Influencer Marketing is all about relationships. The relationship you’re leveraging between a influencers and their audience, as well as the relationship you’re building between your brand and your influencers.
– Gretta Rose van Riel,
Forbes 30 Under 30 and founder of Hey Influencers
Influencer marketing is relationship-based marketing. Influencer marketing has exploded in recent years and Instagram has become the most popular platform for influencers and their audiences.
Influencers are working with brands to help spread the word about their favorite products and to promote the brands that sponsor their content creation. By now, we’ve probably all seen influencers recommending products on their Instagram posts, with #ad or #sponsored added to the caption to denote that the brand paid for this promotion, either through payments or in-kind gifts of free products.
A type of content marketing that engages creators or industry experts in a specific niche so that they can leverage their audience to create awareness for a brand or product and drive sales.
Influencer marketing is set to grow to over $10 billion dollars by 2020, according to Mediakix. On Instagram alone, influencer marketing accounted for $1.6 billion dollars in advertising spend in 2018. That number will only increase.
Another staggering statistic states that 65% of marketers say that they will increase their influencer marketing budget in the next year. Are you keeping up with this trend?
With the growth and rise of influencer marketing and content marketing, brands are able to find authentic ways to advocate for their products using real people, in real time, with real results for growth. Thus, influencer marketing is a great way to reach your target audience and build brand awareness among like-minded individuals.
But wait, what’s an influencer?
is a person who has built a loyal audience through social media, blogs, or other communities, that has the ability to influence their audience through content creation. They have the ability to influence purchasing decisions and are considered thought leaders within a specific niche or industry.
The surprising fact is that influencers aren’t really a group. Someone creating content online shouldn’t be grouped by their follower count, which is what typically qualifies them as an influencer. Follower count doesn’t have the same value that it did before, because algorithms now affect how many followers actually see the influencer’s content. Someone who is engaging their audience may actually reach more people than an influencer who has a large following, but low engagement.
Instead of looking at the number of followers, influencers should be categorized by their interests, their content, and what they share online.
One way to categorize influencers is by niche or industry. Influencers nurture and grow an audience within a specific niche. A niche is their area of expertise. Their niche could be:
- Health & wellness
- DIY & crafting
- Video games
- Anything you can think of!
Influencers create content to share what they are passionate about. It could be images, videos, reviews, blog posts, or other types of media. Influencers are able to build a personal brand for themselves around their niche, and they know what their audience will respond to.
An Influencer’s Audience
If an influencer shouldn’t be categorized by their following’s size, then an alternative sorting could be by the followers themselves. These followers share interests with the influencer and are generally within the same demographics as each other. In this way, we are looking at the demographics, rather than just the numbers.
An influencer is successful because they are able to create relationships with their audience. The audience places a high level of trust with that influencer and values the opinions shared.
Audiences gravitate to that influencer because of the content they share. They have a specific interest in the niche that the influencer shares about. Influencers gain followers because they know how to create niche content in a way that is entertaining to their audience.
Since an influencer’s audience is important to their success, influencers use their data and insights to make sure that their audience enjoys their content. Influencers see which posts do best and continue to create content that appeals to their audience.
Influencers also won’t post outside their niche often because they understand what their audience wants to see. Posting sporadic content or brand partnerships that don’t feel like a good fit could damage their growth and their following, so influencers protect their audience by sharing consistent, high-quality, on-topic content.
An influencer’s ability to influence is what makes them appealing partners for brand partnerships. Their level of influence over their audience should be the chief selling point for influencer partners.
An Influencer’s Authority
Their audience enjoys their content and trusts the influencer. Influencers are able to share authentically with their audience because they are authoritative and honest in their content. An influencer is validated as an authority figure in a few ways. Follower count and engagement show that the influencer is successful posting about the topics. Influencers also post high-quality content in a specific niche or industry, which makes them hubs of information.
Social Proof & Influencer Marketing
Social proof is the concept that people assume something is right if other people have had the same assumption first. For example, an avant-garde outfit gains credibility as a fashion trend if many people are liking and sharing the pictures online.
When an influencer has a sizeable audience, it proves to the follower that the influencer is trustworthy and an expert because others approve of what the influencer is doing.
Social proof is also involved when an influencer posts about a brand. When an influencer gives a brand or product their stamp of approval, their audience is more likely to adopt that opinion or purchase the product because they see someone they trust recommending it.
An Influencer’s Role in “Consumer tribes”
Seth Godin coined the term consumer tribes to describe how people gravitate to a leader or an idea. The consumers within the tribe share a lot of the same values and tend to follow the same trends.
That is why influencers succeed. Influencers find audiences who align with their own values and opinions, then share content that they know would be of value to that group. Influencer marketing allows brands to tap into this process in a way that feels natural to what the consumer tribe is already doing.
Influencer Marketing for Beginners
If you’re just starting out, focus on creating relationships with influencers, instead of going straight into a collaboration with them. Taking the time to find out more about them and have a few conversations, maybe even ask them for their expert opinion, will help you find a collaboration that will work for both of you.
You should also look at the influencers’ affinity for your brand. Finding influencers who are already familiar with your brand will be valuable partners for your collaborations because they know your brand well and won’t have to get over the learning curve that other influencers have to. Tools like Carro help to track how an influencer interacts with your brand, so that you always know which connections are most valuable.
Remember, influencer marketing is relational. Find a few influencers to genuinely connect with and follow their profiles. Leave a few comments and engage with their content so that you know what works best when it’s time to enact or improve upon your own influencer marketing campaigns.
Look how different these influencers are from one another!
Influencer Marketing Matters More Than Ever
With 47% of Gen Z researching brands on social media, influencers are becoming more important than ever before. Influencer marketing is a chance for brands to integrate their brand messaging into real-life conversations between influencers and their audiences.
Traditional ad spaces are becoming increasingly oversaturated and brands need to try harder than ever to stand out. In order to break through the noise, brands need to find new ways to reach their target audience. What better way than with an influencer who already has that audience’s attention?
When influencer marketing is fully optimized, returns can be up to 11x higher than other traditional marketing channels!
Influencer marketing addresses the problems of oversaturation and audience fatigue.
According to Inc, a whopping 96% of consumers don’t trust ads.
If consumers don’t trust what comes from brands, then how are brands supposed to present their message?
Influencers have worked to establish trust with their audience, so when they make a recommendation or share an opinion, the audience knows that it’s authentic.
Influencers also don’t talk like brands. They aren’t a billboard or a commercial, but instead are sharing their honest opinions. Even brutally honest reviews can benefit the brands because they establish brand awareness and present the products/services from all sides. If audiences are suspicious of brand ads, then an influencer’s honest review can go a long way to establishing rapport with a newly discovered brand.
The Problems with Influencer Marketing Today
No system is perfect and influencer marketing today is beginning to feel the growing pains after an explosion of growth. As influencers and brands and influencer marketing agencies continue to work together, these problems will require attention in order for collaborations to run successfully. Tools and influencer marketing platforms will emerge to help combat these issues as well.
Influencers who violate the trust of their audience are inauthentic and ineffective. This is especially true for brand partnerships. If the influencer isn’t genuinely interested in the product, their audience will eventually catch on.
That’s why it is so important to select the right influencers for marketing campaigns. Brand partnerships need to be built on authenticity, with both honest communication and genuine promotion. An influencer who’s faking the emotion about a brand or product will not be effective.
Fake influencers could be costing marketers up to $100 million each year! Influencer fraud includes purchasing followers, engagement, likes, and comments in order to increase their standing as an influencer.
When people are trying to get paid brand partnerships or benefit from their influencer status, it can become easy to cross the line. A simple search online will reveal the number of companies that claim to artificially boost your profile so that you can succeed as an influencer.
These fake followers and engagements can make it difficult for brands to know if an influencer’s partnership will perform as desired. We’ll cover some ways to root out fake influencers later on.
Selecting the Wrong Influencers
Another problem in influencer marketing is selecting the wrong influencers for your brand. Relying on follower count and a general niche isn’t enough to get a good result from your promotions.
There are more influencers gaining popularity every day, so it’s important to align your brand’s values and message with the influencers you work with.
The best practice for selecting influencers is to choose influencers that are already familiar with your brand and have a connection to you. These could be influencers that have previously mentioned your brand, purchased your products, or subscribed to your messages. These connections indicate that the influencer is not only in the same niche and has the same interests, but can also genuinely recommend you.
A Narrow Definition
When you ask someone what influencer marketing is, they probably reference an Instagram post where someone is holding a skinny tea or skincare bottle and the captions says “Save 10%, Use code blah blah blah,” but influencer marketing is so much more than that.
Influencer marketing should be marketing to your audience at all the sources where they are influenced. In recent years, that definition has narrowed. Brands who want to stand out from the rest need to remember the broader definition in order to push aside all the noise and really tell their story.
When creating your influencer marketing strategy, you’ll want to be thoughtful about where your audience gets their information and resist the impulse to just go where the influencers are. It’s important to note that influencers are everywhere, so you’ll want to prioritize your audience’s favorite networks and online spaces when deciding where to market.
Confusion over Influencer Payments
It can be intimidating to new brands to try to negotiate with influencers about payments—especially when there’s no golden number for influencer payments. Depending on the niche, follower count, and engagement, influencer payment rates can fluctuate significantly.
Instead of letting influencer payments deter you, focus on finding the right influencers. Many influencers will post in exchange for the products that they like. If an influencer does require payment, then you’ll have to weigh the potential benefits for your brand.
Communication is the make-or-break element to every influencer collaboration. Being clear and thorough in communications can prevent most of the pitfalls of influencer marketing.
Establishing a thorough library of templates for influencer communications can help you streamline the process.
Often the excitement of the initial communications wears off. Following up with influencers to make sure that all the elements of your partnerships are completed can help you get the full impact of your partnership.
As a brand, you’ll also want to be diligent in delivering on your own promises. Sending out products and payments on schedule can help your brand develop a positive reputation within the industry and can help affect future partnerships with other influencers.
The Impact of Algorithms
Algorithm changes on popular social media sites can have an immense impact on an influencer’s success. They are constantly adapting to keep their engagement high and to counteract these spikes from algorithmic changes.
When working with influencers, keeping options open and remaining agile can help your influencers and your own social media get the results from these campaigns. You never know when an algorithm will change and start favoring a different type of content, so it’s important to adapt your efforts to the current needs.
Measuring (or Mismeasuring) ROI
Influencer marketing ROI and attribution can be difficult for marketers to track with their influencer partners. On Instagram, direct link clicks are rare, so finding out if a new customer came from an influencer campaign takes a good analytics program and a thorough content marketing strategy.
Communicating this strategy to the influencer can ensure that the influencer points their audience to the tracked link, coupon code, or other attribution link that can help you to track the results.
Who Can Benefit From Influencer Marketing?
All brands can benefit from influencer marketing, if they know how to structure their campaigns. Influencer marketing can be used for brand awareness and lead nurturing at all stages of the conversion funnel.
Is my brand ready for influencer marketing?
- Do I have the budget to invest in brand awareness?
- Can I send products to influencers so that they can create content?
- Do I have a clear understanding of who my target audience is?
- Do I have any connections with influencers already? Are any of my customers influencers? Are any of my email subscribers also influencers?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re ready!
Brands that are growing through influencer marketing should set the goals of their campaigns based on their own conversion funnel, so that each step of the buyer’s journey gets great content!
Top Funnel Influencer Marketing = Brand Awareness
At the top of the funnel is everyone who has just discovered your brand. These are people who came across a social media post or who saw an influencer recommending your brand.
Influencer content at this stage is meant to be an introduction to your brand and should provide the basic information a consumer needs to explore your brand, while also providing them with an enticement or entertainment that creates interest for your brand.
Content for this stage:
- Influencer posts on social media
- Posts from customers on social media through a referral program or affiliate network
- Paid social ads with broad audience targeting
Facebook and Instagram Ad Objective: Reach or Brand Awareness
Middle Funnel Influencer Marketing = Lead Nurturing
To get consumers from the top of the funnel to the bottom, they’ll need to be nurtured. This is repeated contact with the consumer to help them familiarize themselves with your brand.
The goal of this stage is to create influencer posts and other content that focuses on features and unique values of your brand/products. As you educate, you can also work to capture information about your prospective customers. It could be capturing their email so that you can send them email updates. It could also be continued influencer content about the brand that lets them get to know it from other angles.
At this stage, the goal is to continue to entice the consumer until they feel equipped to make a purchase. They’ll need to be entertained, but they’ll also need to have their concerns addressed so that they feel confident making a purchase.
In many ways, this stage is about educating the consumer. An influencer review lets them know about the product so that they can make a buying decision. Working with the same influencer for a few different promotions can help to nurture their audience and nudge them toward a conversion.
Capturing the consumer’s information at this stage can help you tailor your retargeting efforts to them personally. Emails, paid social ads, and other remarketing efforts can help you lead the potential customer down the funnel to the final stage.
Content for this stage:
- Repeat posts from influencers, including testimonials and unboxings that focus on features and value props
- Lead capture forms (email signups, etc.), so that you can retarget these consumers
- Influencer reviews that provide in-depth details about the products
Facebook and Instagram Ad Objective: Traffic, Engagement, Video Views, Lead Generation, and Messages (and sometimes Store Visits)
Bottom Funnel Influencer Marketing = Social Proof for Conversions
Just before a conversion, the consumer is looking for the answers to their questions. Influencer content can address whatever holds them back from purchasing so that the consumer can be confident in their purchasing decision.
Social proof is essential at this stage. Reviews, user-generated images, and other content can help the consumer see what the product is really like. This removes whatever hurdles to purchasing that the consumer may have.
The goal at this stage is conversions, so influencer content should include a link to your site so that the consumer can complete their purchase. It can also provide incentives, like coupon codes or free shipping deals, which can help convince the consumer. Once a customer has made a purchase, then you can focus on retention.
Content for this stage:
- Reviews on your product page
- User-generated images of the product
- Coupon codes, deals, and other offers from influencers
Facebook and Instagram Ad Objective: Conversions and Catalog Sales
A common misconception is that you can just ship products to influencers with large followings and watch the sales roll in. However, your influencer content and campaigns need to be aligned with your conversion funnel so that you know what information to provide your potential customers.
Let’s explore these 10 steps to make sure that your influencer marketing campaigns have maximum impact across every step of your buyer’s journey.