ImageInfluencer marketing – the process of harnessing the power of influential people to spread brand awareness and build trust among consumers – is still a new greenfield for many marketers. Despite numbers showing that influencer marketing is 16x more effective than traditional marketing, it hasn’t yet become part of the mainstream.

However, this new method of organic, trust-centric marketing is being embraced by brands and businesses who are willing to venture outside the box and take risks – and those risks are paying off.

Here are three influencer marketing campaigns that rocked 2013 according to industry experts Sam Fiorella, Sensei Marketing partner and book author; Ekaterina Walter, partner and CMO at Branderati; Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO and founder of Vivaldi Partners; Chris Heuer, CEO of stealth Social Business SaaS company Alynd and founder of Social Media Club; and Mark Fidelman, Managing Director of Raynforest and a client of mine.

Influencer Marketing Campaign #1: The Warner Sound Captured By Nikon at SXSW 2013 by MMW

Nikon wanted to do something a little different during Warner Music Group’s 2013 SXSW Music Residency this summer. So rather than just record all of the great musical performances, they put the camera into the hands of their fans.

They gave select fans Wi-Fi-enabled cameras to record and take photos of the big three-day musical extravaganza, and instantly share them via social media. The attendees at SXSW tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to music and tech, so they were the perfect influencers to spread awareness of Nikon’s great new camera. And the live streams of the concerts that Nikon uploaded as part of the campaign were watched for a huge 11 minutes on average – far surpassing the industry average of just two minutes.

Lesson learned: Be generous. Nikon shared its latest and greatest camera with fans at SXSW in the hopes that they’d help spread the word – and spread the word they did. The campaign resulted in over 166 million social impressions, thanks in large part to the tweeted photos and videos from concert-goers. Part of the social media goodwill generated for Nikon during SXSW was no doubt because they took a risk and put their new cameras – and their brands reputation – in the hands of their fans.

Influencer Marketing Campaign #2: Sprout It Backyard Takeover by Geben Communication

To mark the launch of its new iPad app, Sprout It – a startup dedicated to helping gardeners hone their craft – gave fans a chance to win a total backyard makeover. By tapping into They asked fans to snap a pic of a spot in their backyard that was in need of a serious facelift, and post it to social media using the hashtag #GrowInspired. One grand prize winner was selected to receive a new yard designed by professionals, and a budget to bring it to life. By tapping into influential home and DIY bloggers, Sprout it extended the reach of its campaign, while connecting with new audiences outside of the gardening community.

Over the course of seven days, Sprout it’s campaign drove 313,500 Facebook-related posts and a reach of 60,000 on Twitter, as well as 5,000+ visits to the Sprout It website.

Lesson learned: Target the right influencers. As a new gardening app, it made sense for Sprout It to target gardeners with their influencer contest. By creating a campaign with their target market’s needs in mind, Sprout It established itself as a brand that is firmly in the gardening space. Plus, it was able to leverage this one contest into potential long-term relationships with the influential bloggers in the space.

Influencer Marketing Campaign #3: British Airways: Influencer Innovation Lab in the Sky

At 30,000 feet on a flight from San Francisco to London, 130 Silicon Valley influencers sat aboard a British Airways flight to brainstorm ideas to a pressing problem: the misalignment of science and technology talent with local opportunities.

By choosing some of the most influential minds in science and tech, British Airways was able to help people work toward a legitimate issue that affects their niche, as well as reach out to the wider audience associated with tech giants from the likes of Google and IBM, and younger blood involved in startups.

At the end of the flight, the influencers had come up with 22 ideas, one of which they presented to the United Nations ITU Committee at the DNA Summit in London this summer.

Lesson learned: Take risks. This influencer campaign was way out of the box, and it worked because of its uniqueness. It takes a lot to mobilize the best-of-the-best in Silicon Valley, as their time is so valuable. By offering them a unique way to tackle a pressing problem affecting their own careers and interests, British Airways was able to position its brand as one that works hard to support innovation in technology. 

image: influence/shutterstock