Influencer Marketing: What You Need to Know
In marketing, almost more than anywhere else, buzz words and phrases dominate the lexicon. For the last twelve months or so, the biggest of those buzzes has been ‘influencer marketing’- the process by which products or services are sold through the endorsement of influential people, most notably via social media. So, what do you need to know?
Unlike the majority of marketing buzzes however, the impact of the influencer doesn’t appear to be fading. So, what do you need to know?
The Rise of the Market Influencer
Despite the term being ‘like, so 2017’, influencer marketing has been going on for a very long time. In fact, you could go so far as to name Josiah Wedgewood as the first proponent, back in the 1760s, when he gained royal endorsement for his pottery and used it for marketing purposes. You can see the thread leading forward to modern practices. So yes, influencer marketing has been around for a very long time. The difference now is the way in which we define and use it, and this change has come about thanks to firstly the internet, and then social media.
With the internet granting access to an almost limitless audience, bloggers were the first to cotton onto the fact that if they wrote in glowing terms about products, much free stuff would likely come their way. Seeing the huge potential power – and relatively low cost – of ‘peer reviews’, the marketing industry soon got behind the process and was waiting with open arms when social media broke onto the scene allowing bloggers to become vloggers and Insta-posters, embracing every form of digital technology and social media to reach a growing online following. Consequently, anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can now become an influencer. But what does this mean for you?
What are the Benefits of Influencer Marketing?
First and foremost, it can offer a tremendous ROI. Influencer marketing is no longer just about giving out free samples to potential reviewers – although that it still a very low-cost option – because even clearly indicated paid-for posts can garner a terrific response from a well-selected demographic.
And it’s that well-selected demographic that makes up a second benefit: by using the correct influencer, your marketing can become highly targeted, taking your products to an audience that are already likely to be interested.
Thirdly, and no less importantly, influencer marketing is not impacted by ad-blocking technology. PageFair reports that over 615 million devices have now been installed with some kind of ad-blocking, and that by 2017 11% of internet users were blocking all forms of advertising – a 30% increase on the previous year. With influencer marketing, the product is the main content: it can’t be blocked, and the viewer doesn’t want it to be.
Finally, influencer marketing doesn’t just work to highlight a single product, but to boost brand awareness and authority. By being associated with the right influencer, a company gains credibility.
Five Types of Consumer Influencer
Influencers come in many forms, but how do you know which is the best for your business?
The celebrity influencer is famous (obviously) and has a large reach, with both a fan base and a media following. They can cross demographics and deliver an enormous ROI, but they usually require a large up-front investment, which isn’t always viable for the smaller company.
If you’re looking to launch a new product line, then the trendsetter influencer – usually social media stars, but also marketing platforms, such as Buzzfeed – can be the ideal starting point, particularly if your target demographic is the teen to young-adult category.
Bloggers were the first modern influencers, and they still hold a lot of clout. They are considered to be knowledgeable in their field and they are passionate about what they do, delivering your products – through reviews, how-to’s and advertising – to a dedicated niche audience.
The expert influencer is like the blogger, only with better credentials and they have an existing following – either via blogging, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or a combination of all of the above – who are already interested in what they have to say.
Once you decide which influencer type will best suit your business, then there are endless tools to help you find them. You could just peruse Instagram and YouTube, but the likes of Followerwonk, Discover.ly and TweetDeck can be used to discover who’s trending, track the reach of individual influencers, and find out the kind of followers they attract.
So, what can we expect from the influencer scene as we look ahead?
How Will Influencer Marketing Change in the Next Year?
Ask anyone about the changing face of influencer marketing, and the very first area they will comment on is transparency. Until relatively recently it wasn’t uncommon for bloggers and vloggers to rave about a product or service without disclosing that they’d been paid to do so. While various global authorities put their collective feet down on this practice, it’s still not compulsory to highlight sponsored posts when linking them to social media. This is going to change. Instagram is leading the way with this, with ‘branded content’ options, but other social media sites will soon follow suit.
Influencer marketing is also likely to widen its net. Currently, 92% of businesses rely primarily on Instagram, and while the platform will remain the leader, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are all making gains.
Finally, experiential, or ‘on-ground’ marketing, will begin to work in tandem with the influencers, with real life events dovetailing with online activities.
With reduced television viewing and stronger online ad-blocking and regulation, everyone is agreed that influencer marketing is here to stay. It has become an important tool in a difficult environment. The trick now is to find a way for your business to use it wisely.