In today’s guest post, theEword’s Michael Palmer takes a closer look at the rise of influencer marketing, and why more brands are switching their focus to this channel.
A brief look at Google Trends quickly reveals that the internet’s interest in the term ‘influencer marketing’ has been steadily growing for as long as Google Trends can remember. At the same time, companies are allocating more and more of their budgets to influencers. Two thirds of marketing professionals state they are very content with their current blogger campaigns (according to a study by eMarketer). It’s no doubt then that ‘influencer marketing’ isn’t just a buzzword, but a real force to be reckoned with.
As per TapInfluence’s definition:
‘Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay influencers to get out the word for you.’
Eric Enge from Moz further clarifies that it is ‘the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service.’
So now that we’ve established what influencer marketing is (and that it’s big news), let’s talk about how it can benefit your business.
Why you should consider influencer marketing
- It pays off
Even if you focus on multiple KPIs, at the end of the day, it is still money that talks. And influencer marketing’s voice is pretty sweet: a recent case study by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that influencer marketing achieves 11 times more ROI than alternative digital marketing methods.
If that doesn’t impress you, wait for it – ROI from bloggers’ endorsements grows with time, as there’s always new people finding your influencer and going through their older content. Unlike other ad types that end when the campaign ends, the returns from your influencer campaign could double after 3 months even with no new investment.
- It fills in the gaps
All marketing methods have their perks and disadvantages. Influencer marketing allows you to look at where the other tools are lacking and fill in those gaps:
Paid banner ads and promoted social posts are a great thing but not all customers are that keen on seeing them in their browsers at all times and resort to ad-blocking software. Having a blogger promote your brand, however, makes sure that the now native content is seen by the right people, at the right time (especially if you’ve followed the steps mentioned below).
Are you creating great content that unfortunately doesn’t reach its full potential? Maybe you have chosen a wrong platform, haven’t timed things correctly or focused on the wrong audience… Sometimes it is just pure bad luck. On the other hand, a social influencer will have a regular following; so it’s pretty safe to expect that your message will get the exposure that it deserves.
Traditional PR approach can be highly unpredictable – the press might get your intended message wrong or simply not pick up your story.. The good news is, there are no such worries with influencer marketing.
As the influencers are not only the medium, but also the publisher, this means, providing you are working with a professional influencer, brands will enjoy a lot more control over how their messages are told.
- It adds authenticity
As Gabrielle Archambault, Senior Manager of eos explains:
‘Influencers not only amplify your brand reach on social, they add an element of authenticity to your message. Though consumers can love brands, they have been trained to be somewhat skeptical of them and the content/message they distribute.
‘Content and messaging created by influencers isn’t yet held to that level of scrutiny and is seen as more organic, even when ‘#ad’ or ‘#sponsored’ is included.
‘As a brand, it’s one thing to tell consumers “I’m cool”, it’s significantly more powerful to have a person that a consumer admires say that your brand is cool.’
To put some numbers to this: according to Social Media Explorer, 92% customers are more likely to trust an individual (let’s say an influencer) over a brand.
- It brings engagement
While having a solid ROI will make all of your company happy, influencer marketing will satisfy even more of your (marketing) needs. A successful influencer campaign will raise brand awareness, resulting in more website visits, newsletter subscriptions, social following… So you’ll see all of your stats on the incline. Tempting, right?
Furthermore (and as mentioned above), you will have earned points in the eyes of your audience, because what’s better than being endorsed by someone they follow and look up to?
I like the sound of this. What do I do?
Step One: Research
As with any marketing strategy, you need to have your target audience mapped out – what they like, where do they hang out online, what content they consume.
Step Two: Choose well
Picking an influencer is not as easy as it may sound; obviously they need to match your brand, but you should also be trying to tick the following boxes:
- Is their following big enough to effectively share your message?
- Will they reach a big enough portion of your target audience?
- Do they have a regular readership returning to their blogs?
- Are they successful in attracting engagement?
If in doubt, use social tools such as Buzzsumo or Follerwonk to see where they stand.
Step Three: Make yourself seen
Influencers get a lot of emails from brands wanting to work with them. If they don’t have the time or don’t think it would be the right fit for them, they simply won’t reply.
Try impressing your chosen influencer by making them feel special before ‘the approach’ – give them attention by sharing their content, RT them, sign up for their newsletter, invite them to feature in your own content… Make sure they know of your existence so that when your proposal email finally arrives, they’re intrigued. Or alternatively, work with a digital agency that already has good relationships with a number of influencers.
Step Four: Know what counts as success
Although influencer marketing differs from other marketing methods, one thing remains the same – you need to know what you want to get out of it and what you’ll call a successful campaign. Is it brand awareness you’re after? Or are you looking to increase your web traffic and social following? Make sure to mention it all in the brief with your influencer. Only KPIs that have been set up well will be able to tell you if your campaign has been successful, or what you need to improve on in the future.
Step Five: Determine your strategy
Once you know what you’re trying to gain from the campaign, figuring out what form your content should take will be a breeze. Will a blog post do? Or would a podcast and a social competition do the trick?
Assuming you’ve already picked your influencer, you probably have an idea what sort of content they do, are good at, and you like. Now it’s time to combine your ideas with theirs. But don’t worry – that doesn’t mean you have to give up control! What we usually do is brief the influencer on our goals, how we would like the message portrayed and any other specific requirements (for example what hashtag to use) and see what they bring to the table. After all, their creative sparkle is there to make your campaign shine.
Step Six: Don’t forget about FTC
Even though it might be tempting, don’t fall down the trap of pretending you haven’t paid for an endorsement when you have. There are rules set out by the FTC and not following them could not only cause you a hefty fine, but also seriously harm your brand image.
In most cases, including #ad in the post is sufficient to demonstrate that the influencer has received a compensation in some shape or form. If it’s video we’re talking about, the influencer must mention the brand’s involvement, within a specific timeframe and also include this information in the video’s description. Although the influencer will probably know what they need to do, it’s better to always check for yourself to ensure the content doesn’t get taken down for a breach of rules. What’s more – their audience will appreciate the honesty and be actually interested in what the influencer likes and decided to endorse.
When it works, it works
It’s not all talk and no action; this recipe has been tried and tested many a time. For example, Essential Living’s ‘Love London’ 2016 campaign showcasing the benefits of living in London has smashed all KPIs across the board.
The campaign asked bloggers and social media influencers living in London what they love about the city, with their input ranging from the buzzing fashion and music scenes to the limitless opportunities London offered for their careers. Their contributions (with the nod back to the amazing apartments on offer, of course) were put in front of the eyes of those who matter – the target demographic of Essential Living.
So, what do you think? Could influencer marketing help you grow your own business? If you’re tempted but feel like you could use some guidance, why not give a digital agency a ring? TheEword are a lifestyle and leisure agency based in Manchester specialising in content marketing. The ‘Love London’ campaign is one of their many success stories; could the next one be yours?
Related Editorial: Digital Content Leaders Masterclass, Manchester (2018)
Michael Palmer is Head of Marketing at theEword – a lifestyle and leisure agency that connects brands with the right audience for their products or services through integrated marketing campaigns.