No doubt you’ve heard the term pop up, especially in the last few years. But it’s one of those “fuzzy” terms that most people don’t know exactly what it means.
So let’s start at the beginning.
Here’s the basic definition of influencer marketing: The process of finding and connecting with people who have an influence, typically via blog or social media, over your ideal target market and then leveraging that relationship to help reach that market and build credibility with that market.
BDMI has a chart that highlights some examples of what influencers typically look like over a variety of social media channels:
Sounds like smart marketing, right?
For the brands that have been able to excel at influencer marketing, it is.
There are a couple of reasons why.
Why Influencer Marketing is Hot
There are a few obvious ways to look at the explosion of influencer marketing.
Signal vs Noise
First, look at the audience. People, yourself included, are more inundated more than ever with content and ads, meaning it’s getting increasingly difficult to separate the signal from the noise.
So who do people turn to in times like this? The people they trust.
Check out this tidbit from a study by McKinsey & Company:
Influentials typically generate three times more word-of-mouth messages than non-influentials do, and each message has four times more impact on a recipient’s purchasing decision. About 1 percent of these people are digital influentials—most notably, bloggers—with disproportionate power.
Now, when someone in your target market sees an influencer they like and trust talking about how great your product or service is, that cuts through quite a bit of noise and makes them more likely to buy.
The (Continued) Rise of Social Media
Remember the days when you bought a product or service and then when something went wrong you had to navigate the 7 circles of hell to try and get help?
Yea, me neither, I just Tweet at them.
Flight delayed? Tweet American Airlines. XBox acting up? Tweet XBox Support. Jeans lost in the mail? Tweet Levi’s.
Now, social media plays such an important role in our collective lives that people expect more from brands. They aren’t just out there to push their content, product, or service, they have to interest and entertain their followers, customers, and target market.
This is where brands developing relationships with influencers over social media can have huge benefits. And it’s not just about Facebook and Twitter anymore, finding the new Instagram or Snapchat star can be crucial to success.
Consumers Are Avoid Ads Online
Have you run an ad campaign lately? Most of them have pretty dismal click through rates and consumers are increasingly interested in avoiding them at all costs, especially when it comes to desktop browsing.
Take a look at this chart from Moz:
The research bares this out:
- In Q2 2014, 4.9% of all internet users engaged in ad blocking; 144 million monthly active users of the major ad block plug-ins globally. (Adobe)
- Ad blocking grew by 41% globally in the last 12 months. (Pagefair)
- 58% of respondents were using some form of ad-blocking software. (Moz)
Using influencer marketing is one way to make up for the drop in advertising. Influencers can help create the excitement and interest without needing to convince the target audience to click, since they already trust the influencer the barrier to clicking is far lower.
The Cool Factor
You can’t discount the most obvious reason why influencer marketing can knock out big benefits is because of the influencers themselves. The followers of people like Gary Vaynerchuck and Kim Kardashian love and trust them because they provide a cool factor.
It’s only natural to want to emulate those you admire. But, that doesn’t mean you need to find a Kardashian to promote your product or service.
The key here is to look at the influencers in your own target market. That could be the biggest mommy blogger, trail runner, 3D printing designer, the what doesn’t matter, it’s all about the who.
Clothing retailer Lord & Taylor went all in on influencer marketing when they used 50 Instagram based fashion influencers to all wear the same dress the same day.
This campaign generated tens of thousands of likes and, unsurprisingly, the dress sold out. Using influencer marketing like this not only provided a great ROI but had a far smaller financial impact on the marketing side than your traditional advertising campaign.
Sounds pretty convincing, right?
Now, the question many marketers who are new to influencer marketer might wonder is how they can start connecting with influencers.
There are a couple of best practices you want to pay attention to before you get started.
Determine Who Your Influencers Are
You really need to nail this step before you do anything else. As awesome as that guy on Snapchat who has tons of followers is, if he has absolutely no appeal to your actual target customers there’s no point in reaching out to him.
So, it should go without saying, you need to know your target market very well, and then within that, you need to understand who the biggest influencers are in that market. Tools like Followerwonk, LinkedIn, BuzzSumo, and SocialMention are all good places to start.
Once you’ve got a list of who your ideal influencers might be, then you can move on to start a relationship with them.
Your ideal influencer is someone who already knows about and (ideally uses and loves) your product. There are a couple of different methods you can take for your approach:
- Follow them on social media
- Subscribe to their blogs
- Comment on blog posts
- Interact with them on social media
- Look for things like specific hashtags they commonly use and use them as well
- Send an email to introduce yourself and your brand
Once you’re on their radar, you can start moving forward building a real relationship.
Form a Partnership
Now, chances are, your influencer isn’t going to do all that promotion for free.
But, considering that the return on investment for a partnership with an influencer can be much higher and less costly than a traditional campaign. The costs can be worthwhile.
Not to mention, you want your influencers to really feel valued and rewarded for their help. So, while it might mean a financial incentive, like outright payments or commissions for buyers they send your way, they could also be perfectly happy with your product or service for free, piles of branded swag, and their name or image on your website.
One of the biggest keys at this stage is you want to make it really easy for the influencer to work with you. So, provide what you can upfront, that can be free use of your product, images, and pre-written content they can use for inspiration for example.
Get Your Campaign Rolling
Once you’ve got your influencer picked, have worked out a deal with them, and have made it very easy for them to shoutout how much they love your product or service, you’re ready to roll.
The good thing about using influencer marketing is it’s pretty easy to track how it’s working. Plus, you can make adjustments on the fly giving your brand a bit of wiggle room when it comes time to make any quick changes or pivots in the plan.
You might find that if you pick just the right influencer, you’ll really see some great results in your marketing.
Willing to give it a shot?