influencer marketingInfluencer marketing is making ripples among brand managers and social media marketers. Reaching customers during their key decision-making processes is one of the most coveted positions in marketing, and influencer marketing is shaping up to be one of the most powerful strategies to get there: influencer marketing campaigns drive 16x more engagement than paid or owned media, according to a recent SocialChorus report. 

It works like this: A brand pinpoints key individuals within their community or industry that are well connected in their respected fields.  These influencers can help generate genuine brand awareness and – more importantly - persuade others to take action. Influencers who team up with the brands and causes they’re passionate about  help spread the brand’s message to a wide audience. And because this audience already has a trust-based relationship with the influencer, they’ll be more receptive to the message and more likely to take action.

Here are a few recent examples of creative and successful influencer campaigns:

1. Kia Motors: Playing the Influencer Dating Game

Kia Motors’ Digital and Social Media Manager, George Haynes, believes that influencer marketing is like dating: you’ve got to stay in touch after a first date if you want a real relationship to blossom.

The entire team at Kia espouses this philosophy. In partnership with SocialChorus, Kia launched its Kia Social Club which enlists influential bloggers as advocates and empowers them to tell their stories – and stays in touch for the long-term.

By targeting advocates in categories like Women’s Lifestyle and Parenting, Kia Social Club reached over 198 advocates, received 24,000 social endorsements and resulted in more than 30 million engagements.

2. BlinkBox: Targeting Influencers with “Perks”

Tesco-owned movies-on-demand service BlinkBox offered PeerPerks, an influencer awards program from PeerIndex, to top movie buffs. They identified influencers in the movies, film and entertainment space, and offered them a free trial of their service.

Although influencers weren’t required to tweet or post a status update prior to receiving their 10 free movie rentals, the campaign resulted in more than 800 engaged influencers, 435,000 impressions and a reduced cost-per-acquisition compared to other marketing channels. 

3. Cointreau: Launching a Cocktail with the Help of Influential Fashionistas

How do you launch a new cocktail? With style, of course! Triple Sec liqueur brand Cointreau partnered with social media company MindShift to create social media buzz about their brand ambassador, Dita Von Teese’s visit to India and the launch of her cocktail CointreauSutra. Rather than launching a general social media blitz, MindShift focused on Fashion, Luxury and Lifestyle influencers on Twitter and Facebook.

They reached out to ten Twitter influencers and a handful of bloggers with 1000+ daily pageviews to get the word out about the new cocktail. They enticed these influencers to come to CointreauSutra parties, meet Von Teese, and share their experiences with their large audience.

At the end of the campaign, Cointreau enjoyed a whopping 7,480,171 reach across Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere.

Despite the powerful psychology at play, and the unprecedented ability to reach people within their trusted communication channels, influencer marketing is still in its infancy. According to TechnoratiMedia’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, brands are allocating just 6 percent of their social media marketing budget to influencer campaigns.  On the other hand, nearly half (44.1%) of the 1,300 marketers, PR professionals, brand managers and agencies… report they will be launching an influencer campaign in the next 12 months, suggesting the prevalence of influencer marketing will grow, and grow quickly.

Sam Fiorella of Sensei Marketing, award-winning blogger and ArCompany chief technologist Danny Brown, Branderati partner and CMO Ekaterina Walter, veteran business strategy consultant Chris Heuer, Kred CEO Andrew Grill and Vivaldi Partners CEO Erich Joachimsthaler are among the pioneers in the field, and they’re all judging the 2013 Top Influencer Marketing Awards competition (now open; nomination deadline is August 15th), hosted by Mark Fidelman’s influencer marketing network/platform RaynForest.  Whether you think you have what it takes and you submit your own campaign, or you just want to learn the art and science of influencer marketing from the some of the best practitioners out there, the campaign will give you an inside perspective on just how powerful influencer marketing can be. 

(Influencer marketing / shutterstock)

Disclaimer:  Raynforest is one of Jenna's soon-to-be famous startup clients