“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.” – Mark Zuckerberg
With modern smartphones it is very easy to create content and post it to social media. For some content creators, their large number of followers has given birth to a new social media phenomenon: the influencer.
Influencers have grown engaged and large audiences, becoming pseudo-celebrities in their own right. An influencer with genuine fans is seen as a trusted advisor by their followers, opening the door for collaborations with organisations and their brands. These collaborations are usually paid, whether that’s money or free product, in return for exposure to the influencer’s audience.
Types of Influencers
Social media influencers can be divided into 3 broad categories:Creators usually have high quality content and engagement with their audience, however do not necessarily have a large number of followers. They are highly effective at promoting a brand’s product or message. Creators are often used by lifestyle brands, e.g. the travel industry.
- Distributors are influencers that have a very large number of followers and strong engagement with their audience. Their content may not be as sophisticated as Creators, however Distributors can be effective at increasing brand awareness and generating engagement at scale. They are seen as ‘social celebrities’ within their respective areas of interest and function as mini brand ambassadors
- Narrators are social media influencers who have reach beyond social media. These people are often celebrities or TV personalities and act as ‘brand ambassadors’ both online and offline. They build credibility for an organisation / brand and stimulate social media conversations.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
There are several benefits of integrating influencer marketing into your overall social media marketing strategy.
Lift in brand awareness
Many influencers have significantly more followers and engagement than most brands, providing an opportunity to receive more eyeballs on your product, service, or message. With the right influencer and the right content, you create a genuine lift in brand awareness.
Positive brand association
Influencer marketing is a form of word of mouth marketing, creating powerful brand associations for an organisation. This is similar to using ‘brand ambassadors’ – a public figure whose reputation and footing in society means that their endorsement ‘influences’ purchasing decisions. If an influencer posts about your product, or conveys your message, that endorsement adds substantial credibility. According to Neilsen, consumer-to-consumer ‘word of mouth’ marketing produces more than double the sales of alternative paid forms of advertising.
With all forms of marketing it is important to convey your message to your right audience. If you select the right influencer with followers that match to your target market, then you won’t just reach a larger audience, but also a more receptive and engaged audience.
Most influencers have built their large follower-base through consistent content and community engagement. Given they are an individual and not a brand, their posts typically receive more engagement. This means that partnering with an influencer could generate an organisation substantially more post engagement than their own brand is capable of garnering. The algorithm of most social media networks also reward high engagement with increased reach.
Influencer marketing can be a successful strategy and has become quite popular. However, there are several constraints that any marketer must know.
Owing to its huge rewards, influencer marketing can be expensive, especially with popular influencers who have very large followings, high credibility, and are accustomed to receiving large financial rewards.
A ‘fake’ or ‘false’ influencer appears as a genuine influencer, however some, or all, of their followers and engagement are not real. Usually the followers have been purchased online and/or they use an automated service (called ‘bots’) to like and comment on their posts. Fake influencers can be a waste of your advertising budget and do not drive results. In a worst-case scenario, engaging with a false influencer may open your organisation to a risk of brand damage. Therefore it is important to conduct research, including a quick audit of the influencer’s profile and followers.
An influencer should be familiar with your brand and educate themselves on your product or message. If an influencer promotes your product or message incorrectly, or has a negative reaction to your product, their audience may be wary to buy your product, or buy your product expecting a different outcome based on what the influencer said.
Influencers operate their own businesses and therefore take jobs that financially benefit them. Organisations need to consider the possibility of an influencer engaging with a competitor or similar brand. This would dilute the effect of any promotion.
Selecting the Right Influencer
Pairing with the right influencer can impact everything from brand awareness to sales. Pairing with the wrong influencer can damage the brand, and at the very least, be a waste of marketing budget. When selecting an influencer consider the following:
- Brand match. Ensure the influencer is aligned to the product and target market of your organisation. Review the content they post, the type of language used in their posts, and even third-party content that they are tagged in, or associated with.
- Audience authenticity. Influencer marketing has become very lucrative and many accounts have fake followers. Check their followers for suspicious accounts, for example those that do not have a profile picture or have never posted, or use online tools such as fakecheck.co. Also consider the location of the influencer’s followers to ensure they reside in countries in which you sell your products.
- Engagement level. The influencer you engage must be ‘influential’ with their audience. Review the engagement level their posts receive, in particular the comments and responses. A true influencer will spark and be involved in conversations.
Influencer Authenticity Checklist
- Is the influencer’s social media page followed by ‘fan buying’ accounts?
- Does the influencer’s social media page have distinct low engagement levels compared to the number of followers?
- Does the influencer’s social media page have many followers without a profile picture?
- Does the influencer’s social media page boast many comments that seem irrelevant or spam-like?
- Does the influencer’s page have too many followers in comparison to his/her number of posts (e.g. 24 posts with 20,000 followers)?
- Has the influencer’s account been verified using online tools? (e.g. http://www.instacheck.co for Instagram)
Influencer Marketing Digital Platforms
The following Influencer Marketing platforms support the relationship between brand and influencer and aim to provide the highest return on investment for both parties. Most platforms, allow for seamless campaign planning, offer analytic and measuring tools, and boast global clients such as Microsoft, Fox, L’Oreal, Forbes, and Coca Cola just to name a few.
Although many businesses have not used influencers historically, digital tools and platforms make it easier than ever before for businesses to generate awareness, drive sales and build a larger following by using influencers. There are challenges when using influencers, however getting it right can yield impressive results.
As a social media marketer, it is important to revisit strategies and goals to determine the success or failure of an influencer marketing project. Should a plan receive undesirable results, marketers should attempt to revise current objectives and attempt to reach out to influencers in a different way. Relationships with Influencers who are driving positive results should be maintained and developed to increase the effectiveness of future campaigns.
Influencer marketing has the potential to greatly increase your following or sales overnight! If you’d like to discover how to make the most of influencer marketing for your business and become a social media success, contact Social Media College today!