What Is Influencer Marketing?

by Teodora Dobrilova

Influencer. We keep hearing this word thrown around casually, but what exactly does it mean?

In this article we’re going to discuss a couple of things:

  • what exactly are influencers?
  • how do they differ from celebrities?
  • what is an influencer’s role in the modern day marketing world?
  • what is influencer marketing?
  • how many types of influencers are there?
  • how can we make the distinction between them?
  • how to approach IM?
  • and finally – how can influencers help your advertising campaigns?

Let’s begin with some key points that should clarify things a bit:

  • ‘Influencer’ is not the same as ‘celebrity’
  • Influencers these days have more credibility when marketing products or services
  • Social media is the playing field of modern-day influencers
  • You can’t just pay influencers to advertise your brand, you have to collaborate with them and make sure they truly like it
  • A huge follower count doesn’t guarantee you the result you’re looking for

Now let’s dive in.

What Exactly Is an Influencer?

An inquiry in Cambridge Dictionary tells us the meaning of ‘influencer’ is someone who affects how other people behave. Most influencers today achieve this through their social media presence.

If we’re going to try defining influencer marketing, it’s going to look something like – ‘using the influencer’s authority and impact in marketing campaigns’.

Are influencers celebrities?

Well, yes and no. While influencers can turn into celebrities and celebrities do influence people, social media influencers are a slightly different breed. The word ‘influencer’ these days is used to describe normal people with a big online following and notable social media presence. People tend to trust influencers when it comes to recommendations, while celebrities are steadily losing their credibility.

For example, let’s take Eva Longoria’s ad for L’Oreal’s shampoos. Consumers will rarely trust celebrities recommendations because they know they get paid to advertise products. And let’s be honest, that great hair of hers is a result of a healthy regime and numerous stylists, not just one shampoo.

On the other hand, if you Google the product and read some bloggers’ reviews of it or watch a vloggers’ video on YouTube about it, you’re more likely to get a true answer. The influencer is more likely to be honest about how it actually worked on their hair and if it’s worth the purchase.

Influencers Are Simply more Reliable

Celebrities get paid to promote different brands, whether they actually use them in real life or not. Influencers promote things they genuinely like and have tested for quite some time before talking about them.

If a celebrity misleads the public about a product or brand, it’s no big deal. Consumers know they get paid for their endorsement. If an influencer misleads their fanbase about a product because they got paid to advertise it, they risk losing the trust of their followers and their impact.

Influencers spend a lot of time and effort in building their brand and image. Getting people online to trust them is no walk in the park and they are furiously protective of their followers and reputation.

Besides, they are normal people, far away from the Hollywood glamour. Anyone from anywhere can be an influencer these days. One of the many benefits of influencer marketing is that you have a huge pool to choose from.

Trust – the Influencers’ Currency

Because of the trust they have acquired, influencers have the power to actually change people’s opinion. That’s the main difference between an influencer and a celebrity – influencers have genuine credibility.

They have perceived knowledge on specific topics and have gained their followers based on their expertise. You wouldn’t really trust Tom Hardy to talk to you about cooking.

On the other hand, YouTube star Binging with Babish has 4,048,458 subscribers and numerous videos featuring him recreating recipes from famous TV shows and movies. He also teaches people how basic dishes are made.

Overall, he sounds like the type of guy to teach you a thing or two about cooking. You can’t define an influencer solely by their number of followers, even though this guy has them in spades. Still, it’s their credibility in their chosen field that makes them successful and an asset to any marketing campaign.

Now that we’ve established this, we can move on to the main question.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencers can boost your marketing efforts by lending their credibility. To this end, you need to collaborate with an influencer to earn their endorsement.

The operative words you need to remember for this particular marketing strategy are “social” and “influencer”. You’re influencing society via social media.

Influencer marketing is the best option for strategies that aim to create brand awareness and attract new customers. It is the perfect way to gain exposure.

Gone are the days of big flashy expensive ads and magazine spreads. All you need is a good influencer marketing strategy and let’s say an Instagram post. Those will help you reach nearly ten times as many people, and in a more meaningful way as well.

How to Recruit Influencers?

There are numerous way to use influencers in your marketing plans or at least draw their attention to your brand, so let’s take a look at some of them.

Gifting is the first obvious strategy that comes to mind. Some brands send gifts to influencers. This is especially popular among makeup brands.

Beauty gurus create looks with the gifted makeup products and test and evaluate their quality. Often, influencers receive unique promotional codes along with gifted products. This way their followers can get discounts for the product or service the review is about.

The thing about gifting is that the influencer is not contractually obliged to talk about the product and advertise it to their followers. It’s a game of risk you have to be willing to play.

With this approach, a brand pays the influencer to post a photo to, let’s say, Instagram, featuring their product or service.

The contract between the two sides determines how many posts the influencer must provide and at what intervals they should be posted. Such posts are often marked with #sponsored and #ad.

Sponsored blog posts and videos are also a thing. Some of them focus on a type of product or service and mention a few brands while drawing comparisons between them. Or they could be solely focused on one brand and include a promo code or a giveaway.

What Types of Influencers Are There?

Glad you asked. For a successful influencer marketing strategy, you need to choose the right platform and the right type of influencers.

Bloggers

They usually use more than one platform to communicate with their community and promote their content, but their main channel is their blog. Bloggers are the ones you want to collaborate with if you want a detailed review of your brand. Same thing if you want a comparison of your product with those of other brands. For best results, you might want to recruit more than one blogger.

Vloggers

Their platform of choice is YouTube, although they also use other social media to promote their content.

Basically good for the same purpose as bloggers, as vloggers are essentially video bloggers. If they do daily vlogs of their lives, you can propose to them to casually show your product or mention your service.

Instagrammers

As the name suggests, those are the people you need to turn to if your influencer marketing strategy focuses on Instagram. They use their posts, stories, live streams, and IGTV to reach their community.

Posts and IGTV require more time for preparation and are good for introducing your brand to the community. Stories and live streams are pretty informal and a good way to keep the product or service fresh in their minds.

If Instagram is the heart of your marketing hub, you need a really outstanding strategy. These days, everyone is a self-proclaimed Instagram model, and standing out could be quite the challenge. On the other hand, this platform presents you with a lot of opportunities to get creative.

Twitter influencers

Admittedly, Twitter is not the best candidate for your marketing hub, but it’s a great platform to start conversations about certain topics. The best marketing strategy you can implement with Twitter is through the use of hashtags.

Streamers

Let me introduce you to Twitch – the live-streaming video game platform you’ve probably never heard of if you’re not a gamer. Influencers often cover Esport tournaments and there are numerous games played live daily. That’s the place you wanna focus your efforts if you’re after the gaming community.

At this point, you’ve probably noticed some similarities between influencer marketing and word-of-mouth marketing.

But are they the same?

Nope, they aren’t.

Word-of-mouth relies on positive customer experience. When your customers are satisfied with your service or product, they are more likely to recommend it to friends and family. Happy customers equal wider reach.

This, however, would require you to keep your customers constantly happy. The level of your products and services should be such, that they will want to spread the word of your amazing product or service.

Influencer Marketing vs. Word-of-Mouth

Now that we already know what is influencer marketing, we are only going to give you a quick reminder now, for the sake of comparison.

The definition of ‘influence’ is ‘having an impact’ and with influencer marketing, you’re aiming to have a bigger impact. That’s why you recruit people with some sort of social media influence and you collaborate with them as part of your marketing strategy.

There’s one important aspect to note here. Although the definition of influencer marketing is working with people with big impact, it does not necessarily mean you need to go for the influencer with the most followers.

How to Choose the Right Way to Approach IM?

One ring may rule them all, but that surely doesn’t apply to social media and influencer marketing.

The definition of a good marketer is someone who is well aware of the consumers’ needs and desires. Only when you’ve done your homework as a marketer are you able to choose the right influencer for the job.

But how exactly can you do that?

The first thing you need to do is to define your target audience. If you don’t know where to start from, you can always play it safe and begin with basic demographics – gender and age.

Make sure the influencer you’ve chosen has the right following for your brand. The streamers on Twitch can’t really be useful when it comes to promoting makeup or women’s clothing brands.

Also, you need to make sure that the influencer genuinely likes the product or service you’ll collaborate on. As mentioned before, influencers are fiercely protective of their image and followers and they won’t agree to advertise something for the money alone.

Now, to elaborate on one of the key points we mentioned at the beginning of the article. A huge follower count doesn’t guarantee you the result you’re looking for. What you’re looking for is influence. See what we did there?

Why Choosing Quantity Is Not a Good Idea

All jokes aside, for influential marketing you want someone with authority. Fewer followers often indicate a more loyal fanbase, which gives you a higher engagement rate and bigger impact.

More often than not people gravitate towards popular influencers. They subscribe or follow them and then don’t engage with their content. There’s also the very real possibility that 10% of those followers are bots. To top it off, some influencers buy their followers. Choose quality over quantity, always.

The most popular influencers are steadily gaining celebrity status, which means they’re just as steadily losing their credibility. The more brands they work with, the more fabricated their positive reviews look.

You can always use the help of influencer marketing companies as well. More and more marketing agencies are focusing on influencers and they are helping brands establish a dialogue. They can also take care of measuring the success of the campaign for you.

How Do You Measure the Success of the Campaign?

There are a few different ways to see exactly what ROI you’re getting.

Impressions

That shows you how many people have seen the post. It’s best used to determine which platform is best for your content.

Engagement rate

When we talk about engagement rate, the tracking metrics are the interactions with the post. Think likes, comments, retweets/reblogs/reposts. Also, an increase in mentions of the brands and related hashtags. Those indicate your brand is being talked about and getting more attention.

Audience growth

Track your social media followers. Social media analytics can help you find out a couple of important numbers. These include how many followers you have gained, how many of them interact with your content and… how many of them are bots.

Traffic to site

There are numerous tools at your disposal, which can measure the traffic to your site. Logically, an increase in referral traffic indicates a successful campaign. Page views and actual time spent on site are vital here. You can use tools such as promo codes to help boost traffic further.

Sales

We saved the most obvious for last. If you notice new clients flocking to your brand during and after the campaign, then it was indeed successful. Again, you can encourage your future customers with promo codes.

Key Takeaways

The definition of influencer marketing requires you to use them for the benefit of your brand. All in all, to be able to work with influencers successfully, you have to first understand what an influencer is and what you can expect from them.

You need to also understand how social media platforms work and which ones will work best for your goal. Then you need to choose the right influencer, based on their followers’ demographics and platform of choice.

Remember, the number of followers an influencer has might be misleading. Always check how many of them actually engage with the content. Once you’ve started working with them, you can start to measure the success of the collaboration. Metrics like impressions, engagement rate, audience, traffic and sales increases should prove invaluable to give you an idea of how well you’re doing.

And that is what influencer marketing is, put simply.

FAQ

Q: What is social media influencer marketing?

Collaborating with an influencer who lends their credibility to your marketing campaign.

A good example of that would be watchmaker Daniel Wellington. When he was first starting, he collaborated with numerous influencers and gave them personalized promo codes to give to their followers. Now his Instagram has 4.6 million followers and is constantly growing.

Q: Is influencer marketing effective?

Judging by what happened with Daniel Wellington, then yes – it is. But it all depends on your goal. If you aim to introduce new customers to your brand and raise awareness, influencer marketing is the right strategy for you.

Q: What is influencer marketing strategy?

The whole process of researching, choosing and implementing an influencer in your marketing strategy.

Q: How much do you pay influencers?

It depends and there is no one definitive answer. Each influencer is different and each marketing campaign has a roughly set budget, so it all comes down to meeting in the middle.

Hopefully, we managed to clarify what influencer marketing is and how it can be useful for your brand. Till next time!

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