Though the term “influencer marketing” has only moved into mainstream marketing’s vocabulary in the last few years, the concept is hardly new.
For as long as consumers have purchased certain products or services under the recommendation of a “better” (read: “more successful,” “more athletic,” “more intelligent”…) individual, influencer marketing has been alive and well.
It just so happens that, due to the advent of social media, influencer marketing is a more effective part of the marketing mix now than ever before, in terms of driving sales and creating loyal customers.
So how can you take advantage of such an effective marketing strategy?
We’ll get into that.
But first, let’s hammer down what, exactly, goes into creating a successful influencer marketing campaign, and why influencer marketing has become such a popular strategy in recent years.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
As alluded to, influencer marketing is the process of using a well-known individual or entity as leverage to promote a product or service.
In a technical sense, those typical commercials of yesteryear that featured a celebrity eating a certain fast-food company’s hamburger or wearing a certain clothing company’s boxer shorts could be considered a form of influencer marketing.
But those advertisements aren’t fooling today’s consumers.
It’s often painfully obvious when a famous celebrity or athlete has been paid to endorse a product that you know they don’t really use.
Influencer marketing is all about being real, both with the influencer you want to connect with and the audience you want to get noticed by.
According to social@Ogilvy, influencer marketing involves marketing:
- To influencers – to increase brand awareness within the influencer community
- Through influencers – using influencers to increase brand awareness to target markets
- With influencers – turning influencers into advocates
By forging authentic relationships with influencers in your industry, you allow them to truly become fans of your brand. In turn, they end up being more than happy to sing your praises without needing to be paid to do so.
(Side note: There are some circumstances in which money is involved in the brand-influencer relationship. We’ll discuss that a bit later.)
In a moment, we’ll discuss the main reasons influencer marketing has become so prevalent, and why it’s so effective.
But first, it’s essential to understand that, if you’re not currently leveraging influencer marketing in at least some capacity, you’re behind the times. According to Social Media Today, 59% of marketers planned on increasing their influencer marketing campaign budgets from 2015-2016.
Furthermore, Acorn reports that 84% of marketers plan on conducting at least one influencer marketing campaign throughout 2017.
So, why has this shift taken place?
Shifting Away From Traditional Marketing
Earlier, we mentioned the idea that traditional marketing and advertising techniques (such as having a famous actress appear in a commercial for a product) simply aren’t effective anymore.
We know the actress was paid to endorse the product. We know the “recommendation” being made was scripted by the very company being recommended. And we know there’s a good chance that the celebrity making the endorsement probably doesn’t actually have a personal opinion with regard to the product she’s endorsing.
Simply put: the modern consumer doesn’t trust traditional marketing tactics.
On the other hand, the modern consumer does place a large amount of trust in “earned” media. If an individual is confident that a brand has earned an endorsement – be it from a personal acquaintance, an industry-famous influencer, or anyone in between – they’ll be much more likely to believe what the endorser has to say.
But what it is that makes influencer marketing more effective than traditional tactics?
Well, there are a few reasons.
For one thing, consumers “know” industry influencers better than they know celebrities (even if they don’t know said influencer personally). Maybe they follow the influencer’s social media pages. Or maybe they subscribe to the individual’s blog. Perhaps they’ve interacted with the influencer through instant messaging or email.
In any case, the consumer knows the influencer is real. They have a story. They have pain points, just like everyone else. And, when it comes to the product they’re endorsing, they’ve actually used it to solve a problem or attain a goal in their own life – and they’ve likely documented their journey in some way or another.
Another reason influencer marketing campaigns are so effective is they’re targeted and specific.
Traditional advertising tactics cast a wide net in the hopes of snaring just a small percentage of the audience. Think about the last time you saw a television commercial that had nothing to do with your needs: since you had no reason to pay attention, you most likely zoned out for thirty seconds, right?
On the other hand, if you’re browsing a blog full of slow-cooker recipes and notice the chef recommends a certain brand of spices, you’d at least give the recommendation some thought, wouldn’t you?
Whether the chef mentioned the spice brand of their own volition or they had actually formed a
relationship with the company and agreed to mention its spices on their blog is irrelevant. As the reader (read: “consumer”), you were directly influenced by the chef’s recommendations because the recommendation pertained to you at the moment.
Now, think of how many people just like you read that same blog. And think about what that means for our hypothetical spice company.
While an advertisement through traditional means may reach hundreds of millions of individuals, it will likely only pertain to an incredibly small percentage of those viewers.
On the other hand, almost any individual who visits that cooking blog, and specifically reads that recipe, is likely to be considered a target customer by the spice company being recommended. Because the recommendation actually means something to these readers – and it was given to them in a seamless and authentic manner – there is a much larger chance of these individuals checking out the products the spice company has to offer.
Now that we have a better understanding of what influencer marketing is, and why it’s so effective in today’s marketing landscape, let’s take a look at how companies should go about attracting the right influencers for their brand.
Attracting the Right Influencers
Okay, so you’re convinced that you need to start reaching out to influencers to help get the word out about how awesome your products or services are.
Now, the problem is:
How do you know who to connect with?
To determine the influencers who will be most effective at getting your brand some exposure, consider the following factors:
Let’s go through each of these factors in a bit more detail.
First things first, you need to be sure your target influencer’s audience is full of prime prospects for your products or services.
Going back to our hypothetical spice company:
Who would you rather mention your brand in their blog: Justin Beiber or Rachel Ray?
While the Beibs has over 92 million followers on Twitter – compared to Rachel’s 4.2 million – it’s safe to assume that Rachel’s audience would be much more likely to appreciate a food-related recommendation than Justin’s audience would be.
You can trust “man’s man” Nick Offerman’s opinion of good scotch
You need to dig deep into your target influencer’s existence within their industry. Ask yourself:
- Do your services complement each other? Or, are they related in some way?
- Do your goals align? Or, are you both at least striving toward a similar end?
- Do you have a large amount of mutual followers?
Let’s take a look at why Rachel Ray would be an ideal influencer for a spice company to target:
- As a cook, Rachel uses various spices on a daily basis. If she recommends your spice, her audience will trust that it’s a quality product.
- Rachel cooks for others (and teaches them how to cook); You create a product that will allow your customers to create even tastier meals. Though you aren’t in competition with one another, yours and Rachel’s goals certainly align.
- There’s a pretty good chance that some (and maybe most) of your active followers also follow Rachel on social media. With Rachel’s positive endorsement of your brand, this number of mutual followers will hopefully grow in the near future.
The more relevant the connection between your brand and your influencer’s, the more effective your marketing campaign will be.
In the previous section, we illustrated how the size of an influencer’s audience or following shouldn’t necessarily factor into your decision of whether or not to seek them out.
Believe it or not, it’s actually better if your influencer’s audience is relatively small.
(Note: Of course, you don’t want their audience to be too small. In this case, you wouldn’t even consider them an influencer in the first place, right?)
Entrepreneur David Sifry often discusses the “magic middle” when analyzing influencers’ audiences. This is where you’ll find influencers whose audience isn’t so gigantic that your message will get lost in the ether, but also isn’t so small that your message doesn’t reach anyone.
Aside from sheer volume of followers, you want to connect with influencers whose following spans a variety of channels. This will allow you to potentially reach audiences you may never have even thought of tapping into.
Using the same spice company example, which channel would you prefer your influencer to be prevalent on: LinkedIn or Pinterest?
Clearly, Pinterest is the more appropriate channel to promote or endorse a food-related product, as it’s a well-known hub for recipe sharing and the like.
Now, this isn’t to say that you won’t find any food fanatics on LinkedIn. But, even if you do, when these individuals are browsing LinkedIn, they’re most likely not in “foodie mode.”
Even though increasing brand awareness is a good starting point, it doesn’t equate to much value unless your new prospects take the next step. So you want your influencers to reach your audience members when they’re most likely to take action.
This largely depends on your industry, as well as what you consider to be a favorable action.
If you’re playing the long game and are just starting to build an audience, this might mean getting likes on Instagram, retweets on Twitter, or generating discussion on Facebook. In that case, a simple retweet from an influencer might do the trick. When an influencer shares your content, they expose it to their entire audience who, in turn, will be more likely to share it in the future.
If you need to start generating revenue, your influencers might need to be a bit more direct with their endorsement. This likely takes the form of a direct call-to-action for their audience members to check out your website – specifically your product page. They might include your product or service in a roundup post, product comparison article, or a full-length review of their experiences with your company.
Whatever the case may be, the overall goal of your influencer marketing initiatives must be to bring your new prospects to engage with your brand and eventually become paying customers. Otherwise, what’s the point?
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Your customers are more “with it” now than ever before.
The internet provides them with a ton of data and information to help them make an informed buying decision.
That being said, consumers still trust the good word of a recommendation more than any other piece of info they might come across.
An influencer marketing campaign that’s authentic, targeted, and focused on getting new audience members to take action can be one of the most effective initiatives your marketing team undertakes.