What is influencer marketing? Why does your brand need it?
94% of marketers use influencer marketing because it drives 11x more ROI than traditional digital marketing channels. What is influencer marketing? Not - as voiced by many critics - a trend. It works. It works big! Reach a larger audience. Increase conversions, trust, ROI, and brand awareness. Here’s how, along with the results of our Influencer Marketing Survey...
Check out what 800+ marketing and PR experts think in our Global State of Influencer Marketing survey.
No longer can brands rely on celebrity endorsements and ads. As consumers, we’re numbed to hard-sell adverts and fluffy marketing messages. Too many irrelevant ads. Too many intrusive pop-ups. Too many celebrities pretending they use a particular brand of washing powder.
We were already tiring of brand-speak. Then along came Millennials. They broke with expected consumer behavior. They didn’t believe the ads. They wanted social proof before they parted with their cash. They turned to influencers they respected, valuing their brand reviews. Their opinions. Marketing to Millennials became a real thing.
The buzz in the marketplace is now so loud that we’re tuning out. We’re ignoring what we don’t want to hear. Instead, we’re turning to social media and following people that we trust. Reading their reviews, taking their advice, sharing our own opinions.
In this guide, I’m going to talk to you about influencer marketing. How it evolved. The future. I’ll show you brands that are rocking influencer marketing. I'll include an influencer briefing template you can download for free. It's a big read, but I promise you that it’s relevant, helpful, and exhaustive.
Table of contents
- What is influencer marketing?
- Influencer definition
- Is influencer marketing a new thing?
- Why your brand needs influencer marketing
- How can influencers help your business?
- How to start your influencer marketing campaign
- How to find the best influencers for your brand
- Planning your influencer campaign - 7 examples
- How to brief your influencer template
- 7 influencer marketing tips
- How to measure your influencer marketing campaign
- The future of influencer marketing
Exactly what it sounds like. To promote your brand, you get an influential person to share it with their followers.
Throughout this guide, I’m going to share some examples of brands rocking influencer marketing, along with the stats that demonstrate how impactful your influencer campaigns could be.
Talkwalker Analytics - Diageo and its brands trending over the Christmas period.
Generally, when we think of influencers, Instagram comes to mind - pretty people, Instagrammable products. While Instagram is the favored channel, there are plenty of influencers influencing on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. And, it’s not restricted to social media. There are more influential bloggers online than you can swing a cat at.
What social media brought to the table, was imagery.
Yes, we could read about a new lipstick, car, trainer and look at a photo of someone modelling the product. Now, we can watch Selena Gomez pursing her lips, Lewis Hamilton racing to another party, Messi kicking a ball around.
While you're here, Dan's 12 dos and don'ts for a great influencer marketing strategy, shares great advice. Take a look!
What is an influencer?
That’d be someone with the power to sway the purchasing decisions of others - you and me. They’re able to do this because they are considered an authority in their area of expertise.
Social media is the perfect tool for influencers, where they can build up large followings of people who value their opinions. There are several ways that influencers become influencers:
- Celebrities - the original influencers, boasting huge audiences, but costly
- Industry experts and thought leaders - qualified in a particular niche - macro and micro
- Bloggers - big followings and readers that seek out their opinions
While a large following is impressive, it only confirms that a person is popular. To be influential, they have to be trusted.
Talkwalker Analytics - Luxury watch brand using celebrity and macro influencers.
I frequently read articles claiming influencer marketing is the next big thing. It brings epic results. It is the future.
In the 1920s, Coca-Cola introduced someone new to its marketing campaigns. A well-padded gentleman wearing a red suit and a wide smile. His suit was trimmed with white fur and his face sprouted a big, bushy, white beard. His name?
Whether Coca-Cola created this version, is the stuff of marketing legends, and possibly a future blog post. What we can be sure of is that he became one of the most famous influencers ever.
So, no. Influencer marketing is not the next big thing. It’s been a big thing for a very long time.
What is true, is the recent meteoric rise of influencer marketing. Why is this a thing? What put paid to traditional digital marketing techniques?
Ad blockers - 47% of consumers are blocking intrusive ads.
Traditional advertising took a hit. As consumers, we’re turned off by brands using hard-sell marketing techniques. We put our trust in people, with 92% trusting product recommendations from individuals over brands.
Do you remember the last time you paid a banner ad any attention? Or do you suffer from banner blindness, like me? For those that find them intrusive, AdBlockers are the way to go. According to Google, the average click thru rate for banners is 0.06%.
Ouch! That’s a lot of people ignoring ads.
As marketers, how should we address this issue? The obvious answer is social media marketing. Scrolling and tweeting on Twitter, sharing and staring on Instagram, we spend hours browsing social. But, with maybe a couple of hundred followers, our reach isn’t going to get us very far.
Social media networks, realizing their advertising worth, have make it harder for businesses to engage with organic posts. Facebook changed its news feeds so that users see more status updates from friends and family. Business pages lost visibility.
To be clear, here are 5 reasons why you need to include influencers in your marketing strategy:
- Consumers trust influencer recommendations - 83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over brands, and 66% from opinions posted by consumers online.
- Influencer marketing delivers healthy ROI - according to Adweek, influencer campaigns earn $6.85 in earned media value for every dollar spent - you can’t lose!
- Influencers boost brand awareness - bringing authenticity to your brand and strengthening your social media presence.
- The dominance of social media - Instagram is the champion of influencer marketing with 12.9 million brand sponsored posts in 2017, expected to double in 2018. With a market size of nearly $1.7 billion.
Social media channels - reach vs number of influencers - Sponsokit.
- AdBlockers and the fast-forward button - in 2015, brands lost $21.8 billion to ad blockers, expected to increase to 35 billion in 2020. Ads can be skipped and ignored, while many streaming services are now commercial-free.
If you do influencer marketing like a rock star, everyone wins. You, your influencer, your influencer’s followers.
Influencers are brand advocates, using social media to increase their credibility about a particular subject. A good influencer can persuade followers to change their purchasing behavior. You can use influencer content to promote your brand, grow your business, and increase consumer trust.
You can go one of two ways. Organic or paid. While the organic approach works, you’ll get a more proactive influencer if you’re paying them a wage.
Stating the obvious, I know.
Here’s how an influencer could help your brand:
- Writing an article, creating a video about your product or service
- Promoting your brand on their social media accounts
- Publishing your guest post on their website
If you’re lucky enough, there are plenty of influencers out there prepared to promote your brand for free, simply because they love your product.
Influencer marketing example
In 2000, ASOS was launched as a UK fashion retailer. Today, it sells over 80,000 products around the world. How did it become so successful?
Its influencer marketing campaign - ASOS Insiders - was such a huge success that it now has 20M+ social media followers, and over the last year has earned over 1.4 billion product views.
Influencer marketing done well will help you boost the authenticity of your brand and increase trust. It will drive engagement, traffic to your website, and conversions. Big brand names, small or medium-sized businesses, influencer marketing will work for you, regardless of budget size.
Here’s how to get started:
Define your goals
The goal of any marketing campaign is to prove that you can provide value to a target audience. With an influencer marketing campaign, you have to prove that you can bring value to the followers of your influencer.
Why are you planning an influencer marketing campaign? What do you want to get from it? It’s important that you answer these questions before you start planning. Without goals, you won’t be equipped to choose the most appropriate influencer, and you certainly won’t be able to measure your results.
- If your goal is to improve your performance, you’ll need to be specific - increase engagement rate, conversions, brand awareness, trust, website traffic
- Increasing your number of social media followers
- Are you launching a new product?
- Do you have an event that you’re looking to promote?
Your goals have to tie in with your KPIs, so you can measure the success of your campaign. If you’re looking to increase newsletter sign-ups, that will be a solid KPI that you can measure.
Create SMART goals - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based. A goal of increasing brand awareness is vague and can’t be measured. Increasing your Twitter followers by 25% over the next six months is SMART. You’ll be able to see if your influencer campaign is working or not.
Create great content
Your content has to be awesome, otherwise you won’t get any self-respecting influencer willing to work with you. A 600 word blog post stuffed with keywords, irrelevant links, and spelling errors - won’t cut it. Your content has to be:
- Fit for purpose
- Pleasing to the eye
- Beneficial to readers
Content ideas could include:
- Expert roundups
- Influencer quotes
- Expert tips and tricks
- Product reviews
Goals decided, now you need influencers to help you score. Make sure that the influencers you choose are loyal to your brand and understand your goals.
Is your influencer loyal to your brand?
Talkwalker Analytics - @gvnegirl has great brand sentiment and regularly mentons relevant themes when tweeting.
- Increase trust and sentiment in your brand - niche influencers who’re able to create genuine content and are respected by their followers
- Build brand awareness - big names with massive reach
- Drive engagement - micro-influencers relevant to your brand with high engagement
- Product launch - thought leader, industry expert, niche - with good reach
- Drive conversions - all types of influencers will work - micro, macro, niche
Which type of influencer you choose depends on what you’re aiming for with your campaign. But, you should remember that increasing your reach will compromise your engagement.
The reach vs engagement compromise.
How many people is your chosen influencer reaching? How much engagement are they driving? Your potential audience, is it interacting with the content?
Talkwalker social media analytics - analyzing the most influential authors for Thor Ragnarok, @Jedi_Jill generated almost the same engagement as @ComicBookNOW, despite having significantly lower reach.
Made your decision?
Now you need to find them, and there are three ways to do this:
- Organic - you search, and search, and build relationships. It works and it’s cheap, but it takes time.
- Agencies - you pay an influencer marketing agency to do the hunting for you and help with management
- Tools - use a specialist online platform, a single hub to link your teams, your influencers, and your influencer marketing campaigns.
Technology is essential, but it can never replace the human brain. Technology is great, but you'll always need humans, internally or within an agency, to bring sense to the data.
Different types of influencers
There are three types of influencers. Your choice depends on your budget, brand, and product. Kim Kardashian is never going to be a good match for gardening tools.
Celebrity endorsement is the oldest type of influencer marketing. Back in the day you’d find John Wayne promoting cigarettes, Paul Newman sipping Coca-Cola, and Ronald Reagan reviewing hair products. Yes, massive reach when working with celebs, but it’s not all smooth sailing.
- They’re expensive - we’re talking $100,000s for a single post
- Consumers don’t trust celebrity endorsements as much as they used to - they’ve wised up
- Sales may not increase if the celebrity and your target market aren’t a match
‘Accidental’ celebrity endorsement still works, and by that I mean a celebrity getting caught on camera, wearing a particular a brand. For instance, every time one of the younger UK royals wears something - The Kate Effect!
These guys have a lot of followers - we’re talking millions. They’re considered experts in their field - the difference between macro and celebs. Ask someone on the street, and they’ve probably not heard of a macro influencer. But in their niche? They’re rock stars.
They’re not going to be cheap. They’ll be careful who they work with as their reputation is at stake.
The vast majority of influencers are micro. As with macro influencers, it’s unlikely they’d be recognized by Jo Public, but in their niche they’re recognized as experts.
Micro influencers have more followers than you and me - 500 to 10,000 - but not so huge that they demand ridiculous fees. However, they get high levels of engagement as their followers acknowledge that they’re thought leaders.
When choosing your influencers, look for those that have a strong and loyal audience. Their fans and followers should match those of your brand.
You can’t really expect influencers to share their followers without some kind of compensation. Work out what you can spend and choose a compensation method that works for both parties. Here’re a few examples:
- Cost per engagement - how many engagements they get via their content
- Cost per click - the number of clicks you receive on your landing page
- Pay per post - fixed fee for each post they produce
- Free products - free access to your tool, free products, etc.
- Cost per conversion - the number of conversions they drive - subscribe to newsletter, buy your product, submit a form, etc.
Cost per engagement and cost per click are considered the most effective payment methods.
What type of campaign are you looking to launch? Choose according to what will work for your brand and the goals you want to achieve.
Instagram - influencer marketing champion
Because Instagram won’t let all users add links to their posts, ask your influencers to create their own storefronts. They can share photos of your products and include a link to their storefront in their bio. They’ll be displaying images of your products with a link to each product page. This is great UX for any of their followers looking to buy your products.
Competitions & giveaways
If you’re after brand awareness, a competition or giveaway is a great way to work with your influencer. Ask you influencer to launch your competition or you launch, and they promote. Along with increasing brand awareness, competitions can increase your social media followers and your email/newsletter subscriber list.
Sponsored blog post
Content posted on an influencer’s blog or website has benefits that can’t be matched by a social media post. A blog post will be indexed and ranked by search engines, ensuring a longer life online.
Yes, there are risks with a PR stunt. It might not work. It might backfire in your face. You might not achieve your goals. But when they go as planned, they’re epic! The buzz surrounding them can be huge and this is when you’re most likely to go viral.
Social media campaign
Okay, it won’t last as long as a blog post, but it’s seriously worth it. When planning, be clear with your influencers as to your goal. Which channels do you want them to post on? How many times per day/week/month would you like them to share?
Affiliate marketing means that your influencer receives commission for every sale they generate via their content and level of influence. Tracking the ROI of your influencer campaign is easy and the added incentive, encourages your influencer to promote heavily.
Make space in your content calendar for a guest post from one of your influencers. It’s a two-way street so be prepared to compensate and link back to their site.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let me know how they go!
Be clear. Don’t bore. Don’t forget key information. I’ve created a free influencer briefing template that you can download.
You’ll need to include:
- A summary of your company. Include your core brand guidelines. Keep it simple, but never assume they’ve heard of you.
- Detail your key product(s). Not your entire catalog, just the ones you want them to promote. Focus on the key benefits and the negatives you’d like to counteract.
- Include links, reviews, and other product advertising.
- Share successful campaigns you’ve run. Include your competitors’ campaigns, and/or campaigns that your influencer has done in the past that you loved.
- Let your influencer know your ideas, without too many constraints. Just as inspiration.
- What do you want to achieve? Share your goals.
- What are the key points you want your audience to take home? Include keywords, straplines, hashtags.
- Which social media channel(s) would you like to promote on? Don’t ignore the influencer’s established audience. If they’re Twitter focused, it would be a mistake to ask them to promote on YouTube. You’ll need a different influencer.
- How many branded messages are you looking for?
- What’s the timeline for content creation? Will there be a brainstorm to share ideas?
- When do you want your influencer campaign to go live?
- If it’s to be a multimedia campaign - what other elements will you be producing and when will they go live?
- Provide a liaison officer so lines of communication are kept open throughout the campaign.
With some brands still reticent about jumping on influencer marketing, I’ve drawn up a list of tips to ensure that your campaigns run smoothly and effectively.
Choose your platforms logically
Launch your influencer marketing campaigns on the platforms that your ideal customers are using. If they’re business professionals - LinkedIn. Teenagers - Snapchat and Instagram.
Do due diligence
Unfortunately, fraud has reared its ugly head and brands are having to address influencer fraud.
Hugely popular influencers charge hugely high fees. But, some of those considered hugely popular are being judged by how many followers they have, rather than their skill as an influencer. Where’s the fraud?
Bots - which happen to us all - and unscrupulous influencers. Sad but true, you need to do regular checks, or lose money.
Check post history of your influencers
Before you reach out to any new influencers, take a look at previous posts they’ve shared. Keep your distance if you find anything that would be considered controversial - racism, sexism, politics, etc.
Don’t be swayed by numbers
Justin Bieber has 105 million followers on Twitter. Nice! But, would his followers be interested in purchasing retirement homes? Instead, consider micro-influencers - 50,000 followers or less - active in your industry or popular with your target audience.
Look at the engagement being generated by your prospective influencers’ posts - likes, shares, comments.
Reach out to influencers
Follow them, engage with their content, comment on their posts, email them, direct message them. Reach out to them and explain why you think everyone would benefit if a partnership was formed, and how your product will work for their audience.
Let your influencers off the leash
Influencers know their followers better than you. And, their followers will see through unauthentic messages. Regulate them, sure. But, allow them to be creative.
Keeping them honest
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission published a list of rules to ensure, “Influencers should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.”
Talkwalker Analytics - number of mentions of Nissan X-Train since the campaign launch.
Is it working?
All that hard work. Your influencer is promoting your brand, big time! But, unless you measure, you won’t truly know whether it’s working or not.
It’s time to analyze results.
Analyze from the start
If you think you’ll see overnight success, you’re in for a big disappointment. It takes time. An influencer’s goal is to create an impact, feeding their messages to their followers over time. It’ll be the same for your brand.
If you track results from the start, you’ll find what’s working well and then you can amplify. Our virality map will show you how your campaign message is diffusing around the world. As it happens! You’ll see which blogs, sites, news stories, tweets, and posts are sharing your content, and which of those are being shared significantly.
Talkwalker virality map - watch your influencer marketing campaign spread as it happens!
Wow, that source is generating more shares than others. Jump in there and give it a push. Either by promoting it yourself or asking your influencer to interact with it. While you’re there, hunt down any major disseminators - potential influencers for your next marketing campaign.
The virality map will not only show how your content is travelling around the world, it will also highlight any territories that you’re not targeting in your campaign. Check out with your influencer whether they can engage, or bring in a new influencer relevant to the area.
Post influencer campaign tracking
This is where you find out if you scored your intended goals. While you had specific goals, you may have created impact elsewhere. For instance, increasing product sales was your aim, but your campaign may have increased social media followers. It’s important that you check thoroughly. You can also look at…
Check all networks, not just those you focused on. Did you increase Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers? How many unique visitors do you have to your blog post?
Your audience isn’t restricted to those that follow you. It includes those that follow your audience. Remember, every user could be a low-level influencer. If they share your message, it’ll spread further.
Consider views, reach, and impressions to see how wide reaching your message was.
It’s not about who saw your message. It’s about who interacted with it. Reading is great, engagement is awesome! To check this out, look at post Likes, Comments, etc., to identify how much of your audience is engaging.
Talkwalker Analytics - what to look for when analyzing your results.
Identifying how consumers feel about your campaign is hard to measure without social data analysis. Here’s where I direct you towards my Sentiment Analysis Guide. It explains how to pull out all the insights you need, along with the best sentiment analysis tool. Use this in tandem with The Guide to Social Media Analytics.
Influencer marketing, as I’ve said, solves issues faced by traditional marketing - banner blindness, ad blockers. We can expect the practice to evolve with changes in trends, audiences, and influencer tools.
In 2018 the future of influencer marketing looks rosy. It navigates many of the stumbling blocks of traditional marketing. For instance, audience fragmentation on conventional media, and banner blindness with online marketing.
It hasn’t all been positive. Accusations of fake followers and dodgy pricing can be heard. But, increased engagement, solid ROI, and the appreciation of authenticity are drowning out the critics.
If you aren’t using influencer marketing as part of your marketing strategy, you’re in danger of missing out on the huge potential it offers. So, where are we heading?
Unilever recently announced that it won’t work with influencers who buy followers, and nor should you.
Some influencers will charge based on how many followers they have. Unfortunately, unscrupulous influencers have taken advantage of this and paid for followers. While it’s certainly not the norm, Unilever taking this stand against fake followers has alerted brands to the possibility of paying for eyeballs that aren’t there.
The popular choice because they bring high engagement, and are cost effective. It’s all about the relationship and interaction they have with their followers, as opposed to the number of followers.
78% of influencers choose Instagram over other social networks for sharing branded content. Two reasons I can think of - we’re living in a time where visuals count for more than words and… it’s easier to create a visual that write an article.
Follow the rules
The FTC published guidelines you’ll have to adhere to. Influencers must be transparent about their relationship with your brand - free endorsements or paid for. It must be clear that they’re working for you - you’ve seen #ad, #sponsored - now you know why.
Example of PR stunt meltdown
Way back in 2012, Mars - parent company of Snickers - paid celebrities to share five tweets. Celebrities included Katie Price, Ian Botham, Amir Khan. The first four tweets were - considering the celebrities - odd. Out of character. Footballer, Rio Ferdinand tweeted about knitting a cardigan, while boxer, Amir Khan, tweeted about his stamp collection! The final tweets, used the strapline, “you’re not your when you’re hungry.” Included was the hashtag, #spon - short for sponsored tweet - and @snickersUK. Clever or misleading?
The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints that the campaign was misleading because the brand was absent from the first four tweets, but argued the case. Sky News quoted an Office of Fair Trading spokesperson as saying that UK law demanded it be clear, “if endorsements in blogs, posts, and microblogs like Twitter have been make in return for payment or payment in kind.”
Amir Khan tweets about his passion for stamp collecting.
Everyone is recognizing the value of using influencers, including influencers. Giving access to your tool or sending them a free sample, will no longer make the grade. You’ll have to pay, which considering they’re working for you, is fair.
Multiple social channels
Where are your consumers, your target audience? Make sure you have influencers for all the social media channels where you’re looking to promote your brand.
Influencer marketing tools are on the rise as marketers realize the need to measure and analyze the effectiveness of their influencer campaigns. Metrics include click thru rate, campaign progress, ROI, engagement rate, etc. Find out what’s working and what isn’t, so you can tweak and improve.
Yes, they’re a thing! They’re Instagram influencers, designed/created to look like human beings. Currently, fashion and beauty brands are bewitched by them.
Take a look @lilmiquela. A top CGI influencer, used by brands such as Prada.
While they’re intriguing and certainly, cutting-edge. There are things that marketers should consider if they’re going to give them a go.
They’re not real. Therefore, they’re fake. Therefore it’s a lie. They don’t get spots. They don’t get fat. They can’t taste. They can’t answer your questions honestly. Authenticity is broken.
Plus, with the FTC coming down hard on brands using influencers, CGI influencers is a bit of a grey area.
Keep the following points in mind to ensure your next influencer campaign is a winner for everyone.
- Using social media influencers as a marketing tactic is a popular and effective method to reach a large audience and increase brand awareness
- Credibility, attractiveness, and relatability are among the key indicators of an influencer’s ability to influence. And they can be explained by psychological concepts like social proof, attractiveness bias, and social identity theory
- Influencer marketing campaigns are especially useful to connect with Millennials and Gen Z
- Don’t jump into this trend haphazardly - take your time to find an influencer that matches your brand, and is able to deliver an authentic message to the specific target group you’re trying to reach, and be upfront about it.
If you've any questions or any influencer marketing tips you'd like to share with our readers, please let me know.
Hope you find this guide valuable. Download your free copy of The 7 Deadly Wins of Influencer Marketing.
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