Since the dawn of consumerism, people have turned to friends and family for product recommendations. Today, we can objectively state that 92% of purchasing decisions are influenced by those we connect with most often. As digital networks connect us to more people with potentially valuable, trusted opinions, the realm of influence is slowly but surely shifting and expanding. Marketers who can understand this shift—and connect the dots from influencer to decision-maker—will stay a few steps forward of the competition and grow a more devoted audience.
THE INFLUENCER AROUND THE WORLD
In today’s digital culture, everyone has a voice. For those with niche subject matter expertise, a penchant for sharing, and a unique point of view, this formula can yield a multitude of followers.
Digital marketers have the unique opportunity to leverage influencers to increase brand awareness and even sales through Influencer Marketing.
“Influencer Marketing is the practice of engaging internal and industry experts with active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.”
-Lee Odden, CEO, Top Rank Marketing
It is an emerging tactic that is highly effective by utilizing influencers who consumers already trust and rely on for information and guidance.
The most common and simplest form of Influencer Marketing involves an influencer publishing content (provided by the brand or created by the individual) on their own social networks, blog, or website. This is not to be confused with celebrity endorsements, however. For example, when Tide partnered with several NFL players to promote their brand on Twitter, they likely paid them to post a brand-created tweet, or a few tweets over a certain period of time.
True influencer marketing is when brands work directly with social media influencers – those who are not traditional celebrity – they aren’t your traditional celebrity, movie star, or professional athlete. They are everyday people who have a unique voice and have acquired a following by posting funny Vines or by vlogging on YouTube. When working with brands, these influencers use their own voice and medium to promote the brand’s message – they get paid to create and publish original content. In this instance, the advertising may not seem like it follows the core brand messaging, instead, it aligns to the brand of the influencers, therefore acting like organic, un-promoted content.
For example, popular social media star Arielle Vandenberg partnered with Ugg Boots to promote their new product. In this case, the image aligns to what is typically published on her channel and even is also promoted via her Snapchat, showing a nice cross-platform campaign allowing both Arielle, and Ugg to engage with potential customers on both platforms.
Another example is Matt Cutshall working with Audi and Airbnb. Again, this post would not look out of the ordinary to his followers and works to appeal directly to them. His 10.4K likes on this photo indicate how strong this type of campaign will perform for brands – they are able to expand their reach and increase engagement by working with this influencer.
Similar to promoting a product on Twitter, many food and fashion bloggers are engaged by brands to sponsor content on their Instagram or blog channels. For example, Jessica Merchant, food blogger at How Sweet Eats works with a variety of brands on her blog and Instagram:
Brands may use an influencer as a “voice” on their own channels. For example, an influencer may publish a piece of content on a brand’s owned blog or website. This approach gives the target audience a new, fresh voice to listen to – as well as a different perspective, as opposed to being “talked at” by a brand.
Crate&Barrel partners with many popular food bloggers to guest post on their own blog:
HP partnered with Instagram influencers such as Arielle Vandenberg and features photos of them using HP-produced products:
Although the examples are very B2C-centric, these tactics are still extremely relevant to a B2B audience – with the key differentiator being the type of influencer. Where Crate&Barrell doubled down on food bloggers and HP partnered with Instagram celebrities, B2B companies can seek out relevant industry experts, or other respected individuals within their target audience, like when Cision (a media intelligence service for PR pros) partnered with influencer Brian Solis to help co-produce a PR eBook . Not only did this help produce some great content, but they were able to utilize Brian Solis’ name/brand as well as his social network.
If executed properly, influencer marketing campaigns can be very effective. As with every marketing tactic, there are some key considerations to make when identifying influencers and executing an influencer campaign.
The biggest consideration is the base of all marketing – know the audience. The audience needs to look up to and trust the influencer, so it’s important to find an influencer who is relevant and can relate to the audience’s wants and needs. The influencer(s) should also be relevant for whatever product or service you are trying to promote. For example, while Justin Bieber may be wildly popular, he may not have any relevance to a HR software company – while it may be exciting to work with big names, a campaign won’t be effective if that big name is completely irrelevant to your product or service. The audience needs to believe that this influencer is an actual user of your product – this will increase trust of your brand and will lead to a more efficient campaign.
Another key component of an influencer marketing campaign is the content that is produced. Whether it’s a blog post, an Instagram or a Snapchat story the content that is produced has to be high quality and genuine. It also has to be in line with the influencer’s typical voice and what they typically post – sponsored posts are the most successful when the audience doesn’t realize they are sponsored. If you are at all familiar with the influencer’s examples we’ve used above, you’ll see that each of these posts are created in the same style and voice that is typically found on the influencer’s owned properties – if they stand apart from this expectation the audience will lose trust in both the influencer and in your brand. Another big benefit of producing good content with influencers is that it is likely to be shared more which will only increase the effectiveness of your campaign.
Influencer marketing really comes down to two basics: understand who the audience is and be genuine. Don’t force a relationship between your brand, the influencer and the audience – this type of marketing needs to be as natural as possible. Influencer marketing campaigns will typically fail if they are too promotional and if the relationship and content is not believable. The audience needs to believe that the influencer uses and trusts your brand.
Once an influencer has been identified and content has been developed, it’s time to launch the campaign. One thing, however, must be done before launch – understand the types of metrics to consider for measuring the effectiveness of your influencer marketing initiative. Here are 3 types:
- Influencer shares of campaign assets (influencer generated or brand owned e.g., infographic, blog post, etc.)
- Brand mentions as an outcome of an influencer campaign
- Overall brand or campaign mentions
- Referral traffic form influencer owned properties
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
- Opportunities (contacts)
According to Grapevine’s 2016 Influencer Marketing Benchmarks report, Influencer marketing beats Google AdWords in CTR, CPC and CPA. It beats Facebook advertising in CTR and it beats out Google Display Network in CTR, CVR and CPA. It drives quality traffic that is known to convert at a high rate.
For example, in a recent campaign to promote their 6-month trial offer for students and ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, Amazon Video UK worked with student influencer Stuggy who created clips on his Vine. To drive interest in ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, Amazon UK Video tagged Holly H to create Vines about the show. This campaign resulted in 512K Vine Video Views, 8K Likes, Comments and Shares, and 3x the brand’s average engagement rate.
Influencer marketing can deliver a boost to your digital marketing activities. When integrated with your marketing activities, you can see a measurable difference across the customer lifecycle from awareness and acquisition to customer satisfaction and retention. Start small, set realistic goals, and see what influencer marketing does for you. Your results might just be something you’ll want to share with your family and friends.
This article was co-written by R2i's Marketing Strategist, Dylan Carey.