- Consumers are inundated with adverts everywhere they go–brands need to be smarter if they’re to attract attention
- Traditional forms of advertising are increasingly ineffective, whilst influencer marketing is on the rise
- Influencers are viewed as experts in their chosen area and so their endorsement acts as a form of social proof (which quickly builds consumer trust in your brand)
- The ROI of influencer marketing is still somewhat unknown–however, a limited number of studies highlight incredibly promising results
Companies are competing for consumers’ attention everywhere they go: When they commute to work, kick back and watch videos on YouTube, or scroll through Facebook before going to bed.
Amidst all this noise, brands need to be smarter than ever before if they’re to win consumers’ trust.
To further muddy the waters, consumers are increasingly turned off by classical forms of advertising; indeed, many have even gone as far as saying that classical advertising is ‘dead’.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Social media is revolutionizing the way that brands interact with their customers–offering not only new platforms, but also a myriad of new ways in which brands can advertise their products.
Gone are the days of sticking up an advert in the classified section of a local newspaper; nowadays, companies can access a truly global audience in just a few simple clicks.
Influencer marketing is rapidly becoming one of the best ways to do this. In fact, the influencer marketing industry is now purported to be worth a whopping $5-10 billion.
So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at exactly what it entails.
The ‘what’ of influencer marketing
In a nutshell, influencer marketing is the practice of brands partnering up with influencers–people on social media with large, dedicated followings–to promote their products.
It works so well because influencers are deemed as experts in their core niche. For instance, somebody who provides beauty tips on social media will be trusted by their followers to give good advice on which products are best.
By running influencer marketing campaigns, brands can subtly advertise their products in a way that doesn’t turn consumers off.
Instead of saying “look at how great we are”, they get someone whose opinion is trusted (and is viewed as an independent third party) to say “look at how great this product is”.
What do you do when adverts come on television? You change the channel or get up and go do something else for a few minutes. How about when they come up on YouTube? You mutter under your breath and wait until it says “Skip Ad”.
Nobody likes the feeling that they’re being sold to–this is why the concept of the “advertorial” (long-form adverts that are written like pieces of editorial content) has been so successful for a number of decades.
Influencer marketing is the new advertorial. In a social media-driven society where all eyes are on those at the top, where we all want to know the secret tips and tricks to becoming a success, we’re only too happy to find out the products they know, love, and rely upon.
Or at least, what they say they rely upon.
When it comes down to it, influencer marketing basically boils down to a simple series of assumptions:
- Consumers trust and respect someone on social media
- This trusted person endorses a product
- Consumers now trust/respect this product (and brand)
Why influencer marketing is so valuable?
Old-school adverts just don’t cut it anymore. A 2018 study by Marketing Week found that 71% of consumers prefer pull advertising (advertising channels they seek out themselves, like online reviews, a friend’s recommendation, or an influencer’s recommendations) to classical push advertising (banner ads, direct mail, billboards, etc.).
And in an increasingly competitive marketplace, attention is king. It’s so hard to cut through the noise; those who can are worth their weight in gold.
This is where influencer marketing comes in. There are a couple of reasons why influencers attract so much attention; firstly, they might be great sources of information; secondly, their talent or success might give people something to aspire to.
Whatever the cause, they’re looked up to–and therefore, they’re often widely trusted. As a result, influencer marketing acts as a form of social proof. If you see someone you admire and respect promoting a product on Instagram, you’re likely to believe in its quality.
After all, why would they–experts in their area–promote something that didn’t live up to the hype?
No matter how old we are, we’re always looking to defer to people who we trust–people who are deemed to be highly knowledgeable in a certain area (like accountants, doctors, and school teachers).
Influencer marketing relies on this same concept. Their followers assume they are knowledgeable about a certain area, so this makes them a trusted source of information.
In fact, influencer marketing has been around in various forms for a while now. Back in the 1760s, Josiah Wedgewod–often acclaimed as the “father of modern marketing”–courted endorsements from high-status individuals and was eventually appointed as the Queen’s potter.
Capitalizing on this recognition from the most trusted individual in the land, sales for his “Queen Ware” tea sets subsequently went through the roof.
In 1946, there was the famous “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette” campaign, whilst Nike’s long and fruitful partnership with Michael Jordan convinced millions of youngsters that they too could dunk just like ‘MJ’.
There’s a reason that influencer marketing has been around for so long: It works.
But despite its longevity, influencer marketing is arguably more effective nowadays than it’s ever been before. Celebrity endorsements are great, and they certainly have their value–but if they come in the form of a classical advert, many consumers might still lose interest when it pops up.
Back in 2010, a reported 86% of television viewers actively skipped adverts by changing the channel–given the rise of advert-free services like Netflix in the years since, it’s likely that this has only increased.
Indeed, the tables have turned to such an extent that major networks like NBC and Fox are currently reducing the amount of commercial time in their shows.
But this drop-off in consumer interest isn’t the case when it comes to influencer marketing. Despite The Advertising Standards Agency clamping down on influencers passing off paid-for promotions as their own views, research shows that sponsored content receives just as much engagement as non-sponsored content.
When browsing through Instagram, Facebook, or whatever platform it may be, sponsored “ads” are carefully weaved into the general experience. Consumers simply focus on the content itself before (if ever) realizing that it’s basically an advert.
If they like what they see and engage with it anyway, they might not even care that they’re being sold to. And that’s the beauty of influencer marketing.
What’s the ROI of influencer marketing?
Sure, this all sounds great–but marketing is defined by return on investment. Your new billboard might be incredibly visually appealing but if it’s not bringing in any revenue, it’s not providing any real value.
So let’s explore just how influencer marketing performs when it comes to ROI.
First off, it’s worth noting that proving the ROI of your influencer marketing campaigns isn’t exactly an easy task. You might be able to analyze how many people directly click through from one influencer’s advert and purchase there and then, but the modern consumer journey is increasingly fragmented.
This means that in all likelihood, leads might click onto your website, browse through your products, lapse for a short while, before eventually converting and becoming customers. Amidst all this to-ing and fro-ing, it can be difficult to accurately assess the effect of your influencer’s initial advert on their eventual decision to purchase.
One effective method of influencer marketing attribution is to accompany each campaign with its own discount code. Sure, this means you’ll be selling your products at a cut-rate price, but this has two potential benefits; firstly, people love getting things at a reduced price; secondly, you’ll be able to efficiently track every influencer-influenced sale that takes place.
If you’re looking for an in-depth guide on how to calculate the ROI of influencer marketing campaigns, check out this great post by mediakix.
Okay so once you’re actually able to calculate the ROI, how does influencer marekting perform when compared to other marketing strategies?
Source: Sprout Social, Inc.
According to one study featuring 258 influencers, influencer marketing had an ROI which was 11 times higher than banner ads (a classical digital marketing strategy). Of course, this is just one isolated study and so needs to be taken with a pinch of salt–however, the results are certainly promising.
But there’s more. Back in 2016, frozen food retailer Iceland launched a series of influencer-backed videos which saw their approval ratings jump 70% in the space of a year.
So it seems like there’s plenty of promise for influencer marketing, provided you’re able to accurately calculate the ROI of each campaign.
How to create an influencer marketing strategy in 4 simple steps
As with any other strategic campaign that you’re running, the first step of your influencer marketing campaign should always be to conduct in-depth research. Firstly, what sort of demographic are you aiming to reach–and which platform does this require you use?
If you’re a corporate B2B organization, it’s probably worthwhile running influencer marketing campaigns on LinkedIn rather than Instagram. If you’re in the video game industry, you’re better off using Twitch rather than any other platform.
This might sound simple enough, but you need to make sure that any campaign you run is going to actually reach your target audience.
Right, now on to step two. Who are the top movers and shakers in your industry? Who is up-and-coming, quickly gaining lots of traction but not yet demanding exorbitant prices for promotions?
Having a variety of industry hard-hitters and relative newbies is a good way to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your budget, and might also be a good way to ensure a wider demographic reach.
2) Strategize (while keeping your budget in mind)
Once you’ve worked out who you’re going to contact, you then need to devise a comprehensive influencer marketing strategy that encompasses everything from the initial influencer outreach all the way through to how long your campaigns are going to run.
What are the overall goals of your influencer marketing campaign? Are you aiming to increase sales, brand awareness, or a bit of both? What would make the campaign a success–and conversely, what would mark it as a failure? You can only truly assess how it’s performed once you have these goals in mind.
Needless to say, how you handle your allocated budget is a core part of your overall influencer marketing strategy. What’s the absolute maximum that you’re willing to pay? How many followers does an influencer need to have to warrant this sort of compensation?
Are you going to leave a bit of wiggle room in case they want to haggle? Who has final sign-off over the budget?
These are critical questions that you need to answer before you begin. It’s easy to get carried away and throw money at huge industry figures, but you need to make sure that you always stick within the confines of your budget and have an overall influencer marketing strategy that you’re sticking to.
3) Begin your outreach campaign
Right, now you can get started with the fun stuff. Once you’ve got a list of appropriate influencers and a solid strategy in mind, you can then begin the process of getting in touch with them.
With micro-influencers (usually defined as those with a few thousand followers), you can probably get away with simply sending them a direct message. However, larger influencers might well have a link on their bio which takes you to an inquiries page.
Whatever their set-up, it’s important that you take this into account–directly messaging a celebrity probably won’t have any sort of effect, and if it does, it’ll probably just annoy them, which will dissuade them from dealing with your brand going forward.
Make sure you keep everyone in your team in the loop during this influencer marketing outreach campaign.
For instance, you might’ve highlighted 20 potential influencers and have a total of $30,000 to spend. The last thing you want to do is to contact everyone at once, promising them $5,000 each, and for them to all come back and agree.
If you do that, you’ll be in hot water with your accounts team.
4) Assess and tweak your influencer marketing campaign
Keep tabs on how your campaign is performing on an ongoing basis, but be sure to wait a short while after it’s ended before coming to any large conclusions.
As previously mentioned, influencer marketing campaigns might not always lead directly to sales–many eventual customers might’ve initially found out about your brand from an influencer campaign, before going through a long and convoluted buying journey prior to converting.
Therefore, prematurely assessing how your campaigns performed might very well lead to skewed results.
You should probably review your influencer marketing campaign’s performance a couple of months after it ended (unless you’re working for a company with a particularly long buying cycle). Once you’ve compared your results to the initial goals you set, you can then begin to tweak your strategy for the next influencer campaign you run.
Perhaps you’re looking to target a younger demographic, or perhaps you find out that your highest-paid influencers had the lowest ROI. Whatever the results, make sure that you appropriately tweak your approach going forward.
Optimizing your marketing strategies is an ongoing process; influencer marketing campaigns are no different.
We hope you found this guide to influencer marketing useful–if you have anything to add or any other questions, please leave a comment below.