What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is simply real people sharing real recommendations and feedback to influence those who trust them.
For example, if you wanted to try the local restaurant with a big sign that claims, “The best food in town!” but hear from someone you know that the food and service are just okay – do you still go?
Your decision has already been influenced before you even see the restaurant.
With the expansion of social media, newer ways of marketing have emerged. With more and more people turning to social media to make buying decisions, brands and businesses have another chance to get noticed, market their products, and communicate with existing, or new customers.
However, with a change in how customers find new brands, also comes a change in customer behavior. Customers today prefer “real” over “too-good-to-be-true” marketing campaigns.
That’s where influencer marketing comes in, and that’s why it works.
What is influencer marketing and how does it work?
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy that works with people related to the industry giving recommendations about products and services they trust.
Every industry has people, or influencers, who build a strong following of supporters over time. These people turn to influencers to hear about new brands and check reviews. This following is built on trust and relatability.
A friend of mine recently started a new business that offers healthy treats for pets. She is a nutritionist that has all of the technical information about her products, but with no idea how to reach a larger audience to market those products.
Her question is one that many small business owners are asking too: “How do I reach a larger audience, and influence them to buy my products?”
To answer, I showed her this Instagram post, by one of the biggest pet industry influencers in the US: Nala Cat:
You see how this adorable cat is working to influence 4.3 million followers to buy the product in the picture? That’s how it works!
Your product is seen by a large number of followers, who are already seeking product reviews and recommendations within your industry.
Types of influencers
Social media influencers are gaining new levels of expertise, either on specific topic, or within an industry. They create content to share their views, ideas, expertise, recommendations, and feedback for people who follow them.
The different types of influencers are:
Using celebrities as brand ambassadors, or to talk about a brand, is one of the oldest tricks of the trade. It comes as no surprise that celebrities have entered the world of influencer marketing. However, the cost to hire a celebrity as an influencer is high, and only high-end brands use them often. Additionally, the use of celebrities as influencers is waning, as more and more people prefer “regular” people to increase the relatability factor to their audience.
Experts and industry leaders
People who’ve gained the status of being industry leaders, or subject matter experts have unmatched credibility. This includes journalists, academics, and professional leaders. When these people are seen talking about a brand, they act as influencers, and have a strong impact on the audience.
There are many bloggers who work with brands as influencers. Positively mentioning brands in blogs makes readers take notice, and become more likely to follow the brand too. There are professional influencer bloggers across different fields like health, fashion, finance, personal development, and more. Another effective way to get audience attention is to participate as a guest blogger, and write a post yourself to be featured on a popular blog.
Video content creators
Video content has gained significant momentum, and there have been more people creating video content for their followers than ever. YouTube content creators are often seen working with brands to talk to their audiences about a brand, either directly or woven into the video more organically.
Micro influencers are people like you and me, who’ve gained a small audience by creatively establishing themselves as an expert on a certain topic. Micro influencers partner with brands to talk about the brand and influence their followers. However, not all micro influencers readily accept work, and a mutual agreement may need to be discussed. Today, some micro influencers have become as famous as what we traditionally refer to as celebrities.
How and why influencer marketing works
Influencer marketing is like a third-party marketing channel, where a brand does not directly speak to customers. The current generation is not highly inclined towards traditional mediums of marketing and advertising. Projecting your messaging to this large audience through influencers allows your business to increase brand awareness and reach.
To see how influencer marketing works, it’s important to understand these two different categories:
1. Paid influencer marketing
This kind of collaboration includes monetary compensation to the influencer, free products, or sponsorship.
2. Earned influencer marketing
This kind of collaboration does not involve any monetary transaction, and is a mutually beneficial collaboration where both parties enjoy exposure to the other’s audience. Free gifts, samples, or products may be included.
The benefits of working with an influencer:
Brand awareness and reach
When you collaborate with an influencer within your industry, you improve your brand awareness with a large audience. This helps you gain visibility, and can increase customer engagement and sales.
Focused and relevant audience
Working with the right influencer ensures that you’re targeting a relevant audience. The results are more focused, and the chances of getting more traffic to your website, or social pages, increases.
The main reason influencers are so popular today is because people trust them for their views and recommendations. You can harness this trust and credibility to your business’s advantage.
Search engine optimization
When credible sources and websites linking back to your website, your search engine rankings increase. Getting backlinks from other highly ranked sources not only optimizes your website but also increases your credibility.
Unless you decide to work with a celebrity influencer, influencer marketing is cost-effective. Micro influencers are the most wallet-friendly, and deliver good results for a small businesses.
How to connect with the right influencers
Now that we know there are a lot of influencers out there – social influencers, or those on other mediums that can promote your brand – you need to find someone who perfectly aligns with your marketing goals. How do you do that?
Know your audience
To know which influencers work best for your brand, you need to first find your target audience. Then, you can figure out who they look to for product recommendations.
Know your influencer
When you start researching influencers, first start with your industry. You want to make sure that you work with a niche influencer to get to a relevant audience. Further, research the type of brands that the influencer may have worked with before, how many people follow them, and how actively the audience is engaging with them. .
Just like every brand, every influencer has a distinct voice – make sure you find someone who aligns with your brand voice and mission.
Creativity plays an extremely important role in making an impact on people. Find influencers who use content creatively to promote your brand, instead of being pushy about it.
Dive deep into the conversations influencers have with followers to see how well they engage. You want to work with someone who connects with their followers, welcomes interactions, and actively provides answers, when needed.
Integrate influencer marketing with your existing marketing strategy
If you’ve decided to give influencer marketing a shot, it’s time to start marrying your existing strategy with influencer marketing.
First, know your goal. What are you trying to achieve? How can an influencer help you further your brand?
Second, after thorough research on influencers, make a list of potential candidates and start reaching out. Understand their experience, how they work with brands, and other collaboration details you need to understand before you work together.
Influencer marketing is growing, and it’s time to jump in to make the most of it. It may take time to find the best match, but once you do, it’s worth the effort.