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In the age of viral content, social influence is paramount. It is the fastest way to capture a user’s attention and convert him or her to a lead. In fact, according to a March 2017 Bloglovin’ survey, influencer marketing has become an essential part of a brand’s marketing mix, with 80 percent of marketers currently implementing some form of the strategy. And since launching FitReserve in early 2015, we’ve found that our success in launching new products and new markets is thanks in no small part to the following influencer marketing techniques we’ve leveraged along the way.

1. Focus on delighting your customers

First and foremost, focus on your core customers. Getting the first 100 users highly engaged with your product and making them happy is far more valuable than getting a “meh” from one million. This comes down to word-of-mouth: how likely is a rave reviewer to share your product with their friends? Keeping early tabs on metrics like net promoter score can help marketers gauge how valuable each marginal user might be in contributing to viral lift. This might seem like common sense, but we’ve seen companies struggle to get initial traction facing this same issue. It is tempting to go after numbers first; resist that urge, prove your concept, and satisfy the needs of your early adopters before going big.

2. Find users who will live and breathe your product

Along with the previous point of ensuring early users validate product/market-fit, identify potential users who will have a genuine need for your product. These users won’t just be a mouthpiece for your brand, but will incorporate the product deeply into their routine and make it a badge of honor as a lifestyle, assuming a natural ambassadorship and effectively building your brand in their free time. This is especially true in fitness: moments before and after class, at the studio, or in the locker room become time with friends spent discussing wellness routines, diet, health, and progress.

3. Choose quality over quantity

It may seem obvious that a large social following is helpful in spreading the word quickly, but oftentimes it is the quality of the audience and the authenticity of the message that will really drive adoption. While follower count is a useful signal, don’t immediately discount the fact that an influencer with a smaller audience may have a more direct relationship and higher engagement with one of your key target demographics. In this sense, a hyper-targeted approach and the extra effort to find the right fit is worthwhile. Become as involved as possible in the local scene, dig around, and hang out where your future users hang out. Getting a feel for the flavor can make the difference between an authentic campaign that is a big success, and an over-marketed flop.

4. Look beyond individuals

Influencers don’t have to be single faces. We’ve established several strategic partnerships with organizations that have proven followings, essentially providing access to their networks of potential users at a favorable conversion rate, since the engagements came from a source they trusted. This can mean networking groups, fraternities and sororities, employers, etc. This dovetails nicely with your product’s need to prove its market fitness, as one significant partnership provides credibility and can signal to other potential partners that they ought to start taking you seriously, earning you more partnership opportunities.

5. Amplify your message through multiple channels

Leverage multiple channels to share a message and access the widest audience. For example, if a blogger writes a great post, share it on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It also shows appreciation to the influencers, so they will be more likely to continue spreading the word.

6. Don’t ignore the power of PR 

The first priority for our earned media/influencer strategy channel was media relations. It’s easy to overlook the fundamentals of PR outreach when flashy new marketing methods are getting press, but nothing beats good, old-fashioned publicity in terms of ROI. Earned content should be substantial, offering readers meaningful and relevant takeaways; it is easy to notice a sponsored article if the marketing material is the only lede. Brand-name media mentions can attract the attention of valuable influencers who may have been previously unaware of your brand, thereby lending credibility to your message.

7. Incentivize and reward 

We found that a trial program was remarkably effective in establishing relationships with influencers and getting them to experience our service. The universal truth that people love free stuff holds if — and only if — the stuff confers a benefit, so we’ve spent considerable time thinking about how to maximize what we gave back to our partners in order to keep them invested. And, sometimes it is not just about giving something to the influencer directly, but rather finding ways to help them better engage with their readers and followers, such as offering giveaways for them to share. Additionally, an effective referral campaign can be a great way to incentivize loyal users and engaged influencers to spread the word and further drive consumer adoption.

8. Analyze and optimize 

Keep close tabs on your performance metrics to determine what is — and what is not — working. Continually optimize and invest more time and money in those channels that are driving the most conversions. Conversely, if something is not working, figure out why it is unsuccessful or abandon that approach in favor of something that works better.

These are just a handful of the strategies we have leveraged to build FitReserve, and while there is no official one-size-fits-all rubric for influencer marketing, these techniques should help any newly established brand develop and amplify its message to the market.
Bill Arzt is the COO & Co-founder of FitReserve, a premium all-access fitness membership that allows you to mix and match classes from a curated selection of nearly 500 top studios and over 60,000 classes across New York City and Boston, with more cities launching in the coming months.