Influencer Marketing on Instagram doubled in size in 2017, making it one of the fastest growing marketing tools of the last several years. Influencer Marketing is here to stay and increasingly seen as the most effective form of advertising, but the question is how do we professionalize it in the ever-evolving digital landscape?

Over the past year we’ve seen some impressive partnerships, but 2017 has also been the year of influencer #fails. As each campaign and brand is different, it’s imperative to think strategically about your influencer partnerships and overall Marketing plan for 2018. Influencers can help you increase brand awareness, user acquisition, purchase intent, downloads or direct sales, but also carry significant risks to your reputation. Working with influencers is not a one size fits all process. You should select influencers who really fit the message, brand, product and campaign. Whether you invest in micro-influencers in your niche, experts for authority or big-budget large-scale influencers.

With this newest addition to the marketing mix and Edelman’s Integrated Communication and Marketing approach the below three elements of the Communications Marketing paradigm are key:

Evolve: Look around the corner to predict what will happen, listen to community feedback and adapt the strategy for brands. You must have action before communication.

Promote: Grounded in our storytelling heritage, with ideas designed to start movements, with an emphasis on experiences that are true to life and add value to relationships.

Protect: This goes beyond crisis management. We need to hold the organization to its promises where it matters most, on issues as diverse as human rights, tax and product safety. Globalization and transparency are the game changers.

Especially with the guidelines from ‘Social Code: YouTube’, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) rules that set new requirements for transparency, as well as the criticism that some campaigns faced in the recent past it’s important to have a strong understanding of the possible risks an influencer campaign poses and that we professionalize how we work with influencers. To mitigate these risks and at the same time create a strong campaign that answers your objectives, we work with the RARA-framework which stands for Relevance, Authority, Reach and Accessibility.

Relevance is about the suitability of a person for association with the brand. We first look at the content of the person’s account. How relevant are they to the proposed campaign’s main themes? Are they already talking about the brand? Finally, are there any controversies that might make them less of a brand fit?

Authority is about the degree to which a person is taken seriously with regards to the topic at hand. More importantly, are they seen as such by others? Would you trust them to recommend a product, company or behavior in this range? In general, specialists will have a higher authority and trust rating which makes the chance of a potential issue smaller. Social media engagement rates, and other data complete the picture here.

Reach is about the size of the target audience reachable through a person. We don’t just look at the overall number of followers, but specifically the followers within a desired audience type (age, location, etc.) within a recent timeframe. Instead of just looking at lifetime statistics, such as follower count, consider current statistics, like audience engagement.

Accessibility is about the likeliness the influencer would be interested in working with a specific brand. Are they likely to shift brands easily or are they mentioning competitors? If so, this will have a huge impact on the credibility of your partnership and content.

The analysis based on the RARA-framework can be executed in several ways. We can research the four dimensions manually or we can go deeper into your search as each of the four RARA dimensions are quantifiable. Embracing a quantified approach, including a comprehensive risk analysis is vital to your Influencer Marketing campaign and that’s why Edelman developed APEX. APEX is data-based methodology that allows us to identify the right influencers for any communications challenge. It’s the deepest and most comprehensive method of influencer discovery that we can deploy. It runs on a custom stack of software, collecting hard data on the relevance, authority, reach and accessibility of millions of potential influencers.

Embracing this methodology, including a thorough risk analysis,  is crucial for an effective campaign and enables successful partnerships with influencers, without any major setbacks.