American Marketer


How to optimize influencer marketing

September 13, 2018

Libby Murad-Patel is vice president of marketing and strategic insights for Hearst Autos’ Jumpstart Automotive Media Libby Murad-Patel is vice president of marketing and strategic insights for Hearst Autos’ Jumpstart Automotive Media


By Libby Murad-Patel

Influencer marketing long circulated within the marketing industry, but it seems to be gaining importance – notably in automotive circles.

The roots of influencer marketing cultivated celebrity endorsements in the automotive industry, engaging the celebrities’ popularity to increase brand awareness and, of course, sales.

Auto campaigns have included idols such as LeBron James, Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey. But now, influencing is no longer reserved for the ultra-rich and famous.

Web access and smartphones have the masses joining in, generating up to 11x the ROI of traditional advertising, and turning influencer marketing into the superior standard (TapInfluence study with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, 2016).

Value of friends and family

In the process of purchasing a vehicle, we noticed that “consumers find recommendations from friends and family—especially from auto experts and enthusiasts—very important.”

A survey conducted by Ipsos Research for our latest Insights Book found that the most common people asking enthusiasts for advice are family (87 percent), friends and neighbors (78 percent) and coworkers (50 percent), while individuals on social media were only 7 percent.

These statistics account only for those who seek advice.

For an influencer marketing campaign to fuel ROI, it must reach both advice-seeking shoppers and those who are not in the market – yet.

Be careful not to confuse influence with popularity, though.

While strong influencers have reach, they also possess credibility and salesmanship. It is crucial to consider influencer categories when strategizing a campaign.

Macro influencers have colossal followings on social media platforms. These influencers include celebrities and high-ranking gurus.

There is also a subcategory of influencers dubbed micro-influencers. They have a smaller reach, but their credibility gives them authority, lending itself to a strong marketing and sales tool.

Since micro influencers are more approachable, their content is more likely to resonate with advice-seeking buyers because it feels more authentic.

By contrast, macro influencers position brands before millions of people, boosting awareness and pulling consumers into the market.

Depending on the campaign objective and budget, top brands determine their focus.

Some marketers depend on one influencer category. Others rely on a mix to provide immense reach with a personal, attainable perception.

To employ optimal influencers, companies must know what they are looking to achieve.

Establish advocacy in influencers

Advocacy is the number one goal.

Influencer marketing can encompass social media marketing and content marketing, though understand that these terms are not synonymous.

The same applies for advocacy marketing. This form relies on brand advocates – existing customers who speak highly of the company and their products.

To sustain business growth and long-term engagement, brands strive for advocacy. In this concept, the influencer is an actual customer.

Since 92 percent trust brand advocates (Zuberance Infographic), incorporating advocacy diminishes doubt and lends to even greater influence.

There are options to achieving this. Brands can seek influencers that are existing advocates and employ them as an influencer, or they can mold current influencers into real product users.

To do so, brands must emphasize their relationship with influencers: engage with them frequently, keeping them in the loop with information and considering their opinions on the products.

No matter which path they choose, disclosure of the relationship is key to gaining or maintaining consumer trust.

Create subtle campaigns to achieve favorable results

Lastly, brands must keep influencer campaigns subtle.

An increased amount of advertising dollars are being allocated to influencer marketing, and with good reason. It emphasizes the influencer rather than the entire target market.

Campaigns are understated instead of aggressive, which is why they work.

More specifically, by focusing on the influencer, brands are taking an indirect approach in delivering their message by filtering it through a credible, third party (the influencer).

Many consumers today have responded favorably to this approach, particularly as mediums such as social media have enabled everyday consumers to feel more connected and attached to their favorite influencers.

AS INFLUENCER MARKETING continues to gain momentum and demonstrates unparalleled success, marketing professionals are eager to engage more influencers in their campaigns.

As with any other business decision, research and application are imperative for tailored results.

Be sure to consider these four key insights when developing an automotive influencer campaign:

  1. Aim to reach both advice-seeking shoppers and those who are not yet in the market
  2. Do not confuse influence with popularity
  3. Make advocacy your number one goal
  4. Keep it subtle

Libby Murad-Patel is vice president of marketing and strategic insights for Hearst Autos’ Jumpstart Automotive Media, San Francisco. Reach her at