These days, there is little argument over the partner de jour. You can look to just about every channel and see that influencers continue to be a hot commodity, and perceivably, a highly desirable marketing partner. This ideology is easy to comprehend, but this clout also comes at a cost.
Often, marketers invest in influencer partnerships blindly, without having a chance to test the soup before ordering. And while this strategy may help secure your goal of ticking the "working with influencers" box, it can prove detrimental in the long-term.
In working with hundreds of thousands of publisher partners, including many influencers, we have learned that an informed strategy is the best strategy. But how do you know you are well-informed on all things influencer before you embark on a full-fledged influencer strategy? After all, influencer platforms are a dime a dozen. With them comes expenses in the form of software, time or resources dedicated to the channel, and payment to the influencer in product services or dollars.
For marketers who already have an affiliate program in place, testing influencers here offers a way to tap into existing tech and resources without incurring added expenses. Starting with a test and learn program by way of your affiliate program will prove a wise move.
Influencers are increasingly turning to affiliate marketing to monetize their content and leverage the channel as a revenue stream. In fact, Partnerize recently experienced a significant influx of applicants to the Partnerize platform from those who self-classify as “social media” partners.
It is also worth noting that size does not necessarily constitute efficacy. For example, the affiliate channel can serve as the perfect proving ground for smaller influencers who do not have large follower bases, but have a highly engaged audience. The inherent low-risk nature of the channel affords influencers an opportunity to showcase their ability to brands who may be skeptical or hesitant to invest in a campaign on a flat-fee basis.
Rather than risking high up-front campaign fees, brands and influencers can engage on a variable basis, test driving the relationship to see what type of value the partnership can drive before investing further. This alternative model helps influencers get their foot in the door with brands, while alleviating risk for both parties.
On the brand side, influencer platforms are many. But investing in influencer technology alone will not result in overnight success, nor will it come without an investment of time. Marketers should instead consider their existing channel partners—specifically affiliate partners—to test out influencer campaigns and their ability to drive value. The channel’s pay-for-performance model offers a low initial investment and eliminates barriers to entry.
The lines in digital channels are becoming more blurred, as are the functions on the brand side, with more teams using affiliate and affiliate managers to manage partnerships that were historically owned by public relations teams.
The takeaway? Before investing time, dollars, and resources, embrace the blurred lines and endeavor to prove out your influencer marketing proof of concept with all the benefits of performance models.
—Maura Smith, CMO, Partnerize