What is Influencer Marketing and how effective is it?

The hottest digital marketing strategy is unquestionably a force to be reckoned with – influencer marketing. In a nutshell, influencer marketing is a relationship between an organisation or business and an influential individual with a strong online following, who endorses brands online.

Using celebrities to promote products has been a cornerstone for marketing for decades, but this strategy has developed into a slightly more complex concept. Given the mass increase of social media usage on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, anybody can now be categorised as an ‘influencer.’

Thanks to mobile technology bringing the internet to our fingertips, the growth of influencer marketing has boomed as potential customers have never been easier to reach. In fact, according to the Collective Bias Study, a robust 60% of recent store shoppers had been found to be influenced by some type of social media or blog post. 

An example of an influencer would be Youtuber, Zoella, who specialises in makeup tutorials and generates an average of 1m views per video. Across her YouTube instructional series, Zoella used a Marc Jacobs lipstick and promoted a lipstick from designer-to-the-stars Marc Jacobs to viewers. In a deal where she earns a certain % of the revenue on the selected lipstick, it was a cost-efficient and highly effective marketing strategy from the American retailer.

The ‘New and In’ Marketing Strategy

Being the hot and innovative new method of online campaigning, influencer marketing is certainly a way of ‘keeping up with the Kardashians’ -who just so happen to be the undisputed queens of influencer marketing of multiple beauty products (and the youngest, Kylie, is reported to earn a cool $1M per Instagram post). In fact, an endorsement from one of the sisters is said to have sold out products in less than an hour.

Does it work for non-Kardashian influencers? Apparently so, as 92% of marketers who used influencing marketing in 2017 found it highly effective.

These social celebrities are not simply Hollywood actors, but instead, Youtubers, bloggers and product reviewers who have grafted for years to build a follower base. Across a range of sites such as WordPress, YouTube and Twitter, they have built viewers/readers by picking up a relevant audience, and cater their content specifically to that base.

For example, certain Instagram models build up a following as people enjoy their style of clothing and fashion sense. However, as the base grows, product endorsement and placement can expand to include health & beauty lines, diet supplements and affluent lifestyle brands. As such, Instagram is slowly revolutionising the game for retail advertisement, thanks to 1bn users

Perfect for Brand Awareness

From a business’s point of view, influencer marketing is a useful tool in growing their brand image online simply due to the amount of following that certain influencers hold. Not only is this strategy vital in reaching out to a large audience, but it can also be cost-effective. When comparing the costs between paying an influencer to post on YouTube or Instagram to that of a TV advert, the influencer prevails almost every time.

The beauty of a social media post is that it will stay active on an individual’s profile until that account is deleted – so impressions and reach can hit staggering levels. With a quick camera snap and a couple of clicks, your business can quickly be shared with a selective audience instantly and without any hassle.

But the most important aspect of influencing is being selective with your target audience and choosing an influencer that specifically fits your TOV. A mismatch can spell disaster, particularly from the fickle angry mob that can crucify a misstep by advertisers on social media. You don’t have to ask Scarlett London (aka Scarlett Dixon) about that. A tsunami of negative social media commentary followed a post by the young Instagram influencer that lasted for days.

If you manage to find the perfect influencer to work with, the influencer marketing strategy is a terrific way of raising brand awareness from a more objective point of view. The numbers on social media are mind-boggling and through frequent posts, social users will become accustomed to your product or message with consistent effort.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race 

Despite the large numbers of audiences that can be reached, it is important to not get entirely sucked into the idea that influencer marketing is simply a shortcut to instant online success. Like any other method of social media marketing, growing online remains a steady progress. In a simile, compare growing online to that of climbing a mountain – to reach the top of your goal, it takes time, effort and commitment.

There are no quick routes in establishing a reliable reputation on the web. Instead, your relationship with social users is built from scratch and maintained through sharing appropriate content to their feed. From this point of view, it is common for many organisations to stay loyal to one influencer, in which mutually beneficial relationships are formed between the two. The power of these influencers is not to be underestimated, as the content they put out onto their platforms is shared to an existing and trusting audience.

Of course, this loyal notion between a singular influencer and a business is not the case for everybody. Going back to the popular platform of Instagram, there has been an increasing trend in the amount of smaller businesses who do one-time payments to models, as a starting segment in growing their brand name. Just think, you could create a clothing brand tomorrow and before setting up a store on the street, you could have an influencer advertise your brand to 50,000 fashion-keen followers.

The growth of Instagram has resulted in revolutionising the aspect of advertising for online retailers, who may find it more beneficial to use various influencers online and reach as large as an audience as possible. Using an influencer is a great way of planting the initial seed online, as businesses begin their journey to grow their social presence.

Not Just a Numbers Game

There are multiple positive benefits by adopting the approach of influencer marketing, but perhaps the biggest downfall lies with trying to analyse the specific impact of the method. It is, therefore, important for brands to understand if the campaign is converting.

When selecting an influencer, it is important to choose someone who is already loyal and personally uses your product and not just to rush to the individual who holds the largest following. For instance, Youtuber Keith Adam reviews trainers and although he may only hold 75k subscribers, he is an ideal influencer to advertise for a new sneaker company, as opposed to a generic Youtuber with 250k subscribers. Adam’s followers are keen to be updated on all the latest trainer news, so every click onto his video could potentially be converted into a lead.

Conversions are an integral aspect of online marketing. Although it is great to maximise your brand awareness, there is very little point in receiving a large influx of traffic if it doesn’t convert into leads.

To track the success of influencer marketing, brands set up a tracked link on the influencer’s chosen platform, as this is the easiest way to analyse direct engagement from followers. By measuring the traffic via this unique code, businesses can examine just how effective their influencer is in diverting fans to the desired call to action.

In a society where we have become obsessed with online numbers of likes and followers, remember to consider the bigger and long-term vision of your business when it comes to online advertisement. Relevancy should always be the number one requirement when it comes to selecting an influencer, as this will be the most beneficial decision in helping grow traffic towards your site.

Influencer Marketing – Here to Stay?

Given the meteoric rise of social media and the influence it holds over our digital world, there is no reason to suggest that influencer marketing will experience a sharp decline anytime soon. In fact, it appears to be onwards and upwards for the last few years.

However, a dark shadow has been cast over the authenticity of so-called influencers via over-inflated follower and reach numbers by a few bad apples. In fact, Manchester-based pioneer social agency Social Chain have announced they are waging war on phoney Instagram influencers; a move that has been met with uproarious support.

Influencer marketing is still comparatively in its infancy, but we sure to see the continued surge of brands looking to hitch their name to the latest trend-setter.

The method, if used effectively, is a great tool in helping grow and maintain a business’s brand image, regardless of their stature. Adopting to modern-day consumers is an essential aspect in helping maintain relevancy and revenue in the business world and influencer marketing is a great way to do so.