Digital influencers are becoming a serious component of any marketing mix in the age of social media. Yet, brands have only begun to grapple with using them effectively as there are no established guidelines and sufficient best practices to using digital influencers.Unlike professional spokespersons, most digital influencers are amateurs who are holding full-time jobs while only doing brand endorsements on a part-time basis. Hence, the level of professionalism expected by brands fluctuates drastically, and often result in mutual frustrations.(Read also: How to have a real influence using influencers)In some instances, the misuse of digital influencers results in very public and embarrassing situations for both parties. There are better ways to using digital influencers effectively that meet the business objectives of any brand without the painful experiences. Here are some steps to follow:Step 1 – Decide on micro or macro influencersThere is a distinction (though not always so obvious) between awareness and preference. Awareness is just mere knowledge of the existence of a subject (without needing understanding), while preference requires appreciation with selection bias in your favour. Hence, there exists two very broad categories of influencers – micro and macro influencers.Macro influencers are celebrities that can generate massive awareness in short periods of time due to their large following. Micro influencers are usually within the first or second degree separation from individuals. While they are seldom celebrities, they are, however, trusted sources of information and recommendations that influence preference. For example, famous food bloggers (macro influencers) can easily build awareness of new restaurants and eateries to try. However, it takes micro influencers to rebuild preference towards eateries who are generally perceived to have existing poor repute. Thus bringing real customers back to the business.Step 2 – Use a release rather than a restrict strategyWe recommend using a release rather than a restrict strategy when employing digital influencers. Release strategies state a specific end goal while offering free creative expression to digital influencers to achieve it. Influencers have more freedom to adapt their respective executions according to whatever is most relevant to their followers. This improves the overall messaging quality resulting in improved authenticity.Restrict strategies issue orders with specific instructions that dictate every move regardless of whether they are suitable for brand personas of the respective digital influencers. Presumably more reassuring in terms of expected outputs, such executions are often presumptuous and mismatch the influencers’ true personas which reduces overall effectiveness of the campaigns.Step 3 – Recruit from existing customersRecruit digital influencers only from your existing pool of consumers as a matter of highest priority. Never choose anyone merely on abilities without ensuring the candidate is also an existing customer. This is both a defensive and effective approach.While it is true you are free to recruit anyone from anywhere as digital influencers, not everyone is an ideal candidate. Professional spokespersons are conditioned to be “on brand” for the duration of their employ. Even then, there have been many public and embarrassing cases of slip-ups where their habits override professional conditioning. How much more can we expect of amateur digital influencers who had no such professional training?Step 4 – Conduct brand trainings and briefingsNever use digital influencers before ensuring they are adequately equipped via brand training. Such sessions serve as critical brand references as well as opportunities to establish mutual expectations that includes trust.It is also good practice to include a code of conduct to guide what is acceptable and what is not. Treat them with due courtesy as you would with traditional press and media. Why discriminate? Meet your digital influencers you are about to employ in person and get to know them better. It is always prudent to ensure both online and actual personality are consistent and dependable.As a result, aim to build real relationships (not transactional ones) that are critical for any digital influencer’s programme to be truly effective.Step 5 – Employ digital monitoringEmploy digital monitoring to ensure you are able to track the results and performance of your digital influencer’s programme. Why invest in areas where you are not able to account for returns on efforts spent? A robust digital monitoring solution can facilitate tracking of digital influencers’ activities, and also quantify their respective performance.As a result, brands can adjust the right combination of digital influencers to optimise the tactics employed to fulfil the overall digital influencer strategy. Not all digital influencers offer the same value and digital monitoring clarifies reality.Step 6 – Review to reuse or releaseHave a consistent cycle of reviewing the results of the employed digital influencers. We normally recommend reviewing the results ideally on a six-month basis or no shorter than three months between reviews.Time is needed to allow digital influencers to show value to brands that utilise their services. The key benefit of using digital influencers is that brands can deploy their campaigns, observe, measure and optimise in real-time. Being effective means being able to decide who to recruit, reuse and release at any point of time in the campaign without allowing it to fail and become bad history.The writer is Ryan Lim, founder of QED Consulting. Read the full edition in the August issue of the magazine.
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