$16.4 billion dollars. That was the market value of influencer marketing in 2022, having nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Influencer culture is the new normal and 90% of marketers agree that influencer marketing is beneficial for most brands. But what does it really mean to be an influencer? How does influencer marketing differ from celebrity endorsements? And can we actually measure that influencer marketing has a positive return on investment? We’re breaking it all down for you so that your brand can make the most of all things #influencermarketing.
What is an influencer?
To start, what exactly is an influencer? An influencer is a person who—thanks to their credibility, relatability, and/or leadership—is able to influence a group of people to think or act a certain way. In the digital marketing world, we consider influencers to be people who sway their followers to buy a certain product or service that they recommend on social media. Because an influencer’s audience resonates with them and trusts their opinion, they are more likely to follow in their footsteps.
So how does influencer marketing differ from a celebrity endorsement? Well, influencer marketing came about with the rise of social media because that’s just it—it’s social. While celebrity endorsements are print, TV, or radio advertisements that are seen and/or heard, influencer marketing campaigns are all about engagement, the influencer and audience interacting with the brand and with each other. Influencer marketing is alive and always evolving. That’s what makes it so exciting!
Influencers can be big Hollywood celebrities with millions of followers to “nano-influencers” with just a few thousand followers in every industry ranging from fashion and wellness to sports and technology (and literally EVERYWHERE in between). Every “group” has people who are considered thought leaders in their field—you know, the ones who are making the moves and starting the trends. And social media has become a great stage for them to speak, share, inspire, and interact.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing seeks to achieve 3 main objectives:
Reach - to speak to and engage with a larger or more diverse audience
Relevance - to connect with that audience on a more meaningful level
Resonance - to inspire that audience to act in a certain way (i.e. to buy your product!)
It is helpful to think of influencers each as individual brands of their own. Just like your own business, they’ve taken the time to come up with a vision, make an online presence, create value for others, and cultivate a following (and often even earn a sizable income along the way). So, working with an influencer is essentially a brand partnership—but one that is people-centered. You’re partnering with an individual who aligns with your brand and providing them your product or service. In exchange for compensation, the influencer will promote your brand to their followers on their social media channels.
While the 3 R’s (Reach, Relevance, and Resonance) are top objectives of influencer marketing, we can look to KPIs (key performance indicators) to actually measure campaign effectiveness. Influencer marketing can increase your brand’s:
Audience growth rate
Most influencer marketing happens on Instagram (#1) and Facebook (#2). In 2022, TikTok surpassed YouTube for the #3 spot, followed by Twitter and Snapchat (insiderintelligence.com). There are also blog influencers (who promote brands on their personal blogging platforms) and brand ambassadors (loyal customers who receive complimentary or discounted products/services for promoting your brand vs. influencers who are hired/paid to recommend your brand). Brands align with influencers and ambassadors on the platforms that make the most sense for their target audience or the segment of an adjacent audience that they want to reach.
How do I know what kind of influencer is right for my brand?
Influencer marketing can cost next to nothing (i.e. promotion in exchange for complementary product or service) up to many thousands of dollars per single post. But a more expensive influencer (i.e. a big star with millions of followers) might not necessarily garner the greatest benefit for your brand. Influencer marketing is all about trust—not so much capitalizing on an influencer’s relationship with their audience but aligning with it in a way that is authentic and meaningful. This means that a micro-influencer with 10k niche followers identical to your target customer may yield a higher ROI than a macro-influencer with hundreds of thousands more diverse followers and far less engagement.
Fit is the most important quality in matching with an influencer. You want to collaborate with a person who embodies your brand’s values and aesthetic and who would use your product or service in real life.
How can you measure the results of influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing has an astounding $5.78 ROI for every $1 invested (Influencer Marketing Hub). Thanks to analytics features on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, brands can easily measure impressions, engagement, follower growth, leads, stickiness (how long someone interacts with your page or website), and sales generated from their influencer marketing campaigns. Providing an influencer with a unique discount code (i.e. MALC15) for their followers is another way to directly track back sales to a specific person/campaign.
What are the pros and cons of influencer marketing?
Partnering with an influencer may increase your brand awareness and promote sales.
Influencer marketing is an efficient and relatively inexpensive way to see quick results in terms of increased following, higher impressions, and more leads.
Working with an established influencer will help you build credibility and reach relevant audiences.
Your marketing team might save time to work on other projects as influencers would be creating their own content.
Your brand image might be at risk because influencers are human and imperfect (yes, really). As we’ve seen in the past, sometimes they say or do things that offend or shock people. Any scandals that arise may reflect poorly on your brand.
An ill-fit brand/influencer relationship hurts both parties. Working with the wrong influencer (i.e. one who doesn’t authentically align with your brand or vice-versa) harms your brand image and reputation.
While influencers see higher engagement when working with brands, brands typically see lower engagement when they reference influencers.
High follower count does not ensure high engagement and lead generation from a brand campaign. There are no guarantees that your partnership will be a success.
How do I create an Influencer Marketing Strategy?
There are 10 key steps that go into creating an influencer marketing strategy:
1. Write down your goals.
Before you start reaching out to influencers online, you and your team need to determine what your objectives are. Do you want to boost sales, increase brand awareness, or promote a new offering? Having specific KPIs (key performance indicators) will help you measure your campaign’s effectiveness. Use this HubSpot template to create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).
2. Understand your target audience.
Figure out who you’re trying to reach with this specific campaign. Create detailed personas for your potential customers. Really understanding your target audience (their wants, needs, preferences, hobbies, demographics, etc.) will help you determine the best influencer for your campaign.
3. Determine your budget.
An influencer campaign can cost anywhere from ~$0 (well, free product/services in exchange for their content creation and promotion) to hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more, if you’re asking for Kim Kardashian). Make sure you know your budget before going into conversations. An influencer’s price point will be determined by the platform, scope of the campaign, and their experience/renown. But don’t forget to negotiate!
4. Follow the rules.
The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines surrounding sponsored advertising. Hashtags like #ad and #sponsored are important for disclosure, as well as Instagram’s Branded Content tag. Make sure you follow all of the FTC’s rules to avoid any legal issues.
5. Research influencers.
Take your time to make a short list of potential influencers. You can search Google, browse social media, ask for referrals, use influencer databases like BuzzStream or Modash, or even go through talent agencies. Consider their audience, engagement rate, personality, social network, authenticity, content quality, fees, and resonance with your brand. Have they worked with brands before (and how)? Reviewing their past work can help you get a sense of the content quality they produce. Does your product or service make sense for their brand? It’s important to vet potential influencers so they’re the right fit for you and vice versa.
6. Reach out.
Contact suitable influencers personally and privately. Show your enthusiasm for their platform and provide enough information to spark their interest in furthering a conversation. It’s best practice to move the convo to email instead of keeping everything on social media messaging platforms.
Oftentimes an influencer is a social media expert (that’s a big part of why they’re famous), so take the opportunity to work together to design an inspiring and effective campaign. They know what works well for their audience, and putting your heads together will bring about creative new ideas.
8. Draft a contract.
Once you’ve agreed to the campaign parameters, fees, deadlines, etc., come up with an agreement for you both to sign. This helps to clarify the arrangement and keeps both parties accountable in case things don’t go according to plan.
9. Let it go.
Even if you have review processes in place, at some point you have to let go of the reins and see what happens. Part of this collaborative process means giving up complete control and watching how the campaign plays out. You won’t really know until you try, right?
10. Analyze campaign success.
Return to your KPIs and compare them to your metrics from social media analytics and business sales. What worked well? What didn’t? Use this information as you formulate your next influencer campaign.
That’s A LOT of information to get you started with your own influencer marketing campaign. Still feeling overwhelmed? Maybe even unsure if working with an influencer is even the right thing for your brand to pursue? Schedule a discovery call with us and we can walk you through the adventure with you!