In its essence, Influencer Marketing is a company's systematic use of influential people that command trust and drive engagement within a digital community to promote its products or services.
Since the rise of social media platforms such as Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok, Snapchat etc, where every user has the same opportunity to create a huge audience within the rules and functionalities of the platform (what we call "democratization of reach"), influencer marketing has moved from being a small scale phenomenon to a global, multi billion dollar industry, supported by companies of any size and shape, including the social media overlords themselves.
- "Why?", you may ask .
- "Because it works!" we may answer.
- "Yes, but why?"
- "Because it is much more effective to get a friend of your crush to tell them how cool you are, than spending days trying to convince them yourself " 😉❤️
Not convinced by the Tinder-like example? Let's take it a bit further.
Leveraging on the trust they command among their follower base, influencers have the power to drive consumer preference, help brands building their personality, creating trust, increasing sales and even shifting the public opinion about sensible social matters.
In this article, you will discover what influencer marketing is in detail, how it works and how companies can use it to reach their objectives.
Table of contents:
Influencer marketing is an application of social media marketing that leverages the reach and trust of influencers - i.e. people who have managed to establish a community of followers around them within one or more social media platforms - to promote a brand.
While the use of well known personalities to drive branding agendas is nothing new (like really, not at all!), influencer marketing differs from traditional "ambassadorship" both in the media used and the characteristics of the people who endorse brands.
First, while traditional ambassadorship is primarily centered around offline media such as tv, press and event marketing, influencer marketing is performed through a few social media platforms. This difference is important because while traditional ambassadorship can be done virtually anywhere and with no rules apart from the local competitive legislation, influencer marketing is strictly interrelated to the rules, functionalities and ultimately agendas of a few platforms. This means that, if Instagram decides to put a limit to the amount of data a company or an influencer can extract from their account, the whole influencer marketing environment would have to adapt to this. Same holds in regards to features, that can be added or deprecated, constantly changing the rules of the game.
Secondly, while brand ambassadorship uses well known celebrities to reach its purpose, influencer marketing uses social media influencers.
The difference between the two is becoming more and more blurred, as influencers become more accepted in the mainstream media and celebrities leverage the power of social to interact with their fans. However, this difference can conceptually still be traced.
Unlike celebrities, who can be defined as people who command high recognition and fame is primarily led by offline endeavours, influencers can be anyone, and they their fame often belongs strictly to the online world. Obviously, celebrities can be influencers and influencers can, in time, get to be recognised also offline of their social community, especially with the interest of traditional media in this now mainstream phenomenon.
If you want to understand what is an influencer, then you should check out this little guide we wrote.
Now, on to a more important question if you are a marketer considering if influencer marketing could fit your strategy.
Since the beginning of time, people have spoken with one another, sharing tips and recommendations. Word of mouth makes for more credibility, as you instinctively trust what your friend, co-worker or neighbour says, more than what a company tells you. It is precisely this mechanism that influencer marketing makes good use of.
Many consumers have today become immune to advertisement. Their eyes may recognise a commercial, but their brains ignore the message. This phenomenon is called advertisement blindness, and it's increasingly common, especially among younger generations.
Luckily, you can get around this problem by promoting your business or product through an influencer. Why?
Because influencers have built pre-existing relationships with their followers, who identify with their values and trust them. This trust can trickle down to your brand, whom the influencers followers might identify with, making them more receptive of your future communication.
An influencer is something in between a magazine and a digital friend. They have a direct line to a vast group of followers, who trust their entries, taste, and judgment. By utilising influencer marketing, you can reach a new target group or reinforce relationship with an existing one in an authentic and trustful way. Pairing your brand with the right influencers can result in more brand awareness, increased brand trust and loyalty, increase your ad recall and ultimately drive more hard conversions such as clicks to your website and sales. All of this, passing through millions of impressions coming at a fraction of the cost it would take to go through traditional media such as press and tv advertisements.
A final, additional advantage is, that when you have an influencer put up your products, you get quick and direct feedback from their followers. So you get a kind of focus group included in the price of an influencer campaign.
Here we have collected the advantages in a list:
Detractors of influencer marketing will typically mention one or more of these 3 points when advising against going for influencer marketing:
Let's analyse these critiques in more depth.
As we saw, influencer marketing is a relatively new form of social media marketing, which requires a lot of relationship management and trust to be built between the company and the influencer to work out.
The key here is that you are not dealing with an algorithm to which you are imparting rules and conditions and feeding with creatives in order to get your content distributed, but with a human being who literally puts their face while promoting their brand, so need to ensure that their messaging is both aligned with their personal brand and your company brand.
As every form of marketing that is not mediated by an automated interface (for example Google Ads and Facebook Ads) but requires relationship management, it is fallible and generally more time consuming, as it requires the company and the influencers to engage in prolonged communication to ensure the campaign is beneficial for both.
Relationship management is made harder by the fact that the influencer industry is very fragmented, and to run a campaign with multiple influencers you might find yourself communicating with different agencies / talent managers and independent influencers across a variety of channels: instagram messages, emails, phone calls etc etc...
On top of this, influencer marketing performance is notoriously hard to track. You might have heard that "influencers simply don't pay off".
Well ... that is simply not true 🙃
If you feel like this, you probably are committing one of these 4 mistakes:
At Make Influence, we created a platform to solve most of these problems, in particular:
As long as you use influencers on platforms where your target audience spends time on, basically any company can use influencer marketing for one or more objectives. The important thing is to choose wisely your campaign objectives based on your marketing mix and perform a due diligence research of which influencers you should partner with (what do they talk about, where do their audience reside, how many impressions / clicks do they generate with a branded post etc etc etc...).
To know more, check out our on-demand webinar (with presentation slides) where we help you identifying if influencer marketing is for you and what objectives you should pursue by looking at your marketing mix (also known as the 4Ps of marketing framework).
Well, by looking at data, of course!
"How?" you might rightly ask.
This is a bit more complicated. There's two main ways to do this:
What data you should be looking into? Typically, the best indicators of sales performance are reach, weekly / monthly impressions, click through rate and engagement rate. On top of this, you should look at demographic data of the influencer audience to ensure it is aligned with your target audience: audience location distribution, age and sex are usually quite accessible data irrespective of the medium.
One essential thing to keep in mind is: do not stop at the amounts of followers an influencer has! Followers counts hardly mean anything, and you should always inform your decision on more meaningful data. On top of this the range of followers you should be looking into depends on your strategy and objectives, not the contrary.
That said, there are a few segments based on influencers followers count that can help you while assessing an influencer in the very beginning.
Influencers are usually divided into nano, micro, mid-tier, macro and mega (although these categories differ depending on the source, and it is not uncommon to find nano and micro and mid-dier and mega tiers merged together).
Nano and micro influencers typically have between 1.000 - 50.000 followers. They constitute 90% of instagram users, and 0ver 95% of influencer marketing collaborations are done with influencers in this segment. They have a much stronger personal connection with their followers, as they are often normal people who are trusted in specific niches or local communities (the cool DJ or a fashion photographer from your city, for example). When you choose a nano or micro influencer your reach fewer potential customers, but the promotion is stronger because they are usually active in a very specific niche (or geographically bounded community), where they command a lot of trust. On top of this, engagement rate for micro influencers is almost always better. So consider your target group, what you want to sell or promote, and choose your influencer accordingly.
Mid tier and macro influencers (50k - 1 mio followers) are usually opinion leaders in global niches or celebrities that are well known among masses outside of a specific niche (artists, musicians, actors, sport people etc).
Mega influencers are a few, very well known celebrities with over 1 million followers. It is rare for a mega influencer to have gathered so much influence purely through social media, and usually they are globally known public figures (there is many good and well known basketball players, but there's only one LeBron James...)
So how do you find the ideal influencer? You could, of course, log on to Instagram or YouTube, and find profiles yourself. It takes time, but it can be done. At Make Influence we believe in data, and that data is the best basis for finding that particular influencer, who is the right match for you. You can browse our +1500 influencers, plus their Instagram data, and swiftly find a likely candidate for an influencer campaign.
We have created a small guide (in Danish, for now) where we explain what data-points you should look at when analysing an influencer profile, you can access it here.
Influencer marketing is not a “one size fits all”, nor is it a “quick fix”. It requires expertise, practice and the right tools, just as any other marketing channel.
Your company is different from the others in the same line of business, and so are your objectives and what you can and should aim for with influencer marketing. On top of this, you need to find an influencer who reflects your values and brand promise. And obviously one who gains you access to the right target group.
If your only goal is to get more sales right off from the start, then this is probably not the right channel for you. Influencer marketing is about credibility and relations. Not only between the influencer, your product and the followers, but also between you and the influencer. It takes time to create this relationship and build trust. Once you have achieved a good partnership, keep this relation for a longer period of time, and watch how your brand is strenghtened with time.
This is not to say influencers cannot help you with performance marketing and generate traffic and sales to your website, the very contrary!
Influencer marketing can very well help you achieving more sales, and on Make Influence our average customer experiences an average ROI of over 7x, compared to the 4.5x industry average. In the first two years of activity, our customers have generated over 100 mio kr (14 million euros) in revenue through their influencer collaborations.
Want to know more about what performance based influencer marketing is? Check out this blog post!
The last thing you should consider, and perhaps also the hardest for some marketers, has to do with control - or rather the lack of it.
When you work with an influencer, they create content and put it on their channels. You are not (very much) a part of this process, and for companies with a very close feel for their brand, this can be difficult to handle and accept.
However, you can be sure that the influencer knows the followers best, and is very much aware of how to engage them.. And remember, the influencer is every bit as eager for a successful campaign as you are, so she or he will take good care of your products and brand.
There are different ways to calculate the cost of influencer marketing. Some campaigns "only" cost free products for the influencer, while some cost a lump sum plus commission. This has sometimes to do with performance the influencers feel they can somehow deliver, sometimes it's just based on thin air.
In general, the more well known and better the metrics the influencer can showcase, the more you can expect to be asked to pay some sort of upfront fee that is supposed to pay out for the previous work that has gone into reaching that level of engagement with their audience.
If you use an influencer platform, like Make Influence, you will also find various pricing models.
At Make Influence, we pride ourself to bring transparency and fairness into the industry by working with performance based payment model. This means the influencer receives commissions for some KPI you optimise your campaign for (impressions, clicks, leads, sales for example).
We are the only ones in Denmark doing this, and among few in the world working strictly with this model.
Read more about Make Influence and our prices.
Because of the quick development in platforms rules and local legislation, plus well known cases of influencer fraud, some may view influencer marketing as a grey zone, but it is in fact a completely legit and widely adopted form of marketing, just like paid social, affiliate marketing and SEO.
However, you should obviously observe marketing laws and in particular the rules of hidden advertising. Responsibility indeed rests with both the business and the influencer in case the rules, contrary to expectations, are violated. Note that the rules are stricter, the younger your target group is.
There are three main ways ways to go when you want to get started with influencer marketing:
Interested in knowing more?