“Influencer marketing” is one of the hottest trends in the industry right now. Put simply, it is about selling products, services or even ideas by working with certain people (the influencers) who have the right sort of clout with the audience you are trying to work with.
Of course, this is nothing new; the celebrity endorsement has been a much-used marketing strategy since the Victorian age, when pictures of celebrities of the time first began to be used on brand packaging. What is new is that the internet and explosion of social media has completely democratised who can be an influencer. Essentially, anyone with a social media account, the ability to create compelling content consistently and the right number of followers in key demographics can be an influencer, and as such can be harnessed by brands and other organisations to make their message heard.
And because so many influencers have built their brands around ‘authenticity’ and building up a reciprocal relationship with followers, working with these types of influencers can make an impact in a way that a more straightforward endorsement campaign cannot. The figures speak for themselves: According to a joint survey conducted by Twitter and Annalect, 40% of respondents reported that they had bought an item online after seeing it used by a social media ‘influencer’. For that all-important millennial audience, the impact of influencer marketing can be even more pronounced, with 40% saying that they relate to online influencers more than their friends.
Unsurprisingly, working with influencers can reap real rewards for organisations, but only if it is done properly. Because authenticity is given such primacy by those most likely to be influenced by this type of marketing, the message and the approach must be very nuanced; the audience must really believe that this is a product or issue that the influencer cares passionately about, meaning time and effort must be invested in not only carefully identifying the right influencer for your campaign, but also in building up the right relationship with them. If the heavy-handed machinations of a marketing department are remotely obvious, the campaign is likely to have quite the opposite approach and turn-off the people you are trying to target.
However, done well, the right influencer marketing campaign can reap real rewards. A recent study of how businesses interact with influencer marketing from Tomoson found that businesses typically make back $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing and that 51% of marketing managers said it not only helped them to gain more customers, it helped them to gain better customers who are more likely to then go on to advocate for their brand with their friends and family.