If someone hasn’t pitched your business something in the social media world that includes or is focused on influencer marketing, you’re talking to the wrong agencies. Influencers — people with large audiences or with measurable influence online — are the digital version of word-of-mouth advocacy, which is over 60 times more effective than advertising according to the Direct Marketing Association.
In many circles, influencer marketing is all the rage. Get someone with a huge number of followers to tweet, post, snap or gram you, and your reach and awareness numbers go through the roof. The problem is that with today’s social media-driven web, everyone is a publisher. And everyone seems to be charging like one.
For top brands, it’s not unheard of to budget hundreds of thousands of dollars for influencer marketing. Even for mid-market brands ($10 million to $250 million), a six-figure influencer budget can make sense. But the hard, fast truth of the matter is most brands not only aren’t budgeting for it, they’re expecting influencers to endorse, write and share information about their product for nothing.
Your Options, Sans Budget
With no budget to set aside for influencer outreach or content placement, a brand is left with few options. Leveraging influencers is not impossible, however. The difference follows the old marketing adage: good, fast or cheap … pick two. Only with influencers, you really don’t get to pick.
If you want good, you can’t have cheap.
If you want fast, you can’t have cheap.
If you want cheap, you can’t have good or fast.
Good influencer marketing means either spending a lot of money to get the big influencers in your vertical aligned with your message and leveraging your content. It can also mean having lots of middle- and lower-tier influencers doing the same, but that takes time and money for more thorough research and identification, plus outreach, all of which has to be scalable.
Fast influencer marketing means getting messages out to a lot of people who will share your content quickly. But that requires the same painstaking relationship building and research as the second option in the good category. It’s not cheap.
Cheap influencer marketing means you’re going to have to take a lot of time to build lists of minor influencers (since major ones will ask for money), reach out to them and build an army of what are essentially customer advocates. The other approach to doing this is driving loyalty and reward programs that, if done well, aren’t cheap either.
What Are Your Options?
So, what are you to do as a brand? The best approach, regardless of your budget constraints, is to identify your strongest customer and employee advocates now and to cultivate those relationships for the long term. The more time and energy you can put into identifying and segmenting that seed army of minor influencers, the more traction you can get out of them as you better define your influencer approach.
The rest is just answering the question: Do you want it good, fast or cheap? See the above, and react accordingly.