How to win customers and influence people…
A guide for brands and social media marketers on how to harness modern-day ‘word of mouth’ to amplify reach, improve engagement, and drop costs
With 92% of consumers now trusting influencers more than ads or traditional celebrity endorsements, it makes sense that businesses are increasingly looking to use influencer marketing to connect with customers. It’s the ‘word of mouth’ effect for our social media age.
Who are these influencers, and how can you gain their attention and connect with them in order to amplify your brand to the thousands or millions who follow their advice? As we’ll see, the importance of an influencer isn’t just about their number of followers.
Influencer marketing blurs the line between commercial and personal content on social media, spreading information about your products in the form of a friendly recommendation. It’s gaining momentum: between 2016 and 2018 the number of sponsored influencer posts on Instagram more than doubled, from 9.7 million to 21.7 million, with more than $1 billion spent per year.
Influencer marketing is an attractive choice for brands for reasons of both convenience and performance. The 2018 State of Influencer Marketing Survey found nearly half of influencers posted about brands they liked even before any sponsored partnership. Looking ahead, 70% of marketers agreed that budgets for influencer marketing would increase in the coming year.
Influencers can have a clear effect on a brand by posting positively about it. The huge range of individuals and groups online allows great freedom for brands to connect with influencers and promote almost any type of B2B or B2C product in various niches, from beauty to technology.
Who are influencers, and where do we find them?
Put simply, influencers are opinion leaders. While many may be bloggers, that’s not always the case. Any person, brand, or group that is trusted by a wide audience can be an influencer.
Opinion leaders can be found anywhere that a large number of users gather and interact - for example in social networks, on forums, on video hosting sites. In terms of brand collaboration, Instagram is the most popular platform; it is used by 78% of influencers worldwide.
Influencer marketing is not one size fits all
While influencer marketing is increasingly popular, can impact brand performance, and is found across a diverse array of brands and industries, each relationship is different.
So when you’re looking to collaborate with influencers, brands need to ensure they pay attention to some specific matters, and avoid common mistakes which could decrease effectiveness.
Finding a match: finding the right influencers to work with is vital, and businesses need to look beyond just the number of likes and followers. Look at your niche, including the social networks of competitors, to identify suitable influencers. Consider and measure things such as targeted audience, location, prior results, and collaboration costs. Rather than offering cooperation with a blogger based on personal preferences, examine the data on their audience and any prior campaigns they have run. It may be that a local creator tied to a community is much more valuable than a well-known celebrity blogger. Evaluate your budget and cooperate with those who suit you best.
Partner Up: along with partnering with an influencer, it may pay to partner with a custom content creation platform, who can manage the campaign and access all metrics from the blogger, e.g. running targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram and receiving all performance data: CPM, CTR, website visits, clicks etc. The creation of marketing materials, and their updating, are priority tasks. Automating your work with influencers who know their audience well allows you to access a range of effective ad materials.
Building trust: for influencer marketing to work best, brands need to look for ways to integrate into an influencer’s content, rather than vice versa. Opinion makers know their audience, and what kind of content works for them. Brands should harness this knowledge rather than trying to impose their own strict requirements. While being conscious of not damaging their brands, businesses should give influencers some freedom. Provide a framework that is fairly broad, and let the influencer be creative, while ensuring that the business has an opportunity to check the creative.
Creativity vs business: some opinion makers use their influence like a business, while others focus solely on creativity and may use agents for the business side. Work out how best to connect and work with appropriate influencers both directly and through agents.
While brands want increased conversions, solely measuring those won’t reflect the effect that an advertisement had on an influencer’s audience. Influencers mainly affect brand awareness. Influencer marketing is best used as part of an overall campaign. When users see other ads about a product that someone they trust has previously mentioned, they may then click through.
Does it really work?
With a billion dollars a year spent on influencer marketing, it’s clear that brands believe this modern-day version of word-of-mouth advertising has plenty of benefit. We have also seen great results in influencer marketing campaigns that we at Aitarget have been involved with alongside Insense, a creative content platform, and a variety of brands:
Improving audience reach by 20% (up to 3.6 million), tripling audience engagement, and dropping cost-per-action to less than a third on a ‘stylish breakfast’ photo contest campaign for a healthy food brand and top fashion magazine;
Doubling CTR while halving both CPM and CPC using a custom Stories videos influencer campaign on Facebook for a laundry and dry cleaning company;
A 100% return on investment ($2 in new sales for every $1 spent) when an Instagram campaign was run on behalf of a blogger, focused on middle-aged women who were the target audience for a helpful fashion and clothing accessory.
When an influencer creates content for your brand, it could be used in other campaigns too - though you will need an agreement with the blogger in relation to the intellectual property rights for the creative. Take this into account in terms of the cost of cooperation.
Remember, keep it personal
Consider the nature of influencers, and why their opinion matters to so many. Social media posts that are clearly advertising can reduce effectiveness. A post in a newsfeed shouldn’t look like 100% sponsored material - that will annoy an audience, and decrease the responses.
The value of an influencer is their personal opinion. So marketing which doesn’t look like personal opinion is unprofitable for influencers too, as they lose their audience’s trust. Ensure that when you look at influencer marketing you let the influencer share your product in their way.