‘Influencer’ is one of the biggest marketing buzzwords of the last few years. However, just because you’ve heard it a thousand times doesn’t mean it’s some fad you can safely ignore. The reason influencer marketing has grown in prominence so quickly is simple: it works.
In an age of ad-blocking software and digitally savvy consumers, traditional marketing has become less and less effective. A Wall Street Journal study found that 80% of US adults use at least one form of ad-blocking, while 50% use two. This means the majority of money spent on advertisements is essentially wasted.
Social media influencers, on the other hand, are becoming more trusted. A survey from Twitter found that almost half (49%) of the platform’s users rely on influencers for product recommendations. In comparison, only 56% rely on their friends for the same thing.
Opting for influencer marketing is generally going to be a good idea. However, how do you know which influencers to use? You’re probably not going to be able to afford a mega-celebrity, but there are so many different options out there that it can be hard to understand what to invest in. That’s why you should…
Why brands need influencers
One of the key reasons why influencer marketing has become so successful is the potential this approach to marketing offers in overcoming specific issues many marketers face with traditional advertising methods.
In the UK, for example, public favorability towards advertising has dropped to a record low of 25%, according to a survey by Credos, the Advertising Association's think tank. Factors that have contributed to this decline in trust and acceptance include ad bombardment and excessive frequency and targeting.
Working with influencers can give your brand a level of recognition and respect that can be difficult to achieve through other marketing practices. Your audience's perception of you will improve thanks to your associations with people they trust and admire.
Furthermore, this approach reduces the need for interruptive advertising and increases the likelihood of customers coming to you. Social media influencers have a pre-existing, loyal audience - a hugely valuable asset if you're looking for ways to increase awareness of your brand and expand your potential customer base.
Looking at trends across the industry as a whole, it's becoming increasingly clear that any brand not investing in influencer marketing is at risk of falling behind its competitors.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of marketers are increasing their spending on influencers in 2019, up from 39% who planned to grow their budget in this area last year. And almost one in five companies (17%) said more than half of their entire marketing spend is dedicated to influencers.
How can influencers help brands?
Here are some of the most powerful advantages businesses can gain from working with influencers:
The unfortunate truth for businesses is that consumer trust in brands - including hugely influential organizations like Facebook and Google that are shaping the modern world - is at an all-time low.
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer report found that 41% of people don't trust companies to be accurate and truthful in their marketing, while nearly three-quarters said they try to avoid advertising altogether.
However, 63% of respondents said they trust influencers' opinions of products "much more" than what brands say about themselves. A similar proportion (58%) had bought a new product in the past six months because of an influencer's recommendation.
Demonstrating ROI is one of the most important priorities for most marketers, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest the returns offered by influencer marketing outweigh those available with other strategies.
In 2017, brands received an average ROI of $6.78 for every $1 spent on influencer content, and typical returns for beauty brands increased to $11.
Research has also shown that 89% of marketers believe ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than that gained from other channels.
Working with influencers can help your brand come across as relevant, modern and in tune with current consumer habits and preferences, because you're closely associated with the very people who dictate those trends.
In a world where influencer marketing is swiftly becoming the norm, brands that take too long to get onboard with the concept will be in danger of becoming not only irrelevant, but invisible.
Leverage the power of micro influencers
There are a range of different sizes of influencer that you need to be aware of. On the one hand, you have the mega-celebrities like the Kardashians, whose social media posts reach millions of people at a time. However, getting them onboard is likely to cost more than your marketing budget can afford, and won’t necessarily have a particularly impressive impact on your audience.
Instead, you should consider looking at the other end of the scale. Micro-influencers - usually defined as those with fewer than 10,000 subscribers or followers - will be easier to get onboard, and can have an impressive effect. For all the attention that major influencers get, they actually receive relatively little engagement.
On Instagram, users with around 1,000 followers generally receive likes on their posts 8% of the time. In comparison, anyone with more than 100,000 followers generally has a like rate of just 2%. Micro-influencers also receive comments 13 times more frequently than those with more than ten million followers.
Choose the right platform for your audience
One of the benefits of using micro-influencers is that they tend to be very direct about recommending products, and consumers respond well to this. One study found that 82% of people are likely to follow a recommendation from a micro-influencer, compared to 73% who would do the same for a recommendation from an average person.
However, this means you will need to make sure you’re marketing in the right way to your audience, otherwise you’ll end up recommending your products to people who have no intention of buying them. A large part of this is down to the platform you choose.
For example, young people respond much better to YouTubers than they do to other celebrities, making this a great platform for this audience. However, 89% of influencers do their work on Instagram, so this is a platform you should consider. You need to research which platform your audience will respond to in order to have the best chances of success.
Why are influencers so trusted?
So why are influencers so trusted? A study found that they were perceived as 11% more credible and believable than the general public, but two other results from the same research show why: influencers were also seen to be more knowledgeable and better at explaining how products work than the average person.
This is something you can control by providing your influencers with plenty of information about your products. You don’t have to dictate a particular script to them, just offer them everything they need to be able to convey a good level of knowledge to their audience. By doing so, you’re helping them become more trusted, which is good for your brand.