You see it everywhere: brands are using the power of influencers to boost engagement, amplify their messages and attract followers. But the meeting and convention industry has not been leveraging the power of influencer strategies as much as other industries. Here’s why professional event planners should consider adding an influencer program to their marketing mix, and how to do it intelligently.
Influencer marketing bounces back with a focus on quality
Say the word “influencer” and you might see some eye-rolling from your colleagues. Influencer scandals made the news in 2018 with the revelation that major brands like Ritz-Carlton and Procter & Gamble had legions of fake followers among their paid influencers, according to data from the Points North Group. Twitter removed tens of millions of suspicious accounts in July 2018, with many so-called social media influencers losing thousands of followers in one fell swoop.
This was a wake-up call for many brands and agencies to do a better job vetting the influencers they work with, and to draw up more solid agreements to manage content creation and ROI expectations. Despite the scandals, influencer marketing continues to grow, with the number of campaigns doubling in the past year, according to data from CreatorIQ.
Focus on quality over quantity
The trend for 2019 involves working with smaller, more specialized influencers – we prefer the term “content creators” – with highly engaged audiences who have specific interests. Brands are also looking at micro-influencers (a reach of 15,000 to 100,000 on all platforms) and even nano-influencers (a reach of 15,000 or less on all platforms) to help amplify their messages. There is also a trend toward identifying content creators with a genuine link or affinity to their brands, with a goal of building real relationships over time as opposed to working with “hired guns” who lack credibility.
In short, the trend is shifting from quantity to quality, and from one-off campaigns to long-term relationships.
The pitfalls – and how to avoid them
Influencer strategies work best when the brand – or event – does its homework before reaching out to someone who seems to have a big following. Here are five ways to avoid the pitfalls of influencer marketing and build a collaboration that delivers:
1. Define your objectives: do you want to create buzz around your event, increase traffic on your website, boost registrations, or position your organization as an industry leader? Before you start scouting for an influencer, make sure you know what you are trying to achieve.
2. Decide what kind of influencer makes sense for your organization or event: do you want to work with influential journalists, bloggers or vloggers, experts or thought leaders in your industry? You won’t find the right fit if you are not clear what you are looking for.
3. Do your research: don’t just look at the person, but consider who their followers are. There are many tools available to help identify influencers and their followers, but most solutions worth their salt require some kind of paid subscription. If your budget allows it, you can also work with an agency to help you plan and deploy your campaign. Just starting out? Search for hashtags like #eventprofs, #meetingprofs or terms specific to your field on Twitter and Instagram to see who the thought leaders are and who has the best engagement (likes and comments on their posts).
4. Have a plan: before you approach an influencer, have a clear plan with regard what content you want them to create (number of posts before, during and after your event) and what you are willing to offer (content creation fee, travel or per diem, free registration or accommodations, etc.). A short, simple contract is always a wise move and most influencers appreciate knowing their clients’ expectations.
How to pitch to an influencer
If you’ve done your homework, you will have a clear idea of the collaboration you have in mind before you make that first contact. Remember to include what’s in it for them and keep the long game in mind. Be specific about why you are reaching out, why you think they are a good fit, and the kind of collaboration you are looking for.
Should you pay an influencer?
There are many remuneration models from barter (content in return for travel and registration) to content creation fees or per diems. If you are paying an influencer, make sur that your collaboration is transparent in all publications. If the deliverables are well-defined and the collaboration fits with your objectives and budget, it can be a good investment to round out your marketing mix and fill gaps to reach people you wouldn’t ordinarily reach.
Examples of influencer collaborations for the meetings market
So what do you want the influencer to do for you, exactly? Think beyond random Tweets and Instagram posts and focus in on the kind of content that will help you reach your objectives. Here a just a few examples:
- Partner with a blogger to create content (articles, blog posts) by giving them exclusive access to high-profile speakers or industry leaders before or during your event.
- Offer behind-the-scenes access to vloggers or Instagrammers if your event has a great visual presence or an unusual venue.
- Provide free registration and travel expenses to an influencer to post live from your event.
If you have the budget for measuring tools or an agency, it’s fairly simple to define your key performance indicators (KPIs) in advance. Many brands cite reach, traffic referrals, engagement and conversions (number of people who took a specific action) as their main KPIs.
If you don’t have a big budget you can measure many of these KPIs yourself. Clearly identify the hashtag your influencer should use so you can compile results manually. If traffic is one of your KPIs, make sure your website analytics can track their content. If you are working with an experienced influencer, you can include the delivery of activity report at the end of your collaboration in your contract. Most pros will be happy to supply this to you.
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