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The influencer marketing industry is now worth more than $20 billion, and it’s easy to see why: If your brand doesn’t have a social influencer marketing program in place, you simply aren’t reaching more than 40% of U.S. audiences in an effective manner.

According to an Oliver Wyman Forum study of generational media habits, Gen Z and millennial audiences look to social media and YouTube as primary sources of news and information. As a result, influencer marketing programs are now a top priority for driving brand awareness, growing your customer base, boosting sales, and announcing new products.

Your product in the right influencer’s hands can reach millions of followers, but optimizing the ROI of any influencer marketing program is more than a raw-numbers game. These strategies will help you make the most of your marketing dollars in your future influencer campaigns.

Bring your buyer personas to life

Your brand’s own buyer personas should serve as a compass when you’re researching influencers that might be a good fit for a marketing partnership. Yes, you’ll want to consider influencers with high follower counts and the same topical focus as your brand or product. However, it’s just as important to consider how well an influencer’s audience demographics align to those of your own brand. If the demographics aren’t a perfect fit, don’t worry: According to this Harvard Business Review study, having “some (but not too much) brand fit” can help expand your brand awareness into new audience segments.

Think outside the sales funnel

As this Vogue Business feature explains, Gen Z’s usage habits on social media have completely upended the idea of the traditional sales funnel. Instead of following a predictable linear path from product awareness to research to purchase decisions, younger consumers are using social media to do all of it at once. Ultimately, they’re seeking a holistic brand experience with meaningful engagement and a passionate community of users. Any influencer marketing campaign should be seen as an always-evolving stream of engagement, not just an endorsement or a buy link posted by a celebrity.

Consider the influencer’s content strengths

Even if you find the perfect influencer in terms of audience demographics and reach, your content strategy will make or break your campaign. Knowing which types of content are most popular on social media is essential: According to a recent study from Matter Communications, tutorials and how-tos are the most popular types of influencer content. However, it’s more important to know which types of content are most popular among a specific influencer’s followers. Understanding those nuances will help you drive engagement in the most authentic way.

Keep it real

The tone and style of your content is just as important as the format. You shouldn’t try to “overwrite” an influencer’s voice with your own marketing copy, and putting your marketing budget towards a straight ad read isn’t the most effective investment. Instead, think of ways your product or services can blend in naturally with the influencer’s personality, interests, and segments. Take the time to dive into each influencer’s channel to generate creative ideas for your campaign, and make sure to give an influencer plenty of hands-on time with your product to identify the features they like most.

Nurture long-term engagement

An effective influencer marketing campaign will improve your sales figures, but real ROI has a much longer tail. A recent Oliver Wyman Forum study found that younger generations use platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube “to find a sense of community and belonging,” not just to seek out entertainment and information. 69% of consumers say they trust influencers and friends more than information provided directly by a brand. With that in mind, think about ways to nurture and build long-term engagement and brand advocacy long after the “sales drive” is over.

Putting all these elements together into a successful strategy takes time and expertise, and the right partner can make all the difference. At the outset of your planning, you’ll need extensive research and cross-functional collaboration. You’ll also need to identify the analytics and reporting metrics that will best help measure success and identify opportunities for improvement.

Ultimately, influencer campaigns are a vital component of your integrated marketing strategy and a unique beast in and of themselves. If your goal is to attract new customers and build brand awareness in younger demographics, a social influencer campaign may be the most important piece of your marketing puzzle.

Ready to make your next influencer marketing program a huge success? Airfoil can help you develop the strongest strategy for your business goals. Connect with us today, and let’s make the most of your marketing dollars.

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