An introduction to influencer marketing – and ways to use it right now

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 24 Aug, 2016
View comments Marketing
Influencer marketing is increasingly becoming an essential promotional discipline for businesses all over the world.

As consumers gravitate to word-of-mouth recommendations, social media and user reviews to help them make their purchase decisions, the use of influencer marketing can help get your brand messages across in a more authentic way. But what exactly is influencer marketing and how can you use it to enhance your marketing strategy as a whole?

Step one: What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing involves commissioning key individuals in order to get the word out about your brand, your product or your service. These individuals are the influencers – they are likely to have large social media followings and their verdict is seen as trustworthy and sincere.

This type of marketing differs from many others in that the influencer is often given the freedom and flexibility to promote and endorse the brand or product in whichever way best fits their own lifestyle and image. If you were to hire five influencers to promote your product, each one would likely come up with a different take on it.

What is an influencer?

Though a large social media following is a prerequisite for an influencer, they also need to possess a number of other traits and qualities:

Ability to reach out and engage online. An influencer must be able to connect with other users on a range of platforms, as well as promoting their own work on the channels that are most suited to their audience. Influencers won’t be one dimensional - look for those who are active across a range of platforms, such as two or more social media channels.

Thought leadership. An influencer is usually someone who is considered to have a high level understanding of a certain niche, whether that’s baking, beauty, sport, gaming or travel.

Trustworthy. Because of the influencer’s thought leadership, they’re also considered a trustworthy source of information by their followers.

Step two: why invest in it?

In a world where many consumers can bypass traditional advertisements easily, influencer marketing occupies a convenient middle-ground between conventional advertising and word-of-mouth marketing. By using influencers as an authentic and trustworthy conduit for a marketing message, you can avoid much of the cynicism that accompanies the established forms of marketing that consumers are moving away from.

Depending on the campaign, results may include increased website traffic, better brand awareness, more social media followers or more sales. In some cases, you might end up with all of these results.

When LG wanted to increase its US market share, it turned to top YouTuber, Devin Graham. Graham created a series of tutorials and videos, primarily targeting editors, designers and musicians - segments carefully chosen to align with LG products. Graham promoted the videos and collaboration via social media, resulting in 1.6 million YouTube views. The campaign also reached 5.4 million social media users.

Step three: how to do it

Influencer marketing usually goes hand-in-hand with social media marketing and content marketing. It can take a range of forms.

If you want to get started in the world of influencer marketing, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Establish what you’re trying to accomplish. What are your goals? Are you trying to generate buzz around a new product? Are you trying to increase your reputation as a trustworthy, authentic brand? Perhaps boosting sales is your key aim. Whatever your goals are, make sure you keep them in mind throughout your entire influencer marketing endeavor.
  • Find the most relevant influencers for your brand or industry. If you’re active on social media, you should already know some of the most influential online figures in your particular sector. A range of digital tools are also available to help with this task (Traackr, followerwonk and Kred are good examples). You’ll need to make sure they have an audience that aligns with your target demographic but also consider things such as other brands they work with, how active they are, how much engagement their posts get and what their track record on previous collaborations is like.
  • Look to develop long-term relationships with your influencers. Try to cultivate some type of relationship before you even think of asking the influencer to join forces with your business. This could mean inviting them to an event, commenting on blog posts or liking or sharing their social media posts.
  • Shortlist ways you can collaborate. You’ll need a compelling proposition for the influencer to pique their interest. This could be in the form of free products, ambassadorial roles or something else entirely. Be armed with a few suggestions and be open to the influencer’s creative input too.
  • Make sure you comply with the ASA’s regulations on making ads clear when you have an influencer secured and a campaign planned. Advertisements must always be obviously identifiable as advertisements. If you’ve entered into a commercial partnership with an influencer, they must state the fact that their posts, updates or videos are ads – if they don’t, you could both be in breach of the Advertising Code. Google also states that free gifts to bloggers for product reviews and sampling purposes should also be clearly mentioned on the blog or site in question. Find out more about this here.
  • Don’t neglect your other marketing streams. Marketing has to be multidisciplinary to have a real impact. Your influencers are obviously an important piece of the puzzle, but there are other pieces which are also essential such as keeping up with your citation building, making sure your site is mobile friendly for SEO purposes and creating and curating engaging, useful and relevant content.

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