Digital marketing is becoming an increasingly sophisticated and complex landscape. Consumers, especially millennials, care about authentic brand experiences. They invest in brands that connect with them and are quick to reject brands that seem artificial and heavy-handed.
Companies need more organic and meaningful ways to engage with consumers and grow in new markets.
That’s where influencer marketing comes in.
Influencer marketing is when brands work with public or semi-public figures to engage with consumers on their behalf. Instead of advertising directly to consumers, you are paying an influencer to speak about your product, service, or general brand identity.
Influencer marketing is not about buying celebrity endorsements. It’s about getting people with a large online following on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to start conversations and raise brand awareness among their followers.
Value of Influencer Marketing
According to Nielsen, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from people over brands – even when those people are strangers. Social media platforms like Instagram report that over 50 percent of their users have decided to buy something because of a post they saw. (There are over 100 million Instagram users in the U.S. alone.)
Consumers are extremely likely to trust a product that someone in their social media circle posts about. Influencer marketing is able to meet new consumer demands without producing ad fatigue. It is a powerful way to build brand awareness and trust, while reaching niche consumer demographics.
Influencer Marketing Strategy
Choosing the influencers
The most important part of developing an influencer marketing strategy is to decide what kind of influencers you should be working with.
Influencers are not a one size-fits-all category. An influencer can have anywhere from 5,000 to 7 million followers and charge anything from US$10 to US$10,000 per post.
For the sake of clarity, let’s categorize influencers into two categories: micro and macro. Micro-influencers have a smaller reach, charge less, and generally engage more with their followers (i.e. responding publicly to comments and questions) whereas macro-influencers have a larger reach, charge more, and engage less.
Hiring multiple micro-influencers can be a cost-effective way to reach several demographics at once. Research also shows that having numerous micro-influencers with high engagement rates leads to consistently high levels of consumer engagement while improving the chances of a brand’s post going viral (i.e. becoming suddenly and extremely popular online). That being said, a macro-influencer can be a more effective person for launching a new product or brand.
Before reaching out to influencers, brands should have a clear understanding of their objectives target audiences.
After you’ve settled on the kind of influencers who can best represent your brand, you have the think about what this representation should look like.
Influencer campaigns can include photos, videos, blog posts, and social media posts that develop unique hashtags and direct attention back to the sponsored brand. Banana Republic partnered with influencers known for their fashion sense to model the brand’s clothes in interesting locations. Audible, the audiobook platform owned by Amazon, has hired influencers to post about how audiobooks have helped them incorporate learning into their busy schedules.
What’s important is to ensure that the content is being monitored and analyzed.
Influencer Marketing Platforms & Influencer Marketing Agencies
Equally important to an influencer marketing strategy is how you identify and reach out to influencers. Influencer marketing platforms and agencies have sprouted out all over the world to streamline the process of identifying, negotiating, and working with influencers.
An influencer marketing platform helps businesses find the right influencers while offering complimentary services like analytics and campaign management. A good influencer marketing platform will help optimize content, offer data in real time, and present businesses with an array of potential influencers to work with.
Before the growth of influencer marketing platforms, influencer agencies worked as a broker between businesses and influencers. With much of this work automated, influencer agencies now try to add value to their services by crafting influencer marketing strategies and campaigns themselves. A good influencer marketing agency can act like a one-stop-shop for designing, implementing, and monitoring an influencer marketing initiative.
Closing words: Beware of Predictability
Influencer marketing makes your brand come across as more human. Just remember, what is cutting edge today will be ‘traditional’ sooner than you think.
Influencer marketing is a billion-dollar industry. As businesses around the world incorporate influencers into their larger digital strategies, online consumers will be once again inundated with increasingly generic sales pitches by a growing population of online influencers.
To avoid the generic, do your research. How are your competitors using influencers? What tropes are being overused and what is generating consistent engagement? Influencers can amplify your brand’s message and bring it to hard-to-reach demographics. But what matters most is still a strong, unique, and holistic digital marketing strategy.