Influencer Marketing: The Time is Now
Sep 18, 2017
What is influencer marketing? The phrase may be all the buzz lately, but even people who have been swayed by an influencer marketer might not realize what it is or how extensive it can be.
In short, this is a kind of digital marketing that involves someone who has a large internet following recommending a product or service. However, there actually is much more to being an influencer marketer than this. Celebrity endorsements generally involve a straightforward situation in which a celebrity is paid to promote a particular product. Influencer marketing is more nuanced and complex, and key to its success is that holy grail of content marketing, long-term engagement.
Influencer marketers may or may not be supplied with free products or paid for their work, but what is important for their audiences is that those audiences do not believe this payment is the primary reason for the endorsement. Influencer marketers are people who have built trusted relationships with their followers, and this generally involves a choice to only promote products that they actually use and that are consistent with their image and values.
Types of Influencer Marketing
This approach to marketing is far more varied and interesting than simply having a celebrity mention a product on social media. In fact, many influencer marketers are not traditional
celebrities. While some may be reality TV stars, athletes or be primarily famous for other reasons, many are superstars in the niche worlds of Instagram or Snapchat. This does not mean their reach is small, however, and some have millions of followers.
For example, some influencer marketers are primarily known for promoting a certain kind of lifestyle on their blog and Instagram. These influencers may focus on things like healthy living, fashion or travel. As influencer marketers, their photos might subtly include a certain product among other items or interest. While traditional advertising has long endeavored to "sell" a certain image or lifestyle to promote products, the work of influencer marketers is based on a much longer-lasting sense of engagement and even back-and-forth between the influencer and that person's audience.
Instagram is one of the most popular social media channels for influencer marketers, but other platforms and methods are popular as well. For example, a Snapchat "takeover" is when a company hands its account over to a popular personality for a certain amount of time.
In some cases, companies might look over Instagram or other social media sites to identify people who have a certain number of followers and who are already promoting their products. These people might be invited to create content for the company's official Instagram account or other social media accounts. Approaches such as this are part of the changing face of the world of influencer marketers and a shift in who companies seek to promote their brand.
Two trends are significantly shaping what this type of marketing marketing will look like in the years ahead. One is the shift toward ordinary people who are particularly successful on a certain platform, such as a teenager whose Instagram account has over a million followers. But the second is a shift toward influencer marketers who have fewer followers.
As influencer marketing has grown popular, so have the influencer marketers themselves, and it can be increasingly difficult for companies to tempt the most successful of them, who are inundated with daily requests. Therefore, many companies are shifting to a strategy that targets a number of influencer marketers with fewer followers rather than a single influencer marketer with millions. These so-called "micro-influencers" make up to 90 percent of posts, up from 60 percent at the start of 2016. Instagram users who wonder about their own potential as an influencer marketer can even use a tool known as the Instagram Money Calculator to help them identify how much their posts earn and how they compare with others.
Another trend is for companies to ask their followers to promote their products. This has appeal for a brand that wants to appeal to "ordinary people" and serves the dual purpose of deepening engagement with some of their most loyal customers, who they have asked to do this promotion, as well as getting the word out to those customers' followers.
Measuring the Impact of Influencer Marketers
All of this buzz about Instagram influencer marketing and influencer marketers on other platforms might be exciting to contemplate, but does it work? What is the return on investment? It is notoriously difficult to measure the impact of content marketing, but a number of tools and approaches have been developed to do so. It is also worth remembering that many more traditional ways of advertising, such as direct mail, got a low response rate relative to the amount of material sent out.
More than 90 percent of marketers believe this approach is effective, but nearly 80 percent also admit that exact measuring of that effectiveness is one of the challenges ahead.The first step will be to determine what metrics will be use to evaluate effectiveness. Examples might be mentions on social media, referral visitors and website views. That it can be difficult to measure the exact correlation between the work of influencer marketers and sales numbers may be less a matter of concern than it appears. Like all content marketing, it may not be as immediately quantifiable as other types of marketing, but it clearly builds brand engagement, visibility and long-term loyalty. However, it is likely that in the years ahead, more tools will be created to more accurately measure ROI based on a number of different rubrics.
What is influencer marketing? It is an exciting and dynamic new way of engaging with customers by associating a company's brand with that of a person who is already liked and trusted by an existing community. It is a fresh and fast-growing approach to marketing that reaches those audiences who are turned off by or simply ignore traditional advertising mediums. As the platforms and channels that people use change and as new platforms appear, how influencer marketers work will change to match. From more conventional blogging to Instagram influencer marketing to Snapchat takeovers and more, this approach to promoting and selling products and services is rooted in the content marketing values of storytelling and community and is poised to become a major digital marketing force in the years ahead.