These days, the footprints of social media dominance are everywhere. Political candidates duke it out on Twitter and post warring ads on Facebook. Brands get “boycotted” for things they say on social media. However, the social media wars are just a symptom of a larger issue: if you want to be heard, it’s critical people are talking about you on social media.
In many ways, influencer marketing is a logical result of this: influencers work mostly on social media, they are excellent content creators, and the algorithms of any given social network favor them over brands. With the social networks making it harder to reach customers without paying for ads, influencers can provide brands with the edge they need to remain relevant online.
With this in mind, how is social listening specifically crucial for your influencer marketing strategy? Briefly, social listening tools can be used to determine who is saying what about your brand or products. Armed with this information, you can plan and track influencer marketing campaigns. When used correctly, social listening tools can take a lot of the guesswork out of influencer marketing.
Step One: How Social Listening Can Complement Your Influencer Marketing Strategy
As I have said before, social listening is a critical way to learn how people view your brand by monitoring social media activity. Everyone knows that these tools are the first line of defense in helping you prevent or at least contain a public relations nightmare. However, not all marketing managers think of these tools as essential for influencer marketing programs. In a nutshell, these should be used in a way that complements your brand’s influencer marketing strategies. There are several potential techniques that I will discuss here.
Refine your influencer marketing message
One option is to use social listening tools to help decide what an influencer should say. For instance, let’s say you’re selling a particular type of athletic shoe. Runners who have flat feet, for example, often need a “stability shoe.” If you’re selling this specific kind of shoe, you can pay attention to how flat-footed runners talk about your shoes. What phrases or visuals do they use? You can then have an influencer try and either play up the good aspects or play down the bad ones.
Obviously, you want to give the influencer creative freedom to create their own messaging. Still, there is no reason for you not to mention this information gleaned from social listening in an influencer brief in hopes of influencing them (pun intended).
Better define buyer personas to collaborate with the right influencers
When using a social listening tool, you can find that certain subsets of people like your product that are outside your typical buyer persona. Maybe your product targets the “value buyer” in your industry, but you’re finding that the “price buyers” are choosing you as well. It could be that there’s something about your product that gives it a wider appeal.
Conversely, you can find that your product isn’t appealing to your target market very well. One situation where you might find this is in the beauty industry. Follow this kind of product, and you might find that people of certain ethnicities feel left out. Probably the most significant example of this is with makeup or niche hair care. Makeup brands don’t always carry a range of shades that compliments every skin tone. So, if a customer has a very light or dark skin tone, they might not be able to find the right shade. You might not want to use an influencer that is part of the underrepresented group unless you’re rolling out a solution. On the other hand, the better you can define the buyer persona through social listening, the better you can find the right influencer that can speak to them.
Find out what questions people have to leverage influencers for customer education
Social listening tools are also useful for finding out what people want to know about your product. It could be that a piece of sports equipment has different uses, for example. Armed with people’s questions, you can start to plan influencer marketing campaigns around them. Maybe you have an influencer who’s an expert in a particular sport, and he or she can demonstrate the use of the equipment in the video that you see questions trending about.
In other words, social listening tools can help you engage with influencers as part of your customer education and content creation initiatives that can then be exposed to the communities of influencers to reach a new audience.
Step Two: Influencer Identification
Once you’ve used the social listening tools to help refine your message and targets a bit better, it’s time to look for the right influencers. Social listening tools are tremendously useful at finding influencers because they show you who is talking about what and what potential impact their message has. In other words, the magic of social listening tools for influencer identification isn’t the what, it’s the who. Here’s how this plays out.
With social listening, you can easily find people who are fans of your brand. Sometimes they’re on the influencer marketing platforms you might be using, and sometimes they aren’t. If they are marketing themselves as influencers, you will be able to see at a glance if that person is talking about your brand already. I’ve pointed out before that one-way influencers seek out paid sponsorships is to do some “work” for free by talking about their love for the brand. In other words, they talk about their favorite brands in the hope that the brand will find them. By using social listening tools, you can be the brand that finds them.
Remember, only 3% of tweets mention a brand directly with a customer service issue, so if you are not using a social listening tool to find your fans that don’t appear in your @mentions, you are missing out on engaging with an overwhelming majority of your fans!
Seeing who is knowledgeable
Not everyone that talks about industry topics, or who reviews industry products, knows a lot about the subject. Some people use certain products for hobbies, while others use the same ones as industry tools. Of course, there are situations where the use of something can go both ways, such as with computing equipment. Each of these approaches has value for brands but in different ways. Depending on your campaign goals, you may need an expert. Other times, a hobbyist is fine.
Regardless of the type of person you need for an influencer campaign, there’s value in knowing who talks about your products and services. These people might be useful for a later campaign, for instance. Or, they might give your marketing team a valuable perspective you haven’t considered otherwise.
Step Three: Choosing Influencers to Partner With
Let’s be honest; in some industries, there seems to be an influencer around every corner. While this does mean that products are getting plenty of press, it also means that brands will have more trouble picking the right person. Fortunately, social listening tools are there to help.
Weeding out the fakes
Social listening tools let you see who is genuinely influential in a particular industry. This is incredibly valuable in a highly competitive industry like beauty or lifestyle. In these industries, new influencers are born every day. However, it is also true that many “fake” influencers are just in it for the fame or money. Influencer fraud is estimated to cost brands more than 1 billion dollars annually. By using listening tools, you can see who is truly effective at wielding their influence and mitigate your risk.
How can you do this? Look at whose industry-related content gets a lot of engagement. You might not be able to see who is buying things because of the influencer, but if there is a large amount of engagement there’s a good chance that people are buying. As a bonus, you’ll be able to learn more about industry trends.
Seeing what they produce
It’s one thing to find an influencer, and another to know what kind of content they produce. Sure, the platform is going to have some bearing on what the influencers do. But within those strictures, some influencers like to do different things. One influencer might prefer the single-frame Instagram post, and another excels at Stories, for example. Add visual recognition to your social listening tool, and you can analyze the creative strengths of each influencer. Knowing what an influencer does well at this level will help you decide which ones to consider for your next campaign that will be most aligned with your brand identity.
Check for links to competitors
When you follow an influencer, your view of what they produce will include any posts about competitors. These can be positive or negative, but what you really want to watch for is sponsored posts. If an influencer regularly pitches competitive products, they are less likely to be effective selling yours instead. Or, they might be unable to do so for contractual reasons. In this way, a competitive analysis can help make your influencer marketing all the more effective.
Step Four: Influencer Engagement
Social listening tools can also help you figure out how to engage with a particular influencer. For instance, you might find that this influencer’s contests are super popular. Contact them about the cool contest they did for another brand and tell them how you’d love it if they did one for you. In other words, by listening to the influencer’s traffic, you can find out more about getting them to say “yes” to working with you.
Another thing you can use this audience analysis information for is in helping to convince the influencer that they have an audience that will be receptive to your brand. Here, it’s all about having a product that is relevant to the audience. How well does the audience fit your buyer persona? Are they interested in the sort of thing you sell? Have they been talking about your products?
Step Five: Use Social Listening to Refine Your Influencer Marketing
Once you have done an influencer marketing campaign or two, it’s time to refine your strategy. Social listening tools are a great way to enhance these efforts. Minimally, they allow you to see how well your message was received. This process takes more than just analytics: it takes seeing the actual comments people make in social media.
For example, consider a scenario where you are a hamburger chain who has to edge out the 1000-pound industry gorilla McDonald’s. To “win” at influencer marketing, you can use social listening to monitor each campaign’s outcomes. You might learn that people often associate your brand with sports events or other unique lifestyle content angles. From there, you can adjust your strategy and targets for the next campaign in kaizen fashion.
From the above, you can see that social listening tools are relatively versatile, especially for influencer marketing. They can help you design campaigns, look for and engage influencers, and pivot your strategy. If you’re not using a social listening tool as part of your influencer marketing program, you are truly leaving money on the table.
Neal Schaffer is an authority on helping innovative businesses digitally transform their sales and marketing. Founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social, Neal also teaches executives digital marketing at Rutgers Business School and the Irish Management Institute. He is the author of 4 sales and marketing books, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley) and the recently published The Age of Influence (HarperCollins Leadership), a ground-breaking book redefining digital influence. Download a free preview of the Age of Influence here.