The concepts that underpin influencer marketing have been around as long as marketing itself – representing strategies as historic and diverse as Wedgewood showing off their royal approval in the 1760s, Steve McQueen smoking Viceroy’s in the fifties and George Clooney sipping on Nespresso since 2006.
It is in the last fifteen years, however, that what we once thought of as “celebrity endorsement” has broadened in scope and potential with the rise of social media and offered more opportunities for brands to reach new people.
Social media has nurtured a generation of creatives, experts and trendsetters who may never categorize themselves as a celebrity, but who nevertheless enjoy a loyal following and vibrant online presence as successful influencers and bloggers.
What is an Influencer?
An influencer is anyone who has the potential to sway the purchasing decisions of others, having amassed fans or a following, and cultivated a relationship with this audience. Traditionally, this has mainly concerned celebrities or sportspeople – who many people admire and wish to emulate – but in recent years, the growth of digital and content marketing has meant that other forms of influencer have come to the fore.
Today, an influencer might be someone who gained a following on Instagram simply by being relatable, having great photography skills and a sharp eye for fashion – engaging and interacting with their followers and creating an authentic sense of connection. Another may have a smaller audience but be an authority in their particular niche – which can range from everything from “cleanfluencers” (who’ll tell you how to keep your house clean) to therapists offering online wisdom.
Unlike celebrities, whose public image is usually the result of careful media management, influencers have often gained their audience through their own work and social media savvy over the course of many years. Often, their relationship with their audience has grown organically and is therefore more sincere and authentic, and influencers vary wildly in personality, priorities, and preferences.
This variety means that brands on a range of budgets and from a plethora of industries can benefit from influencer marketing, and analytics tools can help them ensure that they are targeting the audience they most want to reach.
What are the key factors in influencer marketing?
To create a successful influencer marketing campaign, there are some key considerations which must be taken into account
Identifying the best influencers to work with requires deciding on certain keystones in your campaign early on. Some things you may want to think about are
- What is achievable on your budget?
Would it be more valuable for you to work with one influencer with a very large audience, or several “micro influencers” whose audience may be smaller, but enjoy greater engagement?
- Which platform do you wish to work on?
Many modern marketing campaigns are multi-channel, but influencers are often happiest in one particular medium, and will focus any collaboration there.
- Will your chosen influencer/s truly have an affinity with your brand?
Influencers have often built their social media presence and personal brand from the ground up and are therefore naturally protective of their reputation as a person their followers can trust. It is likely any offer of collaboration will be rejected if they aren’t personally a fan of your products, services, or ethos.
While alignment between the personal brand name of a celebrity and a business wishing to partner with them has always been vital, for influencers it is even more important. For influencers, it is their public image (which encompasses their expertise and skills) which is their most bankable asset, and that image is often very close to their authentic personality.
It can also be helpful to research beyond your first choice and look further than sheer followers or subscribers, as you may be amazed at how close a fit to your needs you are able to find. For example, Youtuber and makeup artist Bailey Sarian created a video series called “Mystery & Makeup” – essentially, putting on makeup while discussing a true crime story in her own imitable way – which proved the perfect collaboration opportunity for the immersive murder mystery game Hunt A Killer.
As there are many forms of influencer marketing, you will also need to consider which strategy will benefit your brand most – whether it’s sponsored content, product placement or direct reviews.
Creating a Marketing Strategy
It can be easy to imagine that one you have engaged an influencer that the rest of your marketing campaign will fall into place, but it is important to put together a strategy – determining your budget, schedule, deliverables, and desired results. You will also need to ascertain whether you wish to find influencers organically or work through an agency, who will have experience in connecting brands to personalities and greater access to a variety of influencers.
Working with influencers requires an integration of your PR schedules and an understanding of what that influencer can truly deliver for you. Influencer marketing campaigns can lose much of their potential if there isn’t an agreement on what you can expect from their collaboration.
For example, you may find it far more valuable to work with three Instagrammers who all have around 20,000 followers and are truly enthusiastic about your product, than one who has a hundred thousand followers and after lengthy discussions, costly exclusives and a big investment of time only posts one Instagram Story on your behalf.
While you’ll need to be flexible – you are essentially working with another brand that has its own preferences and priorities – securing your key expectations of the collaboration helps everyone know where they stand and what they can gain from your partnership.
Keeping Up with Changing Trends
The landscape of influencer marketing is in constant flux, which is why it is extremely important to stay up to date with changing trends. Influencers who have 3,000 followers can gain 30,000 in a matter of days should they hit upon something popular and relatable, while others can fall from favour.
The Swedish Youtuber PewDiePie is a good illustration of the many factors which can come into play when choosing who to work with as a brand. While he still enjoys 108 million subscribers and vast popularity, controversies surrounding his choice of language and fanbase in some of the more unsavoury corners of the Internet may make some businesses hesitate before pairing with him.
In the world of social media, events and news stories can be brought to the fore and then forgotten about in a matter of hours. Staying abreast of events will ensure you are aware of the broader trends, which will help you form your strategy accordingly.
Influencer marketing is a powerful tool which can be refined and adapted to perfectly suit the needs of your business. By following some simple guidelines, you can create influencer marketing strategies that will broaden your audience and help you grow.
Author Bio: Broadcast Revolution is a specialist broadcast PR agency providing a fresh and creative way to deliver quality coverage for brands. The specialized expert team creates authentic content that focuses on quality rather than quantity. Services include talent sourcing, media relations, video and podcast production, media training, and much more.