Since the start of the pandemic, influencer marketing has seen both challenges and significant growth. According to Oberlo, the influencer marketing industry is valued at $16.4 billion and much of the growth has occurred during the pandemic as brands struggled to get in front of shoppers without a physical presence.
Another way brands adapted to remote work lifestyles was to explore virtual worlds, free from physical dangers, travel logistics and supply chain issues. Influencers can provide early adopter brands a way to build awareness and engagement for early forays into virtual worlds.
As a result, it is prudent to revisit influencer marketing as an evolving and maturing channel.
When I first wrote about influencer marketing for SmartBrief in 2019, I was initially a skeptic: Despite challenges, influencer marketing is here to stay. I learned to embrace the potential of the channel and outlined a path for brands in my next installment: Creating an effective influencer marketing program. Last but not least, I shared thoughts on the future of the craft: Influencer marketing trends, which has been largely validated in the years that followed.
One of my predictions was the growing consumer adoption of Web3, including nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse. I shared my thoughts last year with SmartBrief readers: How to create a successful presence on the metaverse.
In brief, I’m a metaverse skeptic, due to a lack of standardized definitions, interoperability, hardware and software performance issues.
Despite that fact, I do believe forward-thinking brands should take Web3 platforms seriously. Companies that invest in a presence in virtual worlds should consider leveraging in-world influencers to help launch new stores, products or events. I’ve outlined five strategies below that will help identify and engage credible, authentic influencers that can market your Web3 presence as well as a more traditional presence in social media.
Start with your core
Far too often, brands rely on brokers or marketplaces to identify and engage influencers. While those platforms and networks can provide real value, consider starting closer to home.
Query current (and future) employees to gauge awareness, interest and proficiency with Web3 technologies. You may be surprised by what you find among your coworkers. Broaden your search to existing customers to discover existing prowess in Web3 and harness their knowledge of your business.
Often, employees and customers need little motivation or incentive to become a brand ambassador online. Authenticity is a key factor in any successful influencer marketing program, and your employees and customers are a bullseye.
Follow the passion
As I’ve outlined in previous articles, I’m not a fan of paying influencers to promote a brand when they know nothing about it and haven’t been a customer in the past. Success is much greater when you identify influencers that have a preexisting passion for your industry, product or service (even if they’re not a current customer).
In fact, I advise that brands give qualified influencers an opportunity to experience a product or service before finalizing a contract. If they don’t like the product or how you do business, you shouldn’t pay them to say otherwise. Instead of looking for influencers in networks that have significant followers but only a vague interest in your industry, consider looking for industry pundits that have considerable credibility within your industry as well as a large following.
Seek aligned values
As you work your way from the bullseye (engaged customer and employee ambassadors) outward, and run out of industry pundits, consider the next ring of high-value influencers: those that share core values.
In this scenario, the requirement isn’t existing knowledge of your brand or even industry, but a clear alignment of values, lifestyle, aesthetic or vision for the future. For example, a company promoting “van life” may look for influencers that enjoy hiking, surfing or other action sports that are either likely to have a mobile lifestyle or are open to adopting related products or services. If you’re a B2B organization that happens to be a B Corporation, look for influencers with a knowledge or interest in sustainable business practices.
Always be testing
Don’t let the data wonks steal all the limelight with complex advertising or website tests. Brands can quickly evaluate influencers across platforms over a limited time before committing to a longer-term partnership. A more creative recruiting channel for influencers includes casting networks, where talented actors and significant follower-bases on social media can be recruited affordably.
Instead of hiring one or two higher profile influencers via a network, consider evaluating five to 10 microinfluencers you feel have a good fit and growth potential. You may partner with only one or two, but even the tests will provide valuable insights and reach. For example, consider testing highly educated and talented offshore talent with microcampaigns.
Recruiting and managing influencers can be challenging, especially outside of existing influencer networks. Brands can streamline partnerships by plugging influencers into existing affiliate and/or loyalty programs. The existing infrastructure, particularly for affiliate marketing, provide all the necessary commission tracking and creative assets to incentivize and monitor influencers.
It also aligns with my preference for a performance-based compensation model for influencers. Brands lacking affiliate marketing or loyalty programs should consider revisiting the initiatives, not only to support influencer marketing efforts, but to support sales and marketing initiatives.
Influencer marketing is a large and growing industry. Brands that see the potential are in a better position to weather inflation, recessions, pandemics, climate change, political unrest and whatever else our planet and humankind can throw at us. Web3, a growing but tumultuous platform, provides future promise for brands and in-world influencers can help establish a foundational presence via their networks and credibility.
Kent Lewis is chief marketing Officer for Anvil/Deksia, where he is responsible for the overall strategic direction of marketing, including evolving messaging and integration of our combined entity. Kent’s industry recognition includes Marketer of the Year by AMA Oregon Chapter and Top 100 Digital Marketing Influencers by BuzzSumo.