Whether in competition with other businesses or ideas themselves, we live in a time of high innovation where trends and new solutions in conjunction with new problems arise on the regular. Technology and information accessibility are major factors of this. Each new generation is born into a greater pool of technological capabilities and transparency. And with this, increasingly savvy consumer bases are bred.
For marketers, a saturated market of new ideas and information makes rethinking how to reach potential buyers a necessity. Social media especially has proven this need, and blurred the lines between where consumers end and brands begin. Enter influencer marketing.
The term “influencer” has become a buzzword of sorts over the last couple years and rightfully so. In relation to marketing, the concept is to basically position someone of noted authority and relevant relation to speak on behalf of a product. They can do this through thought leadership editorial pieces, Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, YouTube videos, etc. The thought process stems proven power behind word of mouth and how it translates to the online sphere. For example, in 2015 68% of consumers trust online opinions, which is up 7% from 2007.
Combine influencers with social media and you’ve got a powerful force. These individuals have gobs of followers and an audience they regularly foster and grow through well-developed content programs. Each follower becomes a set of eyeballs to capture and impact and for brands that work hand-in-hand with these influencers, the impact can lead to sales.
The What and Why
Social media and its power to reach consumers in more direct and intimate ways than ever before has become common knowledge over the last few years. And as networks begin to revolve around “pay to play” models, more strategy is required on behalf of brands with regards to segmenting their budgets, and allocating funds towards outlets that will yield the most bang for their buck. Investing in influencers is one way to do it.
Influencers are so successful at what they do because they function as people, not brands. There is a level of authenticity captured by a person posting a review on Instagram or writing blogs about a product that can’t be felt through a brand’s own self-promotion. And most of these influencers start out as average, everyday social media users (@lilymaymac for example). They do it well and rise to online fame though, because they put in the time and effort to build community and listen to their audience, which is something that can’t be said for a majority of brands out in the marketplace today.
The why behind utilizing influencers as a business comes down to audience, trust, and cost effectiveness. With regards to audiences, targeting by influencers lets your brand experiment with a variety of broad and hyperfocused segmenting. More importantly, you can reach massive numbers in one fell swoop with a post to an influencer page—many more than would be possible posting to your brand’s page alone, even with ad spend.
When it comes to trust, influencers have it in droves. According to Rhythmone, 92% of consumers have made a purchase after reading about a product on their favorite blog and 69% are likely to make a purchase if someone they follow on social media recommends a product. They speak as consumers to consumers and this separation from brand affiliation makes their word that much more impactful.
There is only so much wiggle room to be had when running ads through social platforms. With influencers however, major investments are not always required off the bat. Especially for influencers on the rise, there’s more willingness to build around mutually beneficial relationships (aka relationship equity). Many makeup companies will do such a thing by sending out samples to makeup enthusiasts on Instagram. These brands will encourage social posting but not set it as an expectation and many times, the promotion will generate on its own and fuel future influencer partnerships.
Giveaways, Discounts, and Promotions
Contests and giveaways are a common way brands will work with influencers to bring further attention to their brand. This can be organized in a number of ways, but often times brands will provide free product and buy a certain number of posts to sponsor on the influencer’s page. The influencer will provide a question or task in the caption of a post on Instagram for example, and distribute prizes to individuals of their choosing.
Another way you’ll see brands connect to prospects through influencer marketing is through sponsored reviews. This will involve sending influencers free product and asking them to review and post about for an amount of money. The brand can provide some guidelines on how to word certain things but for the most part, it’s up to the influencer to create content that makes sense for both their image and that of the brand. After all, any content created should still feel organic even if completely staged.
With the rise of platforms like Snapchat, takeovers are growing in popularity. For a designated period of time, brands will hire influencers to produce content through the brand’s social channels—Snapchat and Instagram being most common for this. Influencers will alert their own followers of the event to help drive brand awareness and especially with video, diversify materials produced.
Sponsored Meet and Greets
Restaurants and attractions explore this option frequently. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for example, hosted a night for popular Chicago Instagram photographers during their Jellies exhibit in 2014. To help boost awareness and exhibit visits, the museum closed its doors and invited influencers to spend time shooting photo and video. It was a sneak peak of sorts and allowed these passionate Instagrammers to capture the exhibit free of crowds, in ways few visitors to the museum ever had. The photographers gained a unique, one-of-a-kind experience catered to their creative interests and the museum gained beautifully curated UGC distributed to mass amounts of followers on the influencers’ networks.
If influencer marketing sounds like a worthwhile investment for your business, it doesn’t mean having to seek them out in mass numbers. Start with a few and focus first on understanding what types of individuals across social media best speak to the mission, voice, and values of your brand. The more genuine and believable the connection is between your product and influencer, the more likely the content is to resonate with followers. As is the case in prospecting across any channel, it’s the quality over quantity in eyeballs that is likely to yield the best results.
How are you using local influencers in your marketing? We’d love to hear more about today’s innovative strategies. Tweet @MabblyDigital with your tips and tricks and we’ll retweet our favorites!