Move over Mad Men â€“ traditional advertising is being edged out by a younger, fresher, digital option: influencer marketing.
Word-of-mouth is one of the most valuable forms of marketing â€“ potential customers are much more likely to follow up on recommendations from a person that they know and trust than from and advert or other corporate messaging. In the digital world, word-of-mouth extends beyond the recommendations of friends into the domain of influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing pairs social media influencers (individuals who have a large, trusted audience network on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram) with businesses looking to promote their products to new and existing customers through the influencerâ€™s social channels.
This effective advertising option has become extremely popular in recent years thanks to the rise of social media, and many companies now allocate a stand-alone budget for sponsored social for their brand.
Who are they?
From YouTuberâ€™s and bloggers to industry experts and activists, social media influencers are usually prolific users of social media with a great following and credibility within their chosen niche. Here are a few examples:
The YouTuber: Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella)
Following the success of her blog, Zoe Sugg, better known by her social media alias, Zoella, created her YouTube channel in 2009. Zoellaâ€™s YouTube channel showcases make-up tutorials and fashion hauls, attracting over 11 million subscribers and counting.
The Blogger: Mario Armando Lavanderia Jr. (aka Perez Hilton)
Mario, or Perez, began his celebrity gossip blog as a hobby. Hiltonâ€™s unapologetic approach to celebrity culture drew in thousands of readers, and within the first six months, his blog was named â€˜Hollywoodâ€™s Most-Hated Websiteâ€™ by The Insider, which only raised his ratings even higher. All publicity is good publicity, right?
The Industry Expert: Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, the leading education and training organisation for content marketing. Joe has not only authored several books, he writes one of the most influential content marketing blogs in the world alongside a column for the Entrepreneur.com.
The Activist: Leonardo DiCaprio
Over recent years, DiCaprio has leveraged his celebrity influence through social media and public appearances to help advance the United Nations climate negotiations, protect coral reefs and tigers, and spread public awareness about the dangers of climate change.
While celebrities are often given influencer status because of their high profile, celebrity status doesnâ€™t always equate to effective influencer marketing â€“ sorry, Fyre Festival. A leaked pitch from the music festival revealed that celebrities and models were given flights and tickets to Fyre Festival in exchange for deceptive promotional posts, violating trade law.
The Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to celebrities, stating that anyone endorsing a brand must “clearly and conspicuously” state that the post is an advertisement to avoid audience deception.
What do they do?
Social media influencers collaborate with businesses to create campaigns that increase brand awareness and drive sales by promoting a brand or product to their social audience. Businesses usually compensate influencers monetarily, or with free samples of a product.
Whatâ€™s the process?
Inflencer marketing typically follows a three step process:
- Create: Value added content about a product or service to share with their blog readers or social channels
- Post: Product reviews, contests, giveaways, coupons, personal stories about products or services, videos and more
- Influence: Share content across multiple channels to increase awareness of the brand, product, or service
What should I look for in an influencer?
Whether youâ€™re looking to follow an influencer or collaborate with one, there a few key things you should look out for:
- High engagement: Itâ€™s not enough to be active online â€“ influencers should look to engage with followers and work to form a relationship
- High quality content: An influencer should produce and share top-notch content, not run-of-the-mill articles that you can find anywhere on the internet
- Brand consistency: You want an influencer that matches your brandâ€™s tone, style and mission
Influencer marketing may be one of the most popular marketing trends right now, but you still need to make sure you do your research and make sure that your efforts align with your overall marketing strategy. Donâ€™t forget to track your results to improve performance, just as you would with any other marketing tool.