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How can you develop your online influence campaign?

Eight steps to ensure the success of your influence marketing strategy

How can you develop your online influence campaign?
Eight steps to ensure success
The success of a campaign often lies in its management. Any mistake in project management can have tragic consequences on the performance of the operation. 
On the strength of more than 400 projects undertaken by the WOÔ agency and the different theories developed by researchers in management, project management and digital strategy, we have developed an 8-step plan aimed to achieve a successful online influence campaign. 
1/ Defining needs
The first step is the cornerstone of all that is to follow. The idea is to determine the purpose of the campaign and to identify the scope of the online influence operation. The most appropriate tool for defining these aspects would be the sales and marketing plan. It makes it possible to identify the key moments, which will be the subject of an influence strategy. We also need to define the target(s) to be addressed at this stage. 
2/ Defining goals
Based on the sales and marketing plan we also need to specify the objectives of the campaign. In most cases they are focused on three main aspects:
   - Business objective: generating sales, increasing the market basket, directing customers to the online or physical shops
   - Branding objective: revitalising the brand image, going up market, presenting a responsible corporate image
   - Public-awareness objective: launching of new products, decreasing public-awareness or responding to a competitor’s raised public-awareness
Depending on the overall goal of the campaign, we are going to define objectives for the influence strategy. For instance, when raising public-awareness, we will be focusing on the reach or the number of prints, whereas, when it comes to improving our brand image, the engagement rate will be a far more relevant indicator. 
The understanding of our goals is crucial as they set out the influence strategy that we are going to put in place and the actors involved, which we will be discussing later on.
Since the early 1980s and George T Doran’s seminal article on management, SMART goals have become the norm. The major strength of this acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) resides in its ability to provide a clear framework to our goals. The main points to note in this regard are the measurable aspect of the goals (that would allow us either to confirm or to refute the success of the campaign) and the time-bound (that would give us a deadline for the influencing action in the future). This temporal perspective also allows us to evaluate the validity of our strategy at different periods and adjust it if necessary. The ambitious and realistic criteria are related to the project resources discussed in the next step. 
3/ Allocating resources
The influence strategy adopted should be adequately resourced. These resources can be financial, human, or time-related. They need to be consistent with our objectives, as setting disproportionate goals to our resources can only have a negative impact: restricting performance, or becoming deceptive as a result. Here, the overall budget allocated to the influence strategy comes into play. 
These resources can also define the nature of project management. For instance, having extensive human resources but limited financial resources may encourage the internalisation whereas having a large amount of budget but only a small amount of time promotes the externalisation of the influence strategy. 
4/ Defining the strategy
With the previously defined objectives and the available resources, we will now focus on the practical actions to be carried out. 
For instance, in terms of public awareness, it could be useful to work with a combination of mega- and micro-influencers, since the categories of influencers on Instagram have the highest reach rates (link to the study). To improve your brand image, micro-influencers, nano-influencers and creative influencers are your allies; they have a high rate of engagement and authenticity, which are beneficial for the digital word of mouth, and therefore the image that your business reflects. 
-            Casting: after selecting the type of influencer, we then have to choose the most suitable influencers to inspire our influence strategy. The choice of influencer depends on the following:
   o     The image that the influencer reflects.
   o     The relevance of the influencer’s target audience to the campaign.
   o     The type of content that the influencer can offer.
   o     The influencer’s KPIs: engagement rate, reach figures. 
   o     The influencer’s interests. 
   o     The influencer’s past collaborations, indeed collaborating with an influencer whose community is familiar with the products from a competitor, is not optimal.
   o     The influencer’s location:  especially useful in micro- and nano- influencer campaigns, or in drive-in store issues.
At this stage, we also need to consider another key point based on our goals and resources: the timeframe of our influence strategy. Are we adopting a long-term relational approach with influencers, such as “red thread”, or are we running an ad hoc operation, with a highpoint in the commercial process, such as “one-shot”?
To date, little research has been done on the differences in performance of these two types of interactions with influencers. However, we can note that the marginal cost of a publication is lower with a “red thread” approach. Also, influencers seem more authentic when they mention the same company several times; this enhances the value of collaboration in their community. In contrast, with the same number of publications, the reach is lower in a long-term approach because it is the same influencers, who publish multiple times for the same company and therefore target the same community. For an equivalent number of prints, reach is higher in “one-shot” operations. 

5/ Planning the operation

A crucial step in project management is the planning of operations.  
Each project has a start and end date, and here we first define the key steps of our influence strategy (milestones). 
So for example, when are we going to get in touch with influencers, when are they going to be required to publish their content or when will the event to which we will invite them take place? Next, we will create a reverse schedule, taking into account the market fluctuations and inherent uncertainties of any project. It is a vital step because it provides us with a continuous overview of our strategy and the room for manoeuvre available to us. 
The most common error in planning an influence strategy is to underestimate the impact of discussion with influencers and thus create urgency in the process of collaboration. As a result, it generates stress and damages your brand’s image. Ensuring a margin of flexibility can also useful in managing any unexpected events. Since this is a human relationship, it is necessary to keep in mind that influencers might get sick, might be unable to use Wi-Fi, or might have problems, and so on. It, therefore, represents a risk to the campaign’s success to have a very tight schedule, so anticipating a flexible schedule can be life-saving. 
6/ Carrying out the operation
Several steps are required to establish an operational process:
   - Writing a brief. It must be as clear and concise as possible; it sets out your expectations: the type of content, the number of publications, the key dates, the inspirations, the background of the company, the features of the products or services offered, linguistic elements; at this stage, it is also worth mentioning the other influencers involved in the campaign. 
   - Getting in touch with the influencer: of course, it is a personal task to explain why you have chosen him/her and to promote the content he/she creates. 
   - Trusting the influencer: For a macro- or nano- influence campaign, the moderation is done after the fact, that is, the influencer creates and publishes his/her content alone without company’s approval. Only after publishing does the company view the content and can evaluate as well. The main advantage of this approach is to ensure the authenticity and spontaneity of the influencer, and the disadvantage is that the company does not have complete control over the publications about itself, but there is almost no risk when casting takes place properly. 
If you collaborate with macro-influencers this problem does not exist, the social media specialist creates his/her content, then forwards it to the company for approval and, if need be, modifies it depending on the company’s feedback. The selection of an influencer that you value his/her contents, personality and reliability is one of the keys to the operation’s success. 
- Completing the operation with the influencer: expressing your thanks for his/her collaboration, and keeping the influencer informed about the company’s recent developments
7/ Checking
Throughout the process, we have to check if everything goes as expected.  Therein lies all the interest of planning and goal setting. We can always predict whether we are behind on time or performance regarding our influence strategy. 
According to our main constraints related to time, budget, or quality, we can adjust the project. 
If time is the major constraint, quality may be reduced or the other way around. 
The checking process is of great importance because when warnings occur earlier, the impact of a problem will be less significant. 
8/ Evaluating and learning
At the end of our influence operation, we can measure the success of the campaign with the goals defined at the beginning. Here are some useful questions to ask: 
   o     Has anyone outperformed? Has anyone underperformed?
   o     Which influencers have been the most effective in terms of performance (reach, clicks, engagements)?
   o     Which influencers have produced the most qualitative content?
   o     With which influencers has the cooperation gone better?  
   o     Are we pleased with the process?
   o     How could it have been better?
   o     What are the best practices retained?
   o     Are influencers satisfied with the collaboration? Why?
This work is the basis for continuous improvement as Deming has widely reported and circulated with the Deming wheel (Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust). By following these various steps, we can only be better along with the online influence operations we carry out. Given the market trend and the evolution of digital practices, we are confident that businesses implementing this type of continuous improvement approach will develop increasingly significant competitive advantages in the coming years.
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