We’ve spent the last few weeks talking all things influencers; why financial services brands should consider influencers, how to develop a strong influencer strategy and, most recently, what it takes to become an influencer in 2017. There’s no doubt that influencers have become a powerful marketing tool, with research released by Twitter earlier this year stating that 40% of Twitter users say they’ve purchased something as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.
When it comes to incorporating influencer marketing into financial services PR, we have a plethora of options at our fingertips – journalists, bloggers, finance writers, executives, company stakeholders, industry bodies, and the list goes on. The proliferation of social media has arguably made the process of reaching out to these individuals and groups much easier.
Engaging with influencers online is one thing, but should we be connecting with them offline?
The short answer is yes. Some of the most powerful influencer programs have combined both online and offline engagement, such as AirBnB’s AirBnB Open. A community-led festival of travel and hospitality, AirBnB Open is an annual host convention that incorporates workshops, keynote presentations and festive celebrations. The third annual event was hosted last November in LA, drawing hosts from over 100 countries, who had the opportunity to meet each other and engage with industry leaders and influencers offline in a fun, exciting and collaborative setting.
This campaign is a great example of the power of utilising digital channels to identify and engage with influencers, and taking these engagements one step further through offline experiences and interactions. Getting your community and industry experts out from behind their smartphones and computer screens and into the “real world” builds stronger, deeper relationships.
Sure, AirBnB would have had a hefty budget and a number of celebrity contacts at their disposal, but their core objective remained the same; provide an opportunity for influencers to authentically connect with their audience and spread their brand’s message.
Influencer marketing in a regulated environment
Of course, as in any financial services brand’s marketing campaign, staying on the right side of the regulator is essential. Working with Compliance during the planning phase and keeping them in the loop as your plans develop increases your chances of achieving sign off from Compliance when it comes time to launch… and saves you a lot of time in reworking your tactics when Compliance gets nervous after they are lobbed a sign-off request out of the blue.
So, how might an offline financial services influencer outreach program look? And what channels should offline influencers use to help spread your brand’s message?
Identifying and engaging with your influencer
The beginnings of developing an offline influencer outreach program look pretty similar to that of an online program. You’ve got a clear idea of your what your business objectives are and how your target influencer can help you reach your ideal customers. You’ve started to identify some potential influencers online, but now it’s time to look offline. Cue micro-influencers, brand ambassadors and company staff.
Micro-influencers are not to be underestimated when it comes to developing an influencer outreach program. They’re those individuals with between 500 and 10,000 followers who are trusted by their followers and peers for their authenticity. Unlike celebrities, micro-influencers aren’t paid to spruik brands. According to a study by Experticity, micro-influencers were asked their opinion on buying a product 22x more than the average person. They were also more likely to have firsthand knowledge about a product or service and were better at explaining how a product could be used.
Financial services professionals can also turn to low hanging fruit and utilise those who trust their brand. Brand ambassadors and company staff make great influencers, as they have an in-depth understanding of your product offering, engage with it frequently and are likely to genuinely recommend it to others.
Building in-person relationships with these influencers takes time and dedication, but it also carries its rewards. One of the key advantages of developing engagements with influencers offline is that it provides the opportunity to build a more authentic relationship, which can be difficult to do when connecting only online. Whether it be arranging a coffee to get to know a micro-influencer or holding an event with staff and brand ambassadors, it’s crucial that you begin to invest time in-person to get to know your influencers, to develop a stronger sense of trust and understand how your relationship can be one that is mutually beneficial.
Getting your influencer to spread your brand’s message
Now that you’ve equipped yourself with an army of genuine influencers who believe in your product and want to see it succeed, they’re free to share their recommendations with the world. There are a range of offline channels you can utilise to help your influencers spread your brand’s message. Boardroom roundtable lunches, attending relevant industry events and roadshows are great ways for existing influencers to connect with prominent industry individuals.
Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth (WOM) in marketing. Consumers have long trusted valued opinions when it comes to making important purchasing decisions. Long before social media arrived, WOM was considered one of the most prominent tools in influencing purchasing power. While your influencers can utilise digital channels to discuss products and provide recommendations, their regular engagement with offline communities means their recommendations also become word-of-mouth, which some argue is the most effective form of marketing.
The best influencer marketing campaigns should engage influencers offline and online. Because isn’t that just the way we all live and do business now?