Influencer Marketing: The new word of mouth?

8 Minute Read | Content Marketing

Let’s face it, digital marketing is hard. Even as seasoned digital marketers ourselves, it can drive us crazy sometimes. ROIs, effective branding, finding our target markets, and speaking their language are all challenging things. We aren’t afraid to admit it. But it’s never too late to experiment with new ideas around engaging an audience, and today we’re here to talk about influencer marketing.

You’ve probably heard the term floating around. With its soaring popularity, and a sometimes negative connotation with the word ‘influencer’ – Fyre Festival, anyone? – you might be reluctant to approach it if you haven’t already started engaging it for your brand. There’s no need to be afraid though.

First let’s start with what influencer marketing actually is.

What is influencer marketing?

Essentially, it’s when a brand works with an influencer to promote their products on social media outlets such as Instagram and Facebook.

When we say influencers, we’re not referring to the top tier A-list celebrities – don’t get this confused with a celebrity endorsement – but rather real people with large social media followings who have genuine pull over your target audience.

So instead of putting all those dollars into large – sometimes non-targeted – marketing campaigns and consumers, digital marketers are now starting to invest in individuals who have influence in the world they want to break into and getting them to talk about their product to their followers. In return, they get the perfect customers who are ready to buy into their brand and also want to talk about how much they love the brand and product to their friends.. It’s kind of like the new word of mouth.

Does it actually work?

Yes, and it works pretty well too. So well in fact that the 2018 State of Influencer Marketing Study reports that 62% of marketers are growing their influencer marketing campaign budgets this year.  

Influencer marketing works because if you’re doing it right, your influencer is a trusted figure in a niche community who actually knows (and is invested in) what they are advertising.

Prospects and existing customers simply trust a real, tangible person over a omnipresent advertisement. Plus these days, they’re savvy enough to pick out paid search and placement over organic content. People are especially aware now that a certain scammer asked some girls to post an orange square and it sold out a non-existent music festival.

A good influencer on the other hand – no matter what field they are in – will have faithful followers who trust them like a friend and take their opinions on board. Voila! Your product just sold.

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Know your customer and audience (but also think outside the box)

That being said, it’s not just as simple as giving a product to a popular personality on the ‘gram. The tricky part of influencer marketing comes down to understanding your target audience and matching that to an influencer’s audience. Or deciding whether the whole concept of influencer marketing is even right for you – it might not work for every product and business. Sometimes a traditional email marketing campaign might still be more effective.

While we all think we know our ultimate customer, you’d be surprised how many brand and marketers are a little off about their target audience. That’s why it’s important to take a step back and do some research before you start just handing your precious product out.

If you don’t have a clear vision and understanding of who your customer is and what their online buying behaviours are – it’s time to go back to the drawing board and forget about influencers for a second.

(But you know, Digital Personas & Customer Journeys are a tried and tested Kwasi thing so we can help you out on that if you need.)

Truly knowing what drives and motivates your consumer will also lead you to picking the right influencer for your brand. Unfortunately, picking the prettiest girl with the most followers isn’t always going to work.  

At the end of the day, the best influencer for your product is someone who is clearly engaging an audience you desire and commands the market you want to break into.

How can I track results?

When the trend started, marketers – and influencers who were approaching brands – tended to put all their eggs in followers basket. Let us hit you with the truth here: they can be bought.

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Our recommendation is to start by looking at their engagement if you’re going on this influencer marketing journey. This means how many real interactions such as likes and comments vs. the number of followers they have. Basically, is their audience truly listening to what they’re saying?

An easy way of figuring this out is the Phlanx Instagram Engagement Calculator. They also have ones for Facebook and Youtube as well. It’s essentially a quick way of adding up all the interactions on posts and comparing it against their followers.

This rise in engagement as a KPI has also seen the rise of the micro-influencer. These are influencers with a smaller (usually 10k-15k) audience but with a very specific niche. They won’t charge you as much plus their audience genuinely listens to them and trusts their opinion. Which, in OUR opinion, is invaluable.

Another popular option is to create a specific discount code so you can track purchases. But too much of this can also seem inauthentic and pushy on sales, which might turn the audience off.

Know your message and create an organic partnership

Similar to knowing your buyers, influencer marketing also only works if you know your message. What do you want to get out of it? 78% of marketing professionals cite brand awareness as the reason for influencer partnerships.

Even then, what do you want potential customers to associate your brand with? Do you really think that an influencer taking a photo holding your product with a general caption about how much they just LOVE your brand will work? 

The answer is probably not. Plus it’s boring. The relationship between brands and influencers is crucial in getting a marketing campaign right. It’s about creating an authentic and original message, which sounds crazy because you’re paying them, but if you find the right influencer and know your customer journey then there are ways to come up with an organic content marketing strategy.

For example, you might be a beer company that wants to activate that elusive – and generally less engaged – male market. Instead of picking out highly followed female or male fashion bloggers who don’t necessarily have a male audience who appreciates beer or have built a lifestyle that will resonate with your brand, look on a local level for influencers like @beerboysadl – excuse the cross-promotion – who have a strong niche audience. And you know the boys just love a good beer, therefore will promote your product genuinely across their social networks.

 

 

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A post shared by Beer Boys ADL (@beerboysadl) on

It’s also important for both the influencer and the brand to work cohesively together, and that you’re not just pay them to regurgitate a generic marketing message. Influencers mostly operate authentically, creating their own content and adding your advertising specifications into it. So use this to your advantage and really be open to working with influencers to see what they can bring to the table when it comes to marketing creative and content strategy

So again, picking the right influencers who actually stands for something and has content direction is your best bet has creating something that will resonate authentically.

Final things to think about before dipping your toes into the influencer marketing pool:

  • Transparency: if money or products have been exchanged for a post, make sure that they includes a #ad in their post or even better, a create specific partnership hashtag.
  • Invest in a partnership not a transaction: make sure influencers know you care and they’ll be loyal to your brand promote you with more authenticity and enthusiasm. This then leads to a more authentic message that will engage their audiences.
  • It’s not just Instagram: while it is the biggest social media marketing tool on the planet right now, a lot of influencers have followings on other platforms as well. They’ll probably be charging less for a blog than an Insta post.

We are well and truly in the age of influencer marketing. Whether it’s going to be a golden era in digital marketing or just an incredibly popular fad – we’re not sure yet.  Can you ever be sure with the the constant fluctuations in digital media? But we do know that as marketing managers and coordinators, this is the best time to jump on board (if you haven’t already!)

If you don’t know what’s going on in the world of influencer marketing and you’re interested in learning more about how you can build brand awareness, hit us up and let’s have a chat about whether it’s right for your business, implement a strong digital strategy and get your brand #trending all over social media.

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