Hop Aboard the Influencer Marketing Train
Table of Contents
Welcome to the world of IM
Be honest, have you ever purchased something because a well-known celebrity used the product or service and recommended it? This is just one example of a strategy used by businesses across virtually every industry and medium — social media, blogs, columns, digital and print ads, and television —called ‘influencer marketing‘. Influencer marketing (IM) is increasingly popular among businesses nowadays because traditional advertising is becoming more competitive, increasingly expensive and less effective.
Influencer marketing is a successful marketing strategy because it utilises two critical elements: word-of-mouth marketing and social proof. It’s a fact, back up by innumerable data, that when selling direct, companies promoting their products and services are far less successful than friends, colleagues and people we admire (i.e., influencers) online doing the same thing.
While the broader implications of influencer marketing have become quite well-known nowadays, we want to narrow in and talk specifically about micro and nano influencers, and why they’re often a better bet than their flashier companions. Today we’re going to break down what influencer marketing is, whether or not it actually works and how to choose the right influencer to work with. Without further ado, let’s get started…
What is influencer marketing?
At a fundamental level, influencer marketing uses top content creators, specialised in their respective areas, to push endorsements and product mentions; to improve brand awareness, increasing web traffic, drive direct sale leads, promote and event or product and so on. Look at another way, IM is a mash-up of old and new tools, taking the old-school tactic of celebrity endorsement and placing it into a modern, content-driven ecosystem.
Consider these distinctions:
- The best social media marketing works when it’s a natural social interaction.
- The best content marketing works when the information provided is genuinely useful.
- The best influencer marketing works when genuine credibility and authority are already established in the minds of the audience.
The keywords here are ‘credibility and authenticity’. Influencer marketing succeeds because of the high amount of trustworthiness that influencers have built up with their loyal following; recommendations from them serve as a form of social currency, representing authenticity.
How can this kind of social cache be applied? Say, for example, you already have a business/brand that is an expert in your field, but, sadly, your target audience doesn’t know you exist. This might be because you’re new to the market or don’t hold enough clout on your own. Either way, this can cause even the most strategic and well-planned of marketing campaigns to flop. What you need is additional authority, and that’s where using an influencer can come in. By hitching your caboose to their train, you can gain added momentum and reach your target destination.
You can work with an influencer in any number of creative ways, from a series of educational blogs to a new product-naming vlog competition and live-streaming holiday give-away. The more ‘out of the box’ and memorable your campaign, the better. Best of all, your campaign can be tailored entirely to fit your needs and budget; you can use a mix of micro and nano influencers; target specific industries, professions, behaviours and interests; and only work within particular locations (neighbourhood, city, province, country). And, of course, every influencer action is fully tractable so that outcomes can be analysed and measured.
How effective is influencer marketing?
Okay, now you understand the basics, let’s talk brass tacks and ask the hard question: is influencer marketing effective, does it get results?
Because influencer marketing is generally more authentic, people trust other consumer recommendations over corporate advertising. Nowadays, there is a growing trend of corporations shying away from tried-and-tested traditional media tactics, like TV ads, and switching to social campaigns that feature ‘real’ people (aka influencers) as brand ambassadors. These forward-thinking companies are seeing massive spikes in marketing ROI and brand awareness.
When people see a social media post, watch a video or read a blog talking about the benefits of your product/service by someone they already follower and trust, they are more likely to click a link to either make a purchase or discover more. Traffic referred by a sincere influencer always has a higher intent to purchase and stronger likelihood of convert. In this way, IMs play a pivotal role in creating brand advocacy, driving brand awareness and boosting sales.
A bonus is that influencer marketing can help you boost your social media following on such sites as Facebook and Instagram. While they might not be ready to purchase now, if they like your look and brand message, they might follow you to learn more. This is a great opportunity, as it now allows you to nurture this relationship through thoughtful posting and targeted social media campaigns, hopefully leading to a conversion down the line.
Finally, keep in mind that IM is not about quick wins; it’s painted with the same slow-and-steady brush as its social and content counterparts (the three are inseparable). Any such campaign you run shouldn’t be about directly selling your wares, but instead fostering bonds and demonstrating your industry authority, credibility and sincerity. As mentioned, over time, followers will warm to your brand and hopefully convert to customers. If you’re lucky, one day, your brand will become synonymous with whatever it is you offer, for example, how the word ‘Hoover’ replaced vacuuming.
How do I choose an influencer to work with?
Once upon a time, the influence arena was confined to celebrities and bloggers; since then, the field has expanded significantly. This is both a good and bad thing; now, the hard part is identifying and associating your brand with the ‘right’ kind of influencer — one who has USPs in-line with your brand values and campaign objectives.
Influencers, unlike celebrities, can be anywhere. They can be anyone. What makes them influential is their followings on the web and social media. An influencer can be a reality TV celebrity; famous musician or athlete; niche fashion photographer on Instagram; a well-read cybersecurity expert who tweets; respected marketing executive who shares tips on LinkedIn; resourceful lifestyle traveller with a blog; self-taught baking whizz on YouTube, technology reviewer on Reddit and so on. Within every industry, there are influential people — you just need to find them.
Over the following four sub-section we’ll explain how to spot the perfect influencer for your campaign:
1] Size doesn’t matter
Contrary to popular belief, it’s now how big an influencer’s fanbase is that matters most. It’s the influencers with a more modest following that have the most pronounced potential to bring in real results than their counterparts with tens of thousands of fans. The five different tiers of influencer are broken down as follows:
Looked at another way, what a micro and nano influencer brings to the table is a devoted fanbase of enthusiasts genuinely interested in what this person has to say or offer. Compare that to a ‘macro’ (100K+) influencer who might only have a fanbase predominantly made up of casual observers and hate-watchers with no real interest.
Due to the relatively small size of their following and the kinds of targeted content they produce, micro and nano influencers typically have higher engagement rates. Having a smaller audience allows them to more easily bond with the people who genuinely choose to follow them (as compares to a celebrity with millions of fans spread across multiple demographics). This makes them more appealing to collaborate with as you can piggyback off that existing close relationship and foster you own personal connect amongst this key audience.
One last comment on niche experts. Have you ever heard of a key opinion leader (KOL)? These are high-level experts on a specialised topic within a field. For example, a KOL might specialise in black-and-white photography, DIY makeup, vegan lifestyle, or Vinyasa yoga. If your business is looking to attract people in these very specialised niches, a KOL is an excellent option — due to their expert knowledge on a specific topic.
2] Influence versus popularity
Off the bat, just because someone has a lot of followers doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to persuade them to buy something.
“I’d like marketing professionals to understand influencer marketing is only effective if that person is actually influential and not just popular.” — @Red_Mos
Influencer marketing isn’t about finding someone with a semi-suitable audience and throwing bags of money of them. That’s what mass-market celebrities without finesse are for. Micro and nano influencers, on the other hand, are dedicated people who’ve spent loving hours building up their brand and cultivating an audience. The type of person who has painstakingly built up their network one organic follower at a time won’t be interested in selling out for a quick buck; they will have to believe in your brand/message to promote it. As such, they will be rightfully protective of their reputation and the people who trust them.
Additionally, an influencer’s follower base is just one aspect of an integrated campaign that needs to be considered. Of equal importance is how passionate they are to promote your product, how trustworthy they are (in the eyes of their network), and how much sway they have (again, with the follower base).
3] Quality, not quantity
Don’t be surprised if a micro or nano influencer quotes a price that’s more in-line with what you would expect from a macro influencer. When your average Instagrammer promotes a product in every other post, this has the potential to evoke suspicion and resentment amongst their followers.
In contrast, if you can find a passionate small-scale influencer who has built-up a fervent fanbase around a specialist subject and only promotes products that are highly relevant to their audience, this could have a much more significant impact than blasting a niche product to a mass-market audience.
Some such influencers blast a sponsored message at their audience so infrequently that they charge a premium for this service. But, as their overall strategy is likely to garner more trust and, we hope, sales leads, due to its infrequency, this is a much better use of your marketing budget.
4] Go for authenticity
Social media users are a savvy bunch and can spot an advertorial from twenty paces, even if an influencer hasn’t disclosed that they’ve been paid to post (which they always should, by the way). Because of this, followers are beginning to shy away from social feeds that are flagrantly selling all the time and instead flocking to influencers who are honest and straightforward.
Indeed, an influencer is most likely to inspire product purchasing by followers when their love for a product comes across as genuine and enthusiastic. Compare that to the likelihood of success when the influencers’ product-placement is obviously luck-lustres and paid for. This isn’t going to show off any brand in a favourable light.
Getting your chosen influencer to tell a compelling story isn’t easy, but it’s worth the extra effort. Giving followers a story or scenario that they can relate to will bring forth much better results than a flat, by-the-book post ticking USPs off a list. You need to play the long game and understand that IM success won’t happen overnight, you’ll need to build up rapport and trust with your chosen audience before that will happen.
While this guide will help you get started with a micro and nano influencer marketing, like any marketing strategy, it’s susceptible to change, and you’ll need to keep on your toes to anticipate and respond to market sentiment.
Setting up an IM campaign is the same as any other marketing campaign, you’ll need to do your research, set a budget, determine goals, find your influencer(s), run your campaign, thoroughly review it, make any necessary revisions and repeat.
Once you’ve got the rhythm down, you might find yourself creating additional types of influencer marketing campaigns. Success varies between brands, so don’t give up if your first one is a failure. We encourage you to think out of the box and incorporate micro and nano influencers into your marketing strategy as part of your holistic approach.