cess­ful advo­ca­cy. As part of that, man­age­ment should teach employ­ees the kind of audi­ence and talk­ing points to align with. Thus, instead of just blast­ing out sales pitch­es to fol­low­ers, employ­ees can get involved with start­ing and main­tain­ing con­ver­sa­tions based on val­ue.

That said, the sys­tem should­n’t be overused. Rather than telling your employ­ees to post as much as they can, you can teach them how to post the right con­tent at the right time. As the busi­ness own­er, it’s your role to ensure shar­ing is easy both on the front and back end. Your con­tent should always have easy acces­si­bil­i­ty to the share but­tons to the major plat­forms.

If there are ele­ments such as mes­sages, themes or top­ics that you need your employ­ees to share, share the infor­ma­tion on a cloud-acces­si­ble pro­gram where they can eas­i­ly copy or auto­mat­i­cal­ly sched­ule a post.

Relat­ed: Mar­ket­ing Your Busi­ness on Craigslist

Conclusion

While influ­encer mar­ket­ing has become one of the most effec­tive mar­ket­ing strate­gies, many mar­keters are still not using it. The lack of clear guide­lines and instruc­tions makes some mar­keters to shy away from using it the full extent. The FTC crack­down has awak­ened those who pre­vi­ous­ly used influ­encer mar­ket­ing and those who did­n’t cause them to think of new ways to make the most out of it. Involv­ing your employ­ees can be the best way to enjoy the ben­e­fits of influ­encer mar­ket­ing.

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