Research carried out by Linqia shows that 86 percent of marketers are now working with influencers, and 92 percent of those have found influencer marketing to be an effective strategy. As a growing number of marketers, agencies and businesses are recognising its potential, budgets are increasing and those who fail to capitalise risk being left behind.
Yet, despite the popularity of the strategy itself, many remain unsure of precisely how to use a social media influencer to reach their target audience, deliver their marketing message and generate results. In this blog post, we look at some of the best ways social media influencers can be used, in order to generate the results you are looking for.
Understanding Influencer Marketing
First, it is important to understand what we mean by 'influencer marketing'. Put simply, a social media influencer is a person or organisation that has a level of social influence over a loyal audience that they have established on social media. Their influence may stem from their expertise, credibility, charisma and/or likeability.
With this in mind, influencer marketing is a social media marketing strategy, where marketers or businesses collaborate with influencers, in order to promote products, services or their brand to the influencer's audience.
In many ways, it shares similarities with the idea of celebrity endorsements, with the influencer helping to present the product, service or brand as being desirable. It can be advantageous, because influencers are trusted by their audience and so that audience will be less cynical than it might be when presented with a more direct marketing pitch.
"Influencers build relationships between their followers and your brand," explains Teagan West, in a blog post written for Scrunch. "[They] have a very targeted following of people in the same demographic, which brands can tap into. Influencers live and breath in the digital space...they've developed a knack for digital communication."
Platforms and Content Types
At present, Instagram is the most popular social media platform for influencer marketing, followed by YouTube and Facebook. This makes sense, as Instagram and YouTube are geared towards images and videos, respectively, while Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world, with more than 2 billion monthly users.
With that being said, as the above infographic shows, there are many other platforms on which influencer marketing strategies can be deployed, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and blog posts. The best platform to use will largely depend on the audience you are trying to reach and the marketing message you are looking to deliver. LinkedIn can be good for reaching business people and professionals, while Instagram can be ideal for reaching younger people.
The types of content that influencers actually produce and/or post on behalf of brands can also vary quite significantly. As an example, a clothing brand might want to work with Instagram influencers, because they will be able to post images of themselves wearing the clothing. This can then influence their audience to buy the clothes they see.
By contrast, businesses promoting research might want to work with LinkedIn influencers, who have professional connections, and a marketer looking to promote a product with a practical use might favour YouTube, where an influencer will be able to create video content actually demonstrating that product's uses to their audience.
An article written for Post Planner identifies some of the other types of content that can be effective, including prize giveaways on Facebook, video product reviews on YouTube, and blog post reviews. The job of the marketer is largely to pinpoint the right influencer, on the right platform, in order to reach the right audience, with the right message.
Influencer Marketing Strategies
According to research and statistics compiled by Tribe, 49 percent of consumers now report finding brand-created advertisements either annoying or irrelevant. On the other hand, 82 percent say they are "very likely" to follow the recommendation of an influencer they follow. Therefore, strategies based on recommendations are effective.
These recommendations may be overt, or more subtle. For instance, if you are promoting a product, you might work with an influencer and ask them to write a literal recommendation on their Instagram or Facebook feed, or you could instead get them to use your product in an Instagram story and allow their audience to read between the lines.
Working with influencers who are able to create their own content is preferable, as this will fit in with what their audience is used to seeing from them. Even branded content will be viewed as authentic if it seems to be coming from the influencer, but their audience may be less receptive if it is clearly coming directly from your brand.
As an article for MediaKix points out, the aim is to capitalise on the influencer's personal brand, so you need to choose wisely. Your chosen influencer should have cachet with the audience you are trying to reach, and there should be a natural harmony between their own personal brand and whatever it is you are trying to promote.
It is also important to look beyond the number of followers an influencer has. In fact, as I explained in a previous blog post, there’s an emerging trend in the rise of nano influencers. These influencers have relatively small audiences of around 5,000 people, but are seen as completely ordinary people, disconnected from brands, with more of a niche influence. While the number of people they can influence is smaller, they are often seen as more trustworthy.
The Last Word
The popularity of influencer marketing is increasing year on year and research shows the advantages it can have over more traditional advertising in terms of overcoming audience cynicism and scepticism. However, marketers and the businesses they work for need to adopt a strategic approach to influencer marketing in order to get the most from it.
In particular, you need to think about the audience you are trying to reach and consider what social media platforms they use. You also need to consider who actually has influence over that audience and why. Once you can answer these questions, it becomes easier to identify influential figures, who you can work with to create the promotional content.
By Rebecca Hamano Cabot
I have been consulting on Social Media Strategy for a number of years now, providing management solutions as well as running social media campaigns for a diverse client base. I spent the previous decade of my career working as a specialist in the tech industry which, combined with my passion for social media, has put me in a unique position to exploit social media platforms to their best. I maintain a vigorous program of professional development, allowing me to stay at the forefront of my industry. Follow me on LinkedIn @ Rebecca Hamano Cabot to keep abreast of my latest findings and industry news.