2016 will be known as the beginning of the rise of influencer marketing. In a world where everyone is a minor celebrity through Twitter, YouTube, and blogging, anyone can use their clout to direct their audience and make smaller voices heard.
But what is influencer marketing? And why should small businesses try to harness its power? Here’s your guide to the whats, whys, and hows.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Image via Flickr by Prinz Photostudio
Influencer marketing combines word-of-mouth reviews with celebrity endorsements. Brands work to find a public figure or well-known name within their niche and ask them to talk about their products or engage with their content.
Depending on the company, this can be a low-key (and even free) exercise, or a pricey form of marketing. On one end, small non-profits ask local news anchors to promote them — otherwise known as free PR — and B2B bloggers reach out to keynote speakers asking for retweets to their expansive networks. On the other end, some brands are willing to pay thousands of dollars just for one Instagram post from Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan.
Finding a key partner to showcase your brand is key, and when it’s done right, your brand can flourish.
Why Is Influencer Marketing Beneficial?
Once our clients have a basic understanding of influencer marketing, the follow-up questions are: Will it work for our brand? and Why should we try it? There are many reasons to give it a shot, but here are our top six.
You Expose Your Brand to Larger Audiences
The rise of ad-blockers has led to more companies trying to connect with potential customers on a personal level instead of broadcasting blanket ads. There are two ways to do this: create content on personal platforms like blogs and social media, or promote your content on other influencer platforms.
Content marketers have started using influencers as recruiters for their brands. Your blog might only reach 1,000 people per day, but your influencer’s blog might reach 1,000,000. Even if just 2% of your influencer’s visitors come to your site, you’re still going to triple your audience.
Influencers Prove You’re a Major Player
Many brands use influencer marketing to seem like bigger brands than they actually are. Let’s use the example above, where a blog with a million followers promotes a blog with a thousand. The larger blog’s audience doesn’t know that the smaller channel only gets a thousand visitors daily — and they don’t care. Cool content is cool content, regardless of the audience.
Influencer marketing is ideal for putting your brand on the map and making it stand out. If your brand is good enough for the influencer, then it should be good enough for their audience.
Word-of-Mouth Provides Credibility
Word-of-Mouth is trusted by many customers, but it’s also one of the hardest marketing tools to employ. Influencer marketing channels the word-of-mouth benefits without the labor of getting each customer to promote your brand.
The key to finding a successful influencer is picking someone who already lives with your brand and would be a natural fit to represent you. For example, Audrina Patridge announced her pregnancy using a Clear Blue Easy pregnancy test featured on Instagram. The placement was a natural fit because she was expecting and because the majority of her fans are twenty-something women.
The Relationship Creates Better ROI in the Long Run
While some influencer relationships will remain the same (you will always pay through the nose for Kylie Jenner to take a selfie with your product), most niche influencer relationships will have better ROI the longer you work with them.
The first part of the outreach process is always the hardest. Your influencer might not be familiar with your product or content and neither of you is sure if the promotion will be a success, but after a few wins you can form a partnership, and your influencer’s audience will know that they genuinely love the product.
Paid placements should become cheaper as you work with the influencer more (while bulk buying should decrease the price) and organic placements should be easier to acquire over time.
Adweek notes that influencer costs have been rising significantly in the past two years, which means that getting in on the ground floor now can save you thousands in the next six months or a year.
Success Tracking Is Easier Than Ever
Google Analytics and other sites like Coremetrics and Omniture can measure every step your audience takes and how they convert. Instead of just measuring exposure in the same way we measure TV and radio ads, we can measure the exact path from the influencer’s site to ours, and track their conversion process.
One of the hardest parts of marketing is constantly allocating and reallocating your budget for the highest ROI, and modern analytics will help with that.
Your Competition Is Already Doing It
As of October 2015, 75% of companies reported using influencer marketing as a strategic marketing tool. Of that, 47% considered the channel extremely effective, while 34% thought it was somewhat effective. This means half of your competition is already beating you, and another third is on its way!
How Do I Start?
Once clients are sold on the idea of influencer marketing, the next question is how? We recommend these five quick steps to start testing the influencer waters:
- Determine what budget (if any) you can commit to paid partnerships.
- Brainstorm an influencer “dream team” of 10-20 people or websites that would ideally promote your products or content.
- Get creative with the marketing message! Anyone can hold up a product, but unique messages have more staying power.
- Seek out input from the influencer of what worked or didn’t, and collect feedback from both of your audiences on the promotion.
- Test, test, test. It’s okay to fail as long as each failure comes with a lesson.
Influencer marketing depends on the spokespeople you choose, but also on the products or services you offer. Remember, Kim Kardashian can try to promote corset trainers all she wants, but if they don’t work, all that influencer marketing has gone to waist.