It is a core part of every marketer’s job to build trust with the customer and establish a reliable brand reputation. But just because you say your products and services are great, doesn’t necessarily mean prospective customers will believe you. After all, it’s expected that a marketer will go out of their way to present the company in the best possible light.
This is where a strong influencer marketing strategy can help you build customer trust. Additionally, it can give you a strong competitive advantage by increasing awareness of your brand, helping you better target your audience and enrich your content strategy.
Let’s dive deeper into what influencer marketing is, how it works, and what you’ll need to do in order to take full advantage of it.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing leverages influential people, or influencers, on different social media platforms to convey a brand’s message and promote its products. Influencer marketing is often seen as more “authentic” than other types of marketing since influencers willingly choose to promote a company’s offerings. This social proof allows potential customers to make purchase decisions based on the influencer’s perspective. Social proof is crucially important since 63% of consumers trust influencer messages about a brand more than the brand’s own advertising messages.
Keep in mind that influencer marketing is not about quick wins. It requires building relationships with influencers and should be part of a long-term strategy.
Influencer Marketing vs. Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Although the two terms often get used interchangeably, influencer marketing is not the same as word-of-mouth marketing. Influencer marketing involves endorsements and product mentions from influencers or individuals who are known as experts in their niche or have a dedicated social following. Influencers usually meet certain criteria, such as having a certain number of followers on Instagram or being associated with a certain industry.
An example of an influencer marketing campaign could be a well-known personal trainer sharing their thoughts on your treadmill through a YouTube or Instagram video. Their endorsement or review may influence their followers to research your products, engage with your brand, or even purchase your product. In a Twitter survey, 40% of respondents stated that they bought something online after seeing an influencer use it on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Vine.
Word-of-mouth marketing, on the other hand, comes from your existing, satisfied customers, who may or may not have a social following. Word-of-mouth marketing occurs when these customers tell their friends, family members, and personal acquaintances about the good experience they’ve had with your brand.
Who Are Influencers?
Influencers are people who have the ability to impact the buying decisions of your target audience. In most cases, they have special knowledge or authority about a subject like beauty, fitness, or cooking.
While there are 500 million influencers on Instagram alone, not all influencers have the same expertise, credibility, or authority. The best influencers possess the following traits:
- Positive Reputation: Influencers should be trustworthy, relatable, and have a good relationship with their followers.
- Industry Engagement: Credible influencers have engagement or alignment with the industries for which they promote products or services. If you’re a makeup company, for example, your influencers might have an active makeup artist channel on YouTube. Their engagement gives them the ability to speak to your target audience with authority.
- Creative: The ideal influencers have a knack for posting interesting images, videos, or written content that grabs the attention of users on their respective social platform(s).
- Responsive: The best influencers actively engage with their following through thoughtful comments, likes, shares, and more.
How Does Influencer Marketing Work?
Influencers may showcase your brand by:
- Posting pictures or videos of themselves using your product or service on various platforms
- Posting a review of your product or service on social media platforms
- Writing blog posts about the benefits of your offerings on their own blog or the blog on your website
- Taking over your social media platforms for an hour or day to attract more attention to their endorsement
To better understand how influencer marketing works, let’s look at a specific example. Olay, a popular skincare company, used influencer marketing to boost engagement by 8.33% and connect to young audiences through more authentic messaging.
For their campaign, they partnered with a number of diverse influencers to encourage women to be “unapologetically themselves” and embrace their natural beauty. These influencers consisted of athletes, models, business professionals, and other women who embraced natural beauty. They posted pictures of themselves with the #FaceAnything hashtag and captions encouraging women to be confident despite the unrealistic expectations placed on them.
The results? Olay was able to increase their exposure by 1.4M views, increase comments by 11K, and increase hashtag uses by 1K.
Best Platforms for Influencer Marketing
While influencers can promote your products and services on just about any platform, there are certain platforms that tend to be more effective for influencer marketing. These include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs. Here’s how influencer posts on these platforms differ:
- Facebook: There are over 2.2 billion users on Facebook, so influencers have the opportunity to reach a massive audience. Facebook Live is an important feature for influencers who use Facebook. Longer posts and images may be used as well. Engagement rates on Facebook are usually the highest in industries like food and beverage, hotels, and resorts, and higher education.
- Instagram: Instagram posts usually feature photos and videos with detailed captions that capture the attention of followers. Believe it or not, Instagram influencer marketing is almost a $2 billion industry. This isn’t too surprising when you consider how Instagram has over 800 million active users who often make fashion, beauty, and style purchases after seeing a post on the platform.
- YouTube: Influencer marketing on YouTube consists of long-form videos where influencers can demonstrate how a product works or tell a story to raise awareness. In a survey, 6 out of 10 YouTube subscribers stated they’d follow advice on what to buy from their favorite YouTube video creator over their favorite TV or movie personality.
- Twitter: Twitter posts are shorter than those found on Instagram and Facebook. They usually come with an image or videos and target 69 million active users. Twitter chats are also popular in industries that serve professionals, especially marketers.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is beneficial for influencers promoting a product or service tailored specifically toward professionals. It allows for long posts as well as videos. The platform has over 300 million active users and is a good option for B2B industries.
The Link Between Influencer Marketing and ROI
Influencer marketing, when executed strategically, offers a high ROI. For this reason, brands are usually excited to incorporate influencer marketing in their overall marketing strategy.
White Wave Foods, the parent company of Silk Almond Milk, partnered with 258 influencers in the food and fitness space to create content for its “Meatless Mondays” campaign. The results were phenomenal as the influencer efforts resulted in:
- A 10% lift in Silk product sales
- $285 worth of Silk products purchased for every 1,000 viewers
- 11X banner ad ROI after 12 months
- More than 1.2 million in additional impressions from organic SEO and Pinterest
How to Find the Right Social Media Influencer
Finding the right social media influencer for your marketing strategy often takes time and dedication. Here are some tips to help you identify the best influencers for your brand, target audience, and business goals:
- Look for influencers who share your audience: If your brand sells products for children, it only makes sense to find influencers who target mothers. While your influencers don’t need to be in your industry, they do need to be able to relate to the people you market to.
- Determine the type of influencer campaign you’d like to run: Maybe you’d like your campaign to focus on sponsored content or affiliate codes. Perhaps you want influencers to “take over” your social media account for a day. Once you nail down your influencer marketing plans, you can pinpoint influencers who are the ideal fit for them.
- Consider your competitors’ influencers: If some of your competitors have hired influencers, look at them to gauge the type of influencers who would be a good fit to promote your offerings.
- Be on the lookout for engagement rate: Engagement refers to the number of comments, likes, and shares a social media receives. Choose influencers who have lots of engagement and seem to have a positive impact on their audience.
- Do your research: There are many ways you can research potential influencers. Search for hashtags related to your industry to see who is already talking about your competitors. Set up Google alerts for keyword searches related to your industry. Keep your eye out for blogs that may interest your target audience.
Creating an Influencer Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve found some potential candidates for your influencer marketing campaign, it’s time to strategize. To create an influencer marketing strategy, you’ll need to do the following:
- Decide on Goals: Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve with influencer marketing. Are you hoping to increase social media engagement? Boost sales? Generate awareness on a new product or service?
- Figure Out Budget: Create a budget so that you know how much you can pay influencers. If you’re a Fortune 500 company or have been in business for years, you’ll probably be able to compensate your influencers at a higher rate than you will if you’re a startup. You may pay them per post, via affiliate commissions, or with free products.
- Nail Down Metrics: The goals of your campaign will dictate which metrics you’ll want to focus on to measure ROI. Some of the most common metrics for influencer campaigns are conversions, referral traffic, reach, audience growth, and engagement.
- Design a Management Strategy: Unfortunately, an influencer marketing campaign is not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative. You’ll need to reach out to influencers, monitor their content, pay them, figure out ROI, and maintain relationships. Work with your team to determine who will be responsible for managing your efforts.
- Contact Influencers: After you’ve created a list of influencers that you believe are a good fit for your brand, you’ll need to reach out to them. Send them an email or message on social media promoting the opportunity. Be clear on your expectations and incentives. Make sure your pitch is short and personalized, as long, mass pitches are rarely effective.
- Run Campaign: If some influencers are interested and ready to move forward, there’s no reason not to bring the campaign to life. Work with your influencers to create schedules for social media content, collect data on engagement and conversions, and make changes to your campaign as necessary.
- Measure Success: An influencer marketing campaign is essentially useless unless it delivers results. For this reason, it’s your job to measure success during and after the campaign’s run — use the metrics you established before the campaign to do so. Fortunately, there are many tools on the market that can take the guesswork out of tracking influencer marketing and measuring success.
Influencer Marketing Made Easy
If you’re interested in using influencer marketing to help your business grow, Marketo is an invaluable resource. Schedule a free demo today.