Is there a better way to market your brand than to have Kim Kardashian West or her family members share your products on their social media accounts? From an influencer marketing perspective, probably not. The first family of reality TV ushered in the era of influencer marketing as we know it today. Audiences trust their favorite celebrities and social media personalities, and brands have learned to leverage that trust by paying influencers to amplify their messages.
And it seems to be working: More than 80 percent of marketers interviewed for a 2016 survey said influencer campaigns increased awareness and engagement for their companies. The trend has become so popular that companies spent $570 million on Instagram campaigns alone last year. When you partner with the right influencers, you gain credibility by association and reach audiences that might otherwise elude you.
But influencer marketing isn’t the be-all, end-all for gaining authority and reaching new audiences. In fact, as important as influencer campaigns are to your overall strategy, they have a fatal flaw: You don’t actually control th
Take control with content
As the leader of a content marketing company, I’ve had many people ask me about the difference between content marketing and influencer marketing. I’m always glad when this question comes up because I think the marketing industry as a whole needs to do a much better job of distinguishing the two.
To put it simply, content marketing is the content your company creates and distributes to the right people at the right time. Influencer marketing is driven largely by external partners.
Both are necessary to reach, engage, and build trust with your audiences, but I always recommend investing in content marketing first. Content is the foundation for your influencer campaigns; you can’t effectively build out influencer strategies unless you’ve already developed a strong brand message.
That’s not the only reason, either. Here are three major advantages to having a strong content marketing foundation before jumping into influencer marketing:
1. You have full ownership.
Content marketing refers to content your team has created, including articles on your blog, infographics, videos, guest posts, and any other materials you’ve generated to educate people about your brand. Your company owns that content and can use and repurpose it however it wants.
While influencer campaigns refer to your brand, you don’t typically get final say over the content. In fact, 41 percent of marketers surveyed for a study said they struggle to maintain control over their influencer campaigns. Your partners incorporate your message into formats they think will resonate with their audiences. You can certainly offer talking points and suggestions, but what ultimately is published, printed, or recorded is out of your hands.
2. Your brand can build stronger audience relationships.
No matter how great a partnership you have with an influencer, your best and most authentic brand advocates will always be in-house. Why? Because when outside influencers share your company’s story, they’re the ones who deepen relationships with your audience — not you. Sure, you benefit from the increased credibility, but you’re not actually the one strengthening your bond with your target users or readers.
One way to combat this is by building your influence internally through thought leadership content. Invite employees across your organization to contribute ideas, develop content, and share it with their networks on behalf of the company.
Everyone on your team has access to followers who are currently unaware of your brand, and you can dramatically expand your reach and grow your influence by leveraging those networks. Because the content is coming from your internal team of thought leaders, their content contributions directly strengthen your brand’s audience relationships.
3. You have long-term viability — and so do your future influencer marketing opportunities.
Content marketing enables you to build an arsenal of great material that addresses customer pain points, illuminates your company’s culture, and speaks to your audience’s interests and needs. It’s a long-term investment that yields increasing returns as you build your brand’s authority.
As your brand develops a steady following, diversifies its content types, and earns press over time, people in your audience will begin to link your brand with trustworthiness and credibility.
That is a fantastic goal on its own, but the benefits don’t stop there: You will have an easier time accessing future influencer marketing opportunities because you’ll have influence of your own. The one thing influencers love more than a check is more influence; when you come to the table with influence you’ve built through content, you start with a stronger hand and can build better partnerships.
Content marketing and influencer marketing complement, but don’t replace, one another. Hiring YouTube stars or Instagram personalities will amplify your brand and open doors to new audiences. But your brand’s content is what will inspire people to walk through those doors and trust you enough to buy into your company’s mission.