Some people trust brands, but most of the time, consumers trust other consumers and regular people more. And to influencers, credibility is everything.
What's more, your brand can learn a thing or two about the successful integration of influencers into your overall brand marketing strategy.
Why Influencer Marketing Works
Influencers are publicly viewed as like-minded peers.
Research shows that 83 percent of people trust their peers, while only 62 percent trust a TV commercial.
With the latter, when brands are promoting products, they often seem like they're trying to force the demand and push products by creating a need on the market.
Businesses outline the reasons why you should have the product. Conversely, influencers show how those products fit into everyday life.
So, why exactly does influencer marketing work so well? In order to deliver this answer, we'll delve into the beginnings of influencer marketing.
When your friend tells you about a product or a service and shares their experience, that's called the word of mouth marketing.
It's highly effective because it comes from a person that you know and therefore trust.
Influencer marketing stems from word of mouth marketing, and all of the same basic principles are applied.
When you follow a person and admire their work, you have a feeling that you're getting to know them.
So, when your favorite internet celebrities or bloggers recommend a product or service they really believe in, it's only natural that you would listen to them.
Influencers are notoriously known to support only products and brands they believe in, and they don’t accept each offer that comes their way.
According to Influence.co, 44 percent of influencers say that they receive four to five offers per month for branding their content and promoting products and that they usually accept less than a quarter of the received proposals.
What Are Influencers?
Influencers, like the name implies, are people who are able to affect a buyer’s decisions. They have their own niche following and crowd of people who actively engage with them.
Influencers are people who are semi-celebrities, but their work consists of two-way communication with their audience, so they are much more approachable, and thus, much more relatable.
Because they operate in closely woven communities and usually in smaller industries, choosing the right influencer can get you access to a highly targeted audience that is relevant to your business.
Influencers already have a following. Their audience is loyal. But most of all, influencers are your next-door neighbors, everyday people with interesting things to say.
They are bloggers, vloggers, podcast artists and content creators who use online platforms and social media to engage with their audience on a daily basis.
The Difference Between Influencers & Celebrities
Is there a difference between traditional celebrities and influencers? Well, yes and no.
In theory, using celebrities in commercials is a form of influencer marketing, since all celebrities are influencers by default.
They have a loyal fan base and their followers watch their every move. Celebrities are trendsetters and as such, they are considered to be influencers.
However, when we're talking about influencer marketing, using celebrities for product pushing requires a hefty sum, and the results may vary.
For example, after signing Beyoncé for 50 million dollars, Pepsi saw a 7 percent decline in sales. However, if we take a look at Nike, they paid LeBron James $90 million in the course of seven years and racked $340 million worth of sales after signing him as the lead brand promoter.
So, what is the difference? Celebrities are paid to promote products to a wide audience with different interests, and that product or service may not resonate well with the public.
But influencers get you access to their fans who are grouped up around them, belonging to a specific niche.
If you choose an influencer whose industry resonates with your brand values, he or she will easily use the pre-established authority to place your product or service and recommend it. And that’s precisely because they aren’t celebrities.
We will back this up with a fact:
Non-celebrity bloggers are 10 times more likely to influence an in-store purchase than celebrities.
What's better? Sixty-four percent of consumers will stay loyal to a brand who shares the same values.
The Benefits Of Influencer Marketing
High Engagement Rates
While celebrities may increase your brand awareness, influencers drive action and boost your sales. They outrightly say "buy this product," but they also say why it’s a good investment and they put their reputation behind it.
Products pushed by a peer who truly believes in it have a higher reach and boost conversions more than paid media campaigns. Influencers achieve 16 times higher engagement rate than paid media.
Plus, a global trend shows that 92 percent of global consumers trust word of mouth marketing, whether it comes from a friend or a random online person befriended on social media.
As we mentioned above, influencers (especially those in specific niches) attract like-minded followers.
That means that one such influencer can influence the buying decision and help cultivate the leads with a large group of highly-targeted people. There is less trial-and-error than in other marketing methods.
Return On Investment
For every dollar that’s invested in influencer marketing, companies are earning eight times more, and some even claim they’ve reached an ROI of up to $20 for every $1 spent!
When compared to traditional forms of marketing, influencer marketing generates 11 times more return on investment.
Linquia has posted influencer marketing survey results, and the marketers and chief marketing officers have spoken.
94 percent of them believe that influencer marketing campaigns have been effective in improving their brand’s marketing strategy and results, and 67 percent of them claim they will double their influencer marketing budgets in the future.
Influencer marketing is one of the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition models out there -- even better than email marketing or organic search.
It's estimated that in 2018, influencer marketing was worth $1.7 billion.
Compared to 2017, that’s an increase of half a billion dollars in just one year. In 2016, influencer marketing was valued at $700 million, so the growth trends are evident.
How Much Does Influencer Marketing Cost?
We could say, Don't ask how much it costs but how much it can bring you.
However, marketing a business comes with strict budgets that must be adhered to, and to be frank, influencer marketing isn't the cheapest form of marketing -- especially depending on the influencer that you choose to use. The good news? It still doesn't have to be expensive.
However, individuals with large followings and high-quality content certainly charge more than that.
Ultimately, influencers determine their price based on how large an outreach they have and who their audience is.
Most influencers are extra careful with loaning their reputation to a product, service or business because they have worked so hard to build their own brand around it.
Micro-influencers are more open to receiving just the products they are about to review, without the financial incentives.
Provided that they get to keep the product in the end, of course. But brands should bear in mind that, if influencers are paid, they will push the product with more fervor.
Social Media Is Changing The Influencer Marketing Game
Without social media, we wouldn’t have this expansion of influencers in the first place.
Social media is fueling their efforts and supercharging their availability in the online world. Influencers are building their follower base on social media platforms and this is where they mainly serve that content.
People are flocking from traditional media to social channels. Generation Z pays more attention to YouTube influencers and content creators than watching TV. More and more people are installing AdBlockers.
The overall viewing experience has changed altogether, and everyone expects personalized designs, branded content, or instant gratification through streaming apps like Netflix and HBO Go.
More than 70 percent of teenage YouTube channel subscribers claim that they relate more to influencers and content creators than traditional celebrities, and 60 percent of overall YouTube audience’s buying decisions are influenced by YouTube influencers.
It should also be taken into account that content creators and influencers receive three times the view count, two times the engagement and 12 times more comments than celebrities.
81 percent of people are influenced by influencer’s product reviews.
Also, compared to Twitter, Instagram has much larger engagement rates. Micro-influencer analysis has shown that, on both Twitter and Instagram, accounts with 1000 followers have five times better engagement rate than accounts with 100,000 followers.
Speaking of Instagram, the influencers and micro-influencers are most active on this platform -- 59 percent of them to be exact. Facebook comes in second.
There are studies that show that micro-influencers get higher engagement rates on social media channels than top influencers.
Markerly also found a correlation between low engagement rates and audience size, which is good news for marketers.
They can spend the same budget on different micro-influencers, reach new audiences and build the engagement instead of investing in a single top-tier influencer post.
Influencers are beginning to grasp the power of user-generated content and they are leveraging one of the largest advantages of their influencer status – the two-way communication.
Influencers are actively staying in touch with their fan base by responding to comments and questions online.
Even more common are specially hosted Q&A and Ask Me Anything sessions, which are great for brands because people can then post questions about the product and get an immediate answer from their favorite content creator.
The Difference Between Social Media Marketing And Influencer Marketing
When managing social media for a brand, you have to work hard to build an audience.
The main purpose of social media marketing is promoting your brand on your own channels, through various types of content like pictures, copy, blog links, video content and whatever you can create to drive the engagement.
Also, social media, in general, can help you with customer service management and enable you to listen to your followers. You have total control over your channels through social media marketing -- thus why it's called on-channel.
Since influencers work on their own channels promoting your products, it’s called off-channel marketing. Influencers already come with their own fans.
It’s much easier, less time consuming and cheaper to employ influencers and integrate them into your own marketing campaigns than to build such an engaged audience yourself.
Influencer Marketing – What The Skeptics Have To Say
As with all types of marketing – not every initiative will be successful.
While we do invest a lot of time and data into finding out if our marketing strategies will bear fruit or not – marketing isn’t a perfect science.
Yes, you can take many steps to ensure you’re doing the right thing, but in marketing like in gambling, there is no such thing as a “sure thing”.
But if you have a good product and a good marketing campaign you have a better chance of succeeding in your business ventures. You might be skeptical about influencer marketing, but we’re going to debunk some of these myths.
There have been some reports that influencer marketing is ingenuine and ineffective.
And research done by Tompson shows that about 18 percent of brands failed to get any return on their marketing strategy — but the problem here is that they weren’t specific about what strategies they followed.
So it leaves the question unresolved and leaves us questioning the methods Tompson used in their 2015 survey.
One study, debunked.
Even marketing guru Neil Patel questions how long influencer marketing can be a valid tool in the future given the research from Tompson and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) introducing regulations to improve disclosure of influencers being paid by companies in 2017.
But this, we feel, is a bad interpretation of outdated information which we need to address to put your mind at ease.
Get Your Information Straight
How do you know what you can or can’t trust? Well, you need to look at the data closely.
How many people were involved, what data are they showing, what data are they keeping hidden, when was the testing done, when was it published and so on…
These are but a few of the questions you need to ask before trusting data of any sort. We discount the Tompson research from 2015 as the marketing world has shifted from then.
Another poll just a year later, by a larger sample of people, said that 48 percent of their marketers would increase their budget for influencer-based marketing.
From the same year, research conducted with 14,000 respondents showed a lot of interesting info proving that influencer marketing is effective.
70 percent of millennial consumers from that report say their shopping choices are influenced by the recommendation of their peers.
A more recent survey shows us that out of those marketers who used social media influencer marketing, 92 percent found it to be a useful tool.
Fyre Festival Social Media Influencer Scandal: What You Can Learn From A Disaster
The Fyre Festival has been used in surveys and various publications to show the evils of influencer marketing and how the FCT crackdown was a necessary thing.
The media attention fanned the flames of this as 63 influencers were used to promote this event, one notably earning $250k for a single plug on their social media page.
We won’t go into detail of how the organizers managed to botch everything up, but they didn’t have anything prepared that they needed to, and about the only people they did pay and didn’t leave in debt were the influencers themselves.
Multiple mistakes were made even with the marketing of this event, given only 8,000 tickets out of a possible 40,000 were sold at heavily discounted prices.
Wrong influencers were chosen, much of the budget for this was misused and bad tactics were implemented in their marketing strategy.
We will be pointing out these errors for you so that you can avoid the same mistakes.
The organizers made promises of an unforgettable experience in the tropical Bahamas but delivered a mismanaged nightmare.
The influencers were simply a tool in the fraudulent scheme of one of the organizers, and these influencers weren’t even being used properly.
While some companies may think the FCT cracking down on influencers – making them disclose their material connection to the brands and companies they are promoting will hurt their bottom line, customers actually prefer transparency from influencers/spokespeople/brand ambassadors and so on.
A study by Label Insight shows that 94 percent of the people surveyed would remain loyal to a brand that promotes transparency, and 73 percent of those would pay more for a product offering complete transparency.
Building trust is the key.
A Purely Social Strategy
There are quite a few success stories regarding successful influencer campaigns.
A special case we would like to introduce to you was the one used by WhiteWave. This case study was performed on this marketing campaign and the results were very interesting.
The strategy was created by NCS group and TapInfluence. The goal was to increase WhiteWave’s Silk Foods line of products.
The catch was that they wanted 250 bloggers and other fitness influencers to come up with ways to use their dietary products in recipes for “Meatless Monday Nights”.
The kicker was that the influencers were not asked to mention the products in any of their social shares linking to the articles. Only organic posting was allowed – there was no paid media.
The NCS group tracked in-store purchases of people exposed to the marketing and the control group. Those exposed to the influencers bought 10 percent more Silk Food products than the control group.
Also, incremental sales grew over the control group of $285 per 1000 pageviews. That brings the ROI to about $1.98 for every dollar spent. Building an organic rapport with influencers was the smart choice in this campaign.
Social Media Influencer Can Help Grow Businesses
Namely, Easily Get The Word Out
Brand awareness, Brand visibility of your products, a positive reputation among your consumer base, all of that and more are things influencers can help with. Having a good product or service to offer people is all well and good, but they need to find out about it.
Here come the influencers. People who have dedicated their time and energy to amassing a certain level of followers or a digital presence on social media.
These people can use the reach of their followers to spread the word about whatever you are trying to sell.
Now, influencers came in every shape and form – from millionaires and professional athletes to bloggers and internet personalities.
It’s up to you to figure out your marketing campaign before you chose the person you’re going to include in your campaign.
And you must choose wisely because once you pick a face to represent you, they could become a part of all your future marketing plans going forward.
Imagine the influencers do a good job and now people are aware of your product. Nobody who attains reach can keep it unless they work at it.
Continuously using influencers can not only help you spread awareness of your product and company but maintain the image you have worked so hard to create with consistent effort you can get customers to stay with you for life.
You can use this to promote old and new products in a variety of ways, all of which we will discuss in due time.
How To Choose The Best Social Media Influencers For Your Brand Through Research
Choosing the right person to work with can make or break your campaign. Scandal is a hard thing to get rid of once it hits the newsstands.
Let’s just say that you’re marketing to a wide audience of people and your chosen spokesperson or influencer makes a remark that is deemed hurtful or abusive.
In this digital age, you can organize a boycott of a company within a single news cycle.
That’s what happened to famous YouTuber PewDiePie when Disney severed its ties to PewDiePie following an investigation by the Wall Street Journal into alleged anti-semitic posts by PewDiePie.
Now, regardless of the issue itself, PewDiePie’s production partner did the only thing they could do to maintain brand integrity.
Disney dissolved their partnership and removed themselves as far away from the scandal as they could. While PewDiePie still is an internet star and managed to wiggle his way out of that situation, things could have turned out very badly for him and, by default, Disney.
This example serves to prove our point, when you’re choosing your influencer, DO NOT BE LAZY – investigate their posts and the personality they are creating for their audience, get to know them as if they are becoming a part of your family, because that’s what they will be seen as once they join your campaign.
And nobody wants to see a drunk uncle or aunt create a scene at a party or mall which will live forever on the internet bringing shame to them and anyone associated with them.
While you may need some influencers to be edgy, depending on the product you’re selling, always consider that predictability is a quality you want to have in any business relationship.
The Many Different Types of Influencers
When you’re considering your social media marketing strategy you should ask yourself what kind of style your influencers should have.
You always have the choice of hiring someone to sing your praises, but hype people can only raise awareness. They can plug your product and spread the word, but that’s it. And credibility can be an issue here.
Think about it from your audience’s perspective, if you hear someone only singing the praises of something you may end up thinking ‘it’s too good to be true’.
Effective marketing is a means to keep those thoughts away. So, a hype person is not a bad choice for the start — but long term probably not the best choice.
The second choice is to go with someone who will give their own views, both positive and negative about your product. This may seem like a risk, because people may not want to use your product because of the negative things the influencer will say, but that is only thinking short-term.
We heavily advise against just thinking about the short-term results, as they are usually not a good indicator of anything.
Yes, you may lose some initial sales, however, a balanced review will allow people to be more trusting of your influencer and your brand.
Choosing someone who has steadily built a relationship of trust can be a very useful tool towards building the trusting relationship between your customers and yourself in the years to come.
A loyal customer will come back for years if they have faith in your products plus they will spread the word among their friends and family.
What’s The Difference Between Micro And Macro influencers?
When it comes down to the numbers you can divide influencers into one of three groups. Micro-influencers, macro-influencers and celebrities.
Let’s start with micro-influencers. People say that a micro-influencer can have as little as 1000 Instagram followers to 10,000 or more.
It depends whom you ask. Don’t think of them as the unknown denizens of the internet — they are in fact the worker ants that work slowly but surely to create an organic following.
True, the number of followers is not huge, but the more important metric here is the engagement percentage.
Engagement rate translates into how many people will react and engage in some form of action, be it a like or comment thanks to the post of an influencer.
People with 1,000 followers get around an 8 percent engagement rate, while someone who has 10k-100k will get around a 2.37 percent engagement rate.
The micro-influencers feel more authentic as they are usually smaller productions and their posts tend not to be overproduced.
Even if the image looks like it is a little staged, people have an easier time believing a micro-influencer has actually bought and used the product.
That type of authenticity which they bring to the table attracts trustworthiness, awareness and engagement.
Also, as micro-influencers tend to be regular people their services are often much cheaper than that of macro-influencers or celebrities.
The negative side is that with a single micro-influencer your visibility is capped at the number they are on, be it 1,000 or 10k. A good argument for going with someone less famous but with a good following is expertise.
People, when faced with a tough decision, will go to a trusted source of advice. This is why people will go to bloggers to listen to their opinions regarding just about any product in the world.
You can always make up the difference by working with a team of micro-influencers instead of one macro-influencer if you want to slowly grow brand awareness and customer loyalty on a budget.
Macro-influencers can be an enticing tool to use if you can afford them. Macro-influencers are the social media users who have followers from let’s say around a 100k to a million.
After you have a million followers you’re going into the celebrity zone. With a huge following, it’s easy to see the presumed benefits of a macro-influencer.
They have a much higher reach than micro-influencers and while their engagement rate is lower than that of a micro-influencer, you could need a team of micro-influencers to catch up to the numbers of a micro-influencer post.
As many social media gurus would say, likes are a vanity metric. What you want to look at are also the number of comments and how consistent are the number of comments and likes.
Generally, macro-influencers have more stable numbers and engagement rates than micro-influencers as more people consistently follow them.
One of the reasons for this is a higher level of content creation. These influencers need to step up their game as they’re talking to a larger crowd.
What you lose is the slite of hand that micro-influencers have to make people believe this product was actually used by the influencer.
Macro-influencers do a lot of promotion and their followers are certainly more aware that these people make a living off of promoting various brands.
Also, because of the notoriety of the person, you may be faced with more of a hassle when planning your social media marketing strategy.
If your goals are to elevate brand awareness and build brand visibility then macro-influencers could be a better choice for you.
Now let's talk celebrity influencers. This counts regular people who rose in social media fame due to creating content that made them famous or simply being a celebrity in real life.
Whatever the scenario, they have millions of followers that you can leverage to your advantage. People want to be like them or at least own some of the things they own as well. Out of the three types of influencer campaigns, celebrity endorsements are the most unpredictable.
They can be a success like the Nike-Lebron James cooperation or a flop like what happened with Beyonce and Pepsi. While celebrities have always had the “WOW” factor, any endorsement or promotion from a celebrity usually is a one-way street.
They promote the product and that’s it. One of the reasons being that paying for multiple posts from someone famous can get very expensive – very fast.
A post from a celebrity influencer can go from $2k - $50k or more.
Also due to certain celebrities supporting just about anything, there is a lack of belief from users that celebrities actually use all of those products.
But it’s still their favorite celebrity so people will endeavor to buy the things they’re promoting.
While the engagement rates can be a bit unpredictable with celebrities, more often than not, they will make a splash with the posts they make.
And while follower numbers are an important metric to show the reach of an influencer, you have to remember it’s not the most important metric in your calculations.
You need to measure and observe their engagement rates and plan a budget around what you need to accomplish with your social media influencer.
Social Media Influencer Marketing: Where The Magic Happens
Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat
Of all of these social media platforms which are widely used in social media marketing, Instagram is the most popular for promotion.
But other places where influencers often create content is on blog sites like Wordpress, Squarespace, Blogspot, Tumblr, Medium, and so on.
A campaign for any single product can happen over the span of all of these platforms. A promotional post on Instagram, perhaps a video as well to get things started.
Follow that with Facebook and Twitter updates regarding the product and its overall quality to generate a little more buzz. Perhaps even a YouTube video or two, in a Facebook post or blog post where the influencer expands even more about the product and company where it comes from.
If you have a series of products, the influencer can make a series of videos using the products, then come back after some time to show how they feel after using the product, creating a relationship with the product and transferring that to the public at large.
If you’re marketing to a younger consumer base, then short videos on Snapchat could do the trick as well.
With the right influencer, you can have a planned release of your product going over all of the social media platforms gaining more and more reach. But be careful not to flood the platforms with your content.
What Should I Avoid When Working With A Social Media Influencer?
Once all is said and done and you have the influencers you want to work with, here are a few pieces of advice to make sure things go smoothly.
- Don’t make your influencers over-produce their content. Content on social media should be more casual and relaxed, not like an artistic commercial by Dolce & Gabbana. If the ad looks too perfect then the consumer won’t be able to forget the fact that it’s a paid ad.
- Don’t give too much freedom but don’t micromanage either. You don’t want to suffocate your influencer with too much input — you hired them to do this job for you and save you time. Use them wisely but don’t be afraid to give them some creative freedom.
Studies show that 76 percent of influencers prefer to work with brands that allow them creative freedom.
- Allow time to have meetings with your influencers to discuss their current work and future plans. Influencers are probably working with multiple brands at the same time, so you need to allow time to keep them up to date on what is happening with your product and company.
- Keep an eye on the quality of content. If the quality is sacrificed their followers will surely decline as well. Make sure your influencers don’t compromise on quality.
How To Know If An Influencer Marketing Campaign Is Successful
Influencer marketing is still in uncharted territory and comes with its challenges, and the most notable one is the lack of clear metrics. So far, many brands who pay for influencer marketing are still struggling to assess them specifically.
As influencer marketing continues to grow, we'll see more and more brands setting up clearly outlined campaign goals with better metrics.
However, there are still ways to currently measure the success of a social media influencer campaign. Try paying attention to these key performance indicators:
Compile the data across all social media platforms and take into consideration all metrics.
Note the number of comments, likes, shares, retweets, re-pins, and so on, and invest in a social media management system that can break these down into digestible analytics.
This will tell you how well the campaign is perceived and how interested people are in the served content.
These metrics, along with reach, let you scope the effectiveness of brand awareness and promotion achieved through the campaign.
Depending on the type of conversion – email newsletter signup, website visit and anything in between -- these conversions can show valuable effects of influencer marketing campaigns.
Measure the conversion rate before and after an influencer campaign to see if there are any changes.
The main goal of all businesses is to increase selling, and by setting up the goal monitoring, conversions can show whenever a sale is made and a person has completed the checkout process. Even brick and mortar stores can monitor overall sales reports.
Meanwhile, e-commerce companies can incorporate affiliate marketing links to better track the click-through rates and conversions influencers are delivering.
Monitor your web traffic to find a correlation between influencer campaign and website visits. You can easily see the origins of visits and referrals.
Once customers visit your website, you can track them through Facebook Pixel and retarget them, which will help with lead nurturing.
Average attention span is getting shorter. According to a study by Microsoft, consumers now have an attention span less than the average goldfish (great, right?).
If people spend time on the content you or your influencer created, they are clearly showing interest in your product.
They might be in the research process, and targeted influencer marketing campaign can help you shift consumers from consideration phase to purchase.
How Social Media Influencers Are Changing The Face Of Marketing -- Plus, The Best Social Media Marketing Agencies
Influencer marketing is here to stay, and all the data tells us why that is – it simply works. It's an untapped resource with so much potential for your brand.
And it's better to jump in now -- before it becomes outdated and out of favor.
Luckily, there are many social media companies who can help you leverage effective influencer marketing. Some of the top social media marketing companies include:
1. Launch Digital
Launch Digital is a creative design and marketing agency working with clients of all sizes and in all sectors. They understand every brand and project has different values and audiences. The agency has a very powerful in-house creative team with young, fresh designers led by strong marketing directors and management.
Founded in 1996, MediaForce is one of the most established digital marketing agencies in the world. They provide cutting edge digital marketing strategies and technologies that help give their clients an "unfair advantage" in the market place. Their thought leadership team is constantly learning new tactics and methodologies from institutions such as MIT and Google.
TopRight helps clients transform their marketing by working through the right combination of Story, Strategy and Systems to tell each story better, execute go-to-market strategies more effectively and deliver a remarkable customer experience flawlessly. TopRight is the transformational marketing consulting firm focused on serving the strategic growth objectives of C-Suite executives, their direct reports, and their organizations.
4. Spot On
Spot On was founded in 2012 with the main goal of creating a digital marketing agency focused on driving business growth for clients. Located near Birmingham, Alabama, the agency was founded by Susie Kelley and Rebecca Graves. Their team is made up of highly trained professionals who are award-winning designers, content writers, and strategists.
GKV helps brands challenge the status quo in hyper-competitive categories. While tradition labels them as an ad agency, GKV brings critical thinking, strategic planning and innovative execution to every communications platform. GKV provides a complete range of services: brand strategy, creative development, digital marketing, media planning and buying, social media, PR, content creation, digital/broadcast production and experiential marketing. Their client roster includes national and regional companies in the healthcare, insurance, OTC, telecommunications, consumer services, CPG, and gaming categories.