Influencer marketing has grown into an entire world of its own—there are now influencer talent agencies, and Angellist has 151 companies categorized as “influencer marketing startups.” Since influencer marketing began to really generate buzz, (according to Google Trends, this wasn’t until early 2015), the practice has become more widespread and more sophisticated.
The numbers show that influencer marketing is popular, and continuing on an upward trend. A recent survey indicated that a major portion of brands that employ influencer marketing will be devoting significantly more budget to it in the future.
Influencer marketing can take different forms. It may feature major figures within a narrower field of interest, like B2B thought leaders within a certain industry, or celebrities who have broad appeal but still connect to your target audience. Either way, an increasing amount of brands are taking advantage of influencer marketing to reach fans.
The advantages may seem obvious—influencers do have, well, influence, a valuable commodity in marketing. But the advantages of it run deeper. There are serious strategic benefits to a well-conceived influencer marketing strategy. The advantages are such that studies have cited influencer marketing as one of the most cost-effective ways of getting your message out there and reaching your audience. Here’s a breakdown of some key influencer marketing benefits.
The right reach
Influencers become influencers for a reason. They build up significant audiences by having a unique perspective or voice, by creating content, by diving into a subject, and basically by doing something that resonates strongly with a specific group of people. An influencer’s audience has something more in common than just having followed that person; they’re likely similar in certain ways, which can help make influencer marketing more effective than other tactics.
For example, your brand may have seven different attributes that you’ve found your target customer is likely to share. They could be young, urban, single, upwardly-mobile women who order takeout food frequently. All of that is valuable knowledge in terms of creating messages that will reach them.
But sometimes an influencer can provide a stronger link to the people you’re trying to reach than any one variable.
Fans of a specific singer, let’s say, Sia, might share the same traits that your target customers do. But they also share something more specific, they are drawn to that influencer for reasons that are harder to capture in demographic terms—these people share tastes, personality traits, and other intangibles.
— sia (@Sia) March 17, 2016
@beaglefreedom got a significant boost in reach with the help of Sia – i.e. 1000% increase in # of retweets.
If your brand image is aligned with that of an influencer, and her fans are close to your target customer, you can create a more effective form of targeting by tapping into those intangibles. By connecting with the right influencers, you may not only be boosting your reach, you could be finding a new, highly-effective way to reach audiences that are prone to purchase, ones that may have been harder or more expensive to reach with more traditional targeting options.
Increasing credibility and affinity
It is becoming more difficult to get through to an audience with your content. They may see it, but if they are unfamiliar with you brand, they won’t necessarily place a lot of trust in it. Influencer marketing can help on this front in a few different ways.
First, there’s the actual content of the message. There’s a big difference between saying that “our product is amazing” and having someone else say “No really, it is.” When 84 percent of millennials are wary of brand messages, bolstering credibility with testimonials and trust-building with people separate from your brand becomes essential.
Beyond that, being associated with the right influencers has an overall positive effect on your brand. If the people you want to reach share a love of a certain influencer, then having that person involved in your marketing lends a positive halo to your brand. If people haven’t heard of your brand, but know an influencer who’s involved with a campaign, and they hear about your brand through her, it’s the best introduction you can get. If people already know your brand, and they see an influencer tweet about you, it helps to solidify the customer relationship with your brand.
The thing to watch out for—you can’t force this. If you throw tons of money at someone to endorse your product just because they’ve got a healthy Instagram following, you risk coming off as tone-deaf or out of touch. The influencer has to make sense for your audience, and you have to make sense for the influencer’s. Less product-focused content is generally more credible coming from influencers than a hard sell. And don’t forget that in most places, any sort of paid influencer relationship has to be disclosed.
Boosting effectiveness of your content strategy
Besides being a potential source of new, targeted reach and improving your credibility, good influencer marketing supplements an overall content strategy in a way that brings significant value. Even if people do see your content, it’s hard to get people to actually pay attention. An influencer operates on a different ‘frequency’ than a brand, one where it can be easier to get people to tune in.
It doesn’t replace a content strategy; instead it’s a very strong augmentation to one. Being associated with a personality can make the rest of your content resonate more; it brings a certain level of buzz or excitement that can be hard to generate with straight brand content.
A well-done influencer campaign can operate alongside brand content to sow seeds of a more active, engaged community and help improve your online brand reputation.
The best way to activate such nice synergy? Plan all your content, influencer and brand, together—the two can’t live separately. Instead, choose which messages will be best if coming from an influencer (often affinity-based messages), and determine how to create other content that will complement and boost their impact while also considering if there are places where it would be appropriate for influencer content to tie in with “straight” brand content.
If influencer marketing seems like a decent strategy now, just wait a few years. For Generation Z, there is no line at all between “traditional” celebrities and those that became famous through their presence on social networks. Those new influencers, with large followings, are driving some of the most prominent influencer campaigns now, and will be a key to reaching their younger cohorts in a few years. If you want to create the most effective influencer campaigns you can, you should be getting started now.