What Is Influencer Marketing?
If you distill influencer marketing to its most basic components, it’s a type of digital marketing where influencers mention or endorse a company’s products and services on social media. Influencer marketing builds on existing content and social media marketing. However, this simplified definition doesn’t relay just how powerful influencer marketing can be, both for better and worse. In fact, AdWeek estimates that influencer marketing will become a $10 billion industry by the end of 2020.
Why Choose Influencer Marketing?
How has influencer marketing become so common and effective? For starters, consumers have become a bit jaded from traditional ads and ignore them more than ever. Thanks to streaming services, some people never see a television commercial anymore. And tech-savvy users often block ads on websites. According to one survey from MarketingDive, millennials blocking online ads cost brands up to 40% of their ad revenue. Influencer marketing serves sponsored content differently.
In comparison, influencer marketing can take place on nearly any social network or app, leaving no stone unturned. Some people immediately think of Instagram when they think of this type of marketing, but Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, and blogs can allow forms of influencer marketing, too.
Brands can create an ongoing conversation with followers by working with a variety of influencers. Those influencers have worked hard to earn the trust of their followers, and different influencers have different follower demographics. This enables brands to tailor content to a broader variety of consumers rather than just applying a one-size-fits-all strategy.
Plus, consumers already talk about products and services via social media. It only makes sense for brands to join those conversations. An influencer’s sponsored content can inform and amaze their followers.
But while some brands have taken advantage of social media with witty tweets and amusing videos, that content still originates from the company whose executives and creatives are unknown to the general public. This is why working with an influencer to create content that’s brand-new and backed by a trusted face makes a difference.
Because an influencer’s followers choose to engage with the person they follow, the influencer has more sway over them. However, this relationship can turn sour if influencers create or share content that doesn’t mesh with their existing brand. Followers may feel betrayed or misled. This could damage the influencer’s reputation, harming both their brand and that of any companies who choose to work with the influencer.
What’s in It for Influencers?
Influencers can get everything from coupons to free products to serious paydays by participating in influencer marketing. It’s no surprise that people are drawn to the appeal of being an influencer.
Working with a company can drive home an influencer’s brand, and the opposite is also true. Finally, influencer marketing can even help an influencer grow their own network.
Getting Started With a Campaign
Brands should explore whether and how to get started with influencer marketing once they’ve answered the question, “What is influencer marketing?“
For a company to harness influencer marketing, it must:
- Set a campaign budget
- Decide on goal and strategy, including key points to be used in the campaign
- Define its audience
- Find, contact, and pay influencers
- Track campaign success via appropriate analytics
This process isn’t always linear, however. For instance, a company with a smaller budget may not be able to afford the type of influencer who is a household name, so their searches must consider the budget (fortunately cheaper influencers exist, e.g. micro influencers). Similarly, brands might change their goals and influencer marketing strategy if initial campaign tracking shows poor results. Of course, companies may move the goal line if their campaigns perform better than expected, too.
Communication with the influencer is ongoing throughout these campaigns and may continue after if the company wishes to work with the influencer for future campaigns.
While companies can go the DIY route (do-it-yourself) and manually search for and communicate with influencers, there are a variety of services that make this process easier. They allow companies to search for, contact, and pay influencers, as well as to manage and track their campaign progress.
Organization is a must when it comes to influencer marketing. If a company doesn’t have goals, it cannot track the success of its campaign. And if a company doesn’t use the right tools, it won’t be able to check if the goal is in sight.
Some companies have avoided influencer marketing because of how much work it takes. However, influencer platforms significantly reduce that workload. Furthermore, brands can hire marketing agencies to do determine strategy and run campaigns with social media influencers. These companies provide examples of marketing plans that prove marketing works and that brands can use an influencer program to reach their target audience.
General Misunderstandings Between Brands and Marketers
A common misconception about influencer marketing is that it requires a large budget, ostensibly because the influencers with the largest network cost more to work with. Not only can brands reap the rewards of influencer marketing without breaking the bank if they focus on micro influencers whose followers are engaged, but companies can lose a lot of money if they focus on celebrity influencers whose brands does not align with theirs.
On a similar note, influencers do not necessarily have to be celebrities; although, celebrity endorsements may work for some campaigns. In fact, those A-listers make up only a small portion of influencers. An influencer can be anyone, and the idea that an influencer is just like you or me is part of what makes their relationship with followers so strong.
For a successful influencer marketing campaign, companies must do more than choose an influencer with a large or engaged network. They must match the influencer’s brand if the content will have a chance to come across as relevant, genuine, and seamless to the influencer’s followers. Companies should carefully consider the types of influencers before agreeing to work together.
It’s also crucial to consider what type of content works best for your campaign. A video or blog post gives influencers a chance to use their voices more than an image or a single social media post. Sometimes, brands can benefit from influencers sharing the brand’s content with their networks rather than creating brand-new content.
Brands that choose the wrong influencers to work with or phrase unbelievable marketing messages may see their campaigns fail spectacularly. This plays into several of the steps brands must take to engage in influencer marketing, including finding influencers and determining messages to use. Too often, companies fail to explain how their products or services will be helpful to consumers.
Finally, influencer marketing isn’t just another ad; at least, it shouldn’t register that way with consumers. If it does, companies may want to take a hard look at how they go about their influencer campaigns. However, sponsored content that’s on-brand for an influencer can perform as well or even better than non-sponsored content.
With that in mind, brands must remember that they must market themselves to influences before they can work together on a campaign that targets consumers. Influencers may decline to work with a company simply because it’s a poor fit or low compensation. But the way brands treat and communicate with influencers may be a useful metric to determine if influencer marketing will work for that company.
Brands must remember that influencers have a platform to speak about negative interactions. If an influencer tells their followers that a brand was disrespectful, that company’s reputation can take quite a hit.
Aside from the wrath of an influencer’s followers, companies and influencers must abide by laws and regulations. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission regulates advertising, and sponsored content must be marked in a way that consumers realize it as such, even if no money has been directly exchanged.
The Present and Future of This Exciting Industry
Influencer marketing has evolved over the years. While it was once easy for influencers to connect with brands for sponsored opportunities, brands now look for influencers with loyal followers and more impressive statistics. Some influencers who have managed to build their brands and networks have even managed to turn it into a full-time gig.
As influencers became better at branding themselves and taking photographs, their feeds became more professional. But some people see that as fake. We’ve already seen a shift to more authentic content that shows the influencer’s life behind the scenes. This allows influencers to post casual, off-the-cuff photos that may not be perfectly posed or edited.
However, there is still plenty of room for growth. For example, while influencers tend to be young, beautiful, and often female, brands could consider working with those people who are older, male, and defy society’s beauty standards. Companies should consider these lesser-used influencers who may help their brands.
Trends show that brands and marketers will continue to incorporate influencer marketing into their overall marketing agendas, with many of them increasing how much money they spend on influencer marketing. But a poorly-planned marketing campaign can have a devastating cost that goes beyond the financial investment. Brands that have made this mistake wonder, “What is influencer marketing even used for?“
Even when an influencer marketing campaign succeeds, it typically doesn’t produce an immediate payout. The power comes from a brand’s ability to start an ongoing conversation with consumers and increase overall brand awareness, perhaps by sponsoring a series of content with the same influencer. As these campaigns progress, however, the trust shared between the influencers and their followers should transfer to the brand.
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