by Amber Bickford (@Ambs_Lewis) The internet is currently littered with everyone from media agency bigwigs to PRs commenting upon the rights and wrongs of influencer marketing. In the last few months, you’ve likely read hundreds of thought-leadership pieces, all focused upon its strengths and pitfalls. Most of those labelling it as the snake oil of the advertising industry have a very similar thread running through them: the strategy and campaign goal wasn’t clear from the get-go.

While it’s tempting to blow your whole influencer-marketing budget on working with the biggest tier-one influencers you can afford, you might want to reconsider your strategy. It’s not always about eyeballs or clicks.

After analysing more than 100 campaigns, all with different objectives, there are three successful ‘plays’ that may be identified and incorporated in to your marketing strategy.

Strategy 1: Big bang theory

Works best for: Product launches

Based on Stephen Covey’s rocks-and-pebbles theory, this is the kind of strategy that ensures maximum coverage. The kind you want when you’re launching a new product or range. Your campaign goal is all about reach.

The play: Spend 50% of your budget securing one or two influencers with large followings to create hype; 30% of your budget on mid-sized influencers who’ll help disseminate the message; and the remaining 20% on smaller influencers. The result is an influencer campaign that should create a ripple effect in your target market.

Big Bang Theory. Credit: Webfluential
Credit: Webfluential

Strategy 2: Rolling thunder

Works best for: Sales, discounts and special offers

What happens when someone you’re following online says they just got a great deal? You might check it out. What happens when a couple of people you’re following all start talking about that great deal? Now you’re interested. Why? It’s all about relevance.

The play: It doesn’t matter if you choose large, mid-sized or small influencers for this strategy to work; what’s important is that they’re all in the same niche. This is how you ensure relevance. Stagger the conversation so that every couple of hours you have one of your influencers broadcasting the message, instead of all at once.

Rolling Thunder. Credit: Webfluential
Credit: Webfluential

Strategy 3: Biggie/small

Works best for: Reviews

It’s nice to have a celebrity give your product or service a great big thumbs-up but you’ll find that, in the long term, most of your customers stumble across you via good ol’ Google. To rank high in Google’s search index, you want a lot of websites writing a lot of (hopefully) good things about you. In other words, you want resonance.

The play: Arrange as many reviews as possible by reaching out to micro influencers with small, engaged followings. Unlike the rolling thunder strategy, here you want to make sure they’re not all in the same niche — ie not all mommy bloggers. (Readers always notice when their favourite bloggers in the same niche review the same product at the same time.) Stagger the reviews in ‘waves’ over a couple of weeks or months, gradually building more and more valuable backlinks to your brand.

Biggie Small. Credit: Webfluential
Credit: Webfluential

Remember, when structuring your influencer campaign, think about which is most important for your brand: reach, relevance or resonance. Then pick your play!


Amber BickfordAmber Bickford (@Ambs_Lewis) is one of the leading digital-media strategists in South Africa. Currently she heads up local operations at Webfluential, an online influencer-marketing software platform. She has a vested interest in the digital industry and its constant evolution.

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