How to Manage Visual Influencers to Tell your Story

How to Manage Visual Influencers to Tell your Story

How to Manage Visual Influencers to Tell your Story 370 218 Susan Emerick

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My backstory

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to become an early pioneer in digital and social networking for business. My entry into influencer marketing happened in 2007 when I was working with a core team in IBM’s social insights practice, we were challenged to instrument a social listening competency center. It was through this initial pilot that I was able to delve into what it took to harness intelligence from the social web and uncover individuals who were prominent and influential.

It was this early work that allowed us to develop an influencer intelligence system tapping into IBM Watson’s machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence power to establish the technology giant’s digital and social media strategy.

As a result, we created a social insights competency for IBM, that has now expanded globally, to continuously apply insights from social intelligence to inform marketing planning and engagement strategies for community and influencer relations programs.

My definition for Influence Marketing

Influencer marketing is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individuals) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.”

-Susan Emerick

In my work, I’ve evaluated the characteristics of influence measured by:

  • Reach, mainly focusing on the quality of reach (ability to have significant connectivity to a constituency of importance relevant to a set of topics and aligned to goals
  • Engagement and Connectivity, they’re highly engaged with their network, communities and user groups. They’re active contributors in a sustained way, meaning they’re easy to connect with and highly responsive.
  • Authority and Value, they’re highly knowledgeable and dedicated to providing value based on their knowledge to advance the communities understanding
  • Convert, they’re influential in that they can measure influence or said another way “convert” individuals to take action, accept an offer based on a specific call to action

My process for harnessing the power of visual influencers to tell a story

First and foremost, harnessing the power of influencers is based on their relevance to a topic and/or category combined a strong relationship approach to keeping them equipped to drive influence. These best practices approach typically involves:

  1. Research, identification of individuals that have the ability to drive influence for a product/service
  2. Planning, careful planning of training, content and distribution methods
  3. Engagement, continuous community management to keep them engaged and committed
  4. Measurement, measuring effectiveness based on established and agreed upon measures of success


Typical business objectives visual influencers serve

I’d say, objectives run the gamut from promoting brand awareness, driving consideration through visual demos, and ongoing advocacy. To put this in context, let’s use a visual influencer that operates in the make up application for example. This influencer, in essence, is shaping the consumption habits of teenage girls and young women around the world. No longer do you have to go to a beauty counter and wait for a consultant to apply your makeup to trial and experience the products. You can watch from the convenience of your own home and get expert tips and product recommendations for the various “look” you want. What’s especially appealing about this is recommendations span various brands.

Setting the right balance for influencers with enough creative freedom, while also keeping their content on brand

Influencers become an extension of your brand so it’s critical that you evaluate and choose relationships wisely. Evaluate up front if the individual would be aligned with your brand’s mission, culture, and has a high degree of competence in the product/service category to drive influence.

Common misconceptions about influence marketing to watch for

That influencers are all celebrities! This is simply not the case. In fact, we’re seeing the term “micro-influencer” begin to take hold. What’s interesting about this is that micro-influencers have always been there driving the most effective engagement, but in niche categories.

According to a study by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)

  • 65% of the multinational brands surveyed plan to increase their influencer marketing spend over the next 12 months
  • 86% report the goal is to improve brand awareness
  • 74% of marketers plan to use influencers to reach targeted and new audiences and 69% will use them to improve brand advocacy.
  • In choosing influencers to work with, “quality of followers” was cited as the most important criteria for 96% of brands.
  • “Credibility and reputation” was identified by 93%. Transparency is another key issue for marketers
  • With 71% reporting that how the relationship with influencers is disclosed is a vital part of the selection process. Instagram was the most popular platform for influencer strategies, used by 100% of survey respondents, followed by Facebook (85%) and YouTube (67%).

2 examples of visual influence campaigns I really like

Using the beauty category example, both Huda and Rihanna have launched campaigns to support their self-titled makeup brands. They’ve been highly engaged with these self-made influencers in the beauty category who in turn share product recommendations for their brands on YouTube.  Another brand that is a standout for visual storytelling and tapping into the power of influence is GoPro. They’re on top when it comes to encouraging and sourcing user-generated content from their customer base.

Looking to leverage influencers as part of your visual storytelling strategy? Schedule a FREE conversation about our Visual Storytelling Workshop.

Susan Emerick

Susan Emerick is one of the early visionaries that helped defined the influencer marketing space both at her pioneering influencer programs she launched at IBM and as an educator, speaker and author of the book “The Most Powerful Brand on Earth: How to Transform Teams, Empower Employees, Integrate Partners and Mobilize Customers to Beat the Competition in Digital and Social Media (2014). Learn more on her Website.

All stories by: Susan Emerick

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