So what the hell is this ‘Influencer Marketing’ everybody keeps wittering on about?
Companies have been paying respected, recognisable people to say great things about their products for years. Endorsements have been used as a marketing technique since the 1760s, when pottery manufacturers, Wedgwood, first used royal approval to promote their products.
Today, celebrities are as well-known for their partnerships and endorsements as they are for their talents. Admired public figures have enormous influence over their fans, and a favourable mention of a product can send sales skyrocketing. The Kardashians earn thousands for posting a single image to Instagram. Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar earn millions every year for wearing a particular brand of football boots or driving a certain car.
But what if you can’t afford the A-listers to endorse your product and share it with their fans?
Enter Influencer Marketing…
The new generation of influencers
It used to be that influencers were the rich and famous with millions of followers and many still tick these boxes. But there’s also a new breed of influencer. They’re the fitness fans who have documented their weight loss journey online, and are now being sent activewear and healthy snacks by up-and-coming brands. They’re ordinary people with beautiful homes, who have shared every step of their home renovation, and are now showing off candles, art prints and bedsheets from companies hoping to make an impact with an engaged audience. They’re mums, teachers, fishing enthusiasts, tech wizards… Whatever the demographic, there’s usually an influencer to match.
How did Influencer Marketing even become a 'thing'?
The rise of Influencer Marketing coincides with the decline of traditional advertising. Television spots are simply not as effective as they used to be for such a huge investment – can you remember the last time you sat through an entire ad break without scrolling through Twitter or going to put the kettle on?
Online advertising is also failing to have the same impact it once did. A study by IAB YouGov found that 22% of people now use ad blockers when browsing online to prevent intrusive pop-ups or pesky animated ads which increase page load times. The same study found that the younger generation is most savvy when it comes to blocking ads – 47% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 use some kind of ad blocking software.
The benefits of Influencer Marketing
Using an influencer as a conduit for your marketing message has a multitude of benefits. Firstly, it is far more trustworthy than a traditional advert – hearing someone who was cultivated trust with an audience endorse a product has way more clout than the humdrum promotional chutzpah from the company itself.
Savvy influencers also retain full editorial control over their content and are fully aware that if their feed becomes an endless stream of promotions and sponsored posts, they’re likely to lose credibility among their followers. The most ethical influencers stipulate that they must retain the freedom to review the product or service honestly and fairly for their followers, further building the trust that traditional advertising often fails to cultivate.
By choosing to work with an influencer, you’re also positioning your product as part of a narrative. Storytelling is one of the most effective tools any marketer has, and by making your product or service part of an influencer’s unique story, you’re adding layers of context, and showing how real-life people relate to your offering.
Should you be using Influencer Marketing to promote your business?
All the signs suggest that influencer marketing is here to stay:
- 67% of marketers want to drive lead generation through the use of influencer marketing.
- 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated into all marketing activities in the next 3 years.
- 71% of marketers say their influencer marketing programs are strategic or highly strategic.
As to whether Influencer Marketing will work for your business, depends entirely on what business you’re in. Influencers with social followings work within very narrow niches and the only way for them to seamlessly weave your product offering into their content without it jarring is for it to align naturally. For example, a Personal Trainer recommending a particular protein shake sounds like a winner. The same Personal Trainer promoting a local taxi firm, not so much.
A quick search on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter will tell you who wields serious influence in your space. The sectors that are particularly popular tend to be the visual ones: Food, fitness, interiors, fashion, beauty etc. If you find someone who could do your business some good by saying great things about you, message them and see if they’d be open to some promotional work – very often you’ll find that influencers are very used to being approached and may well have a ‘rate card’ which contains their prices for different types of campaign, from one-offs to ongoing arrangements.
If you decide to test Influencer Marketing, start small and track everything. If everything goes swimmingly and you start to generate some meaningful returns, you can justify rolling your brand new, shiny influencer program out on a larger scale.