Influencer Marketing 101
What is Influencer Marketing?
For decades, brands have relied on endorsements from celebrities, sports teams, and real people who use and recommend their products or services (you know the ones with “not a paid actor” at the bottom of commercials). Today, professional endorsements have largely been replaced with endorsements from “influencers,” a title defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.”
The Impact of Influencers
While the influencer label may have started as a way to tease those who used social media platforms, such as Instagram, to share their escapades into attractively posed iced coffees and avocado toast, the influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately $21.1 billion in 2023. Despite the flack influencers might receive for their chosen industry, the concept of influencer marketing has existed in some form since as early as 1760 when a tea set company gave King George III a set and advertised it as “Royalty-approved.”
Though the platforms that influencers utilize have changed over time, the trust consumers give to them has only increased. In fact, one report on brand trust revealed that 63% of 18-34-year-olds trust what influencers say about brands more than what brands say about themselves in advertising.
Brands that can tap into the influencer marketing landscape have experienced increased engagement and buzz from audiences they were previously unable to reach. But how can a brand tap into this niche form of content marketing? Let’s take a look at the industry as a whole.
Who Should Use Influencers In Their Marketing Campaigns?
Brands in industries like food and beverage, consumer packaged goods, travel, and even banking have all found success using influencer marketing. The key for any brand interested in incorporating it into its own marketing plan is to identify ways to utilize an influencer’s follower base strategically. While this may seem daunting, more than 500,000 active influencers are operating on Instagram alone, which means there is sure to be at least one who aligns with your brand.
The Tiers of Influencers by Followership
The sheer amount of influencers available for brand collaborations has led to segmentation within the influencer industry. Mega-influencers are those with over 1 million followers on their social media platforms (usually Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube). Macro-influencers have between 500,000-1 million followers; mid-tier influencers have between 50,000-500,000 followers; micro-influencers have between 10,000-50,000 followers, and nano-influencers have between 1,000-10,000 followers.
All Influencers Are Not Created Equal
There’s an obvious appeal to collaborating with influencers who have larger followings. For your brand to immediately reach one million people who trust the opinion of the person advocating for it? It seems simple. But, mega and macro-influencers are expensive and extra careful about which brands and products they will work with.
The sweet spot of influencer marketing is working with a mix of micro and nano influencers. Why? These influencers have a closer relationship with their audience, higher engagement rates than celebrities or mega influencers, more accurate targeting (most micro-influencers have a following that is more aligned with a specific niche), and create more authentic content.
Not to mention working with influencers that have thousands fewer followers is more cost-effective and allows a brand to stretch its budget to multiple influencer collaborations and split-test the effort. Prices vary among micro-influencers, but on average, one sponsored post on Instagram costs about $10 per 1000 followers. The price per post for a mega-influencer (take Kylie Jenner, for example) can reach over $1 million.
Is Influencer Marketing Really Worth It? 2 Case Studies
The next generation of consumers is being raised on short-form content created by influencers they rely on for both entertainment and buying decisions. With over 22 million influencers on TikTok alone, influencer marketing is guaranteed to stick around as a business-generating strategy for the foreseeable future. You don’t just have to take our word for it. Hundreds of brands have utilized influencer marketing with great success.
The Proof is in the Pudding – or Dunkin Coffee
Dunkin’ Donuts is a well-known brand with a lot of recognition for selling… not-so-great coffee. After a rebrand, Dunkin’ wanted to engage authentically with audiences who may not have known about their new handcrafted espresso drinks.
Their goals included raising awareness about the new drink offerings and improving engagement on Instagram. Dunkin’ collaborated with micro- and nano-influencers in the Millennial age range and reached over 1 million followers, received a 5.2% engagement rate, and increased positive conversation on the platform about the Dunkin’ brand.
Things really took off with Travelocity
The travel industry is based on experiences and interactions with humans. That’s why when the online booking marketplace Travelocity decided to build a campaign that “humanized” the booking process, they enlisted a variety of influencers who travel frequently.
Travelocity identified influencers who had a clearly defined niche following with high follower engagement. The campaign launched in 2014 and was called the “Gnational Gnomad” program. Today, the program has expanded to about 100 key influencers and has led to a 1000% increase in brand mentions, and a 1200% increase in brand impressions.
So, is it worth doing for your brand? The answer is an overwhelming yes, especially if your goal is to increase reach authentically. When compared to brand-sponsored ads on Facebook and Instagram, influencer marketing campaigns can increase engagement, provide user-generated content, and lead to conversions in ways that may better suit your advertising budget.
How Do You Start with Influencer Marketing?
The world of digital is changing with each new app available or platform feature rolled out, and advertising has shifted alongside this new digital landscape. In a June 2021 study, almost 50% of Millennial participants reported that their purchasing decisions were influenced by social media advertising in the United States.
Here’s the catch: Millennials reported the lowest amount of social media advertising influence out of any other living generation. Gen X reported higher at 57%, Baby Boomers landed at 68%, and Gen Z clocked in at an astounding 75% of consumers whose purchasing decisions were influenced by social media advertising.
Influencer Marketing isn’t just for Millennials.
The keyword in that study: influenced. Influencer marketing is the new frontier for digital marketing strategy, and for brands looking to stay relevant, it’s a strategy that shouldn’t be ignored. When it comes to influencer marketing, your brand should not be asking if, but when and then later: how?
Influencer Marketing Key Considerations
Incorporating influencer marketing into your digital strategy can seem overwhelming, confusing, and complicated to campaign managers new to it. That’s because there are many things to consider with influencer marketing management, including how to choose the right influencer based on their audience, reach, and engagement, as well as the right influencer marketing platforms.
Another big aspect is communication from start to finish. This includes contacting content creators, drafting contracts, and settling on compensation. Once influencers are in place, the campaign planning begins.
Goals and expectations need to be set for both the influencer and the brand partner, in regards to creative execution, timelines, and reporting.
When the campaign details have been finalized and the posts have been published, it’s time to track KPIs and compile data reports that will be referenced by the marketing team and brand executives alike – this can be pretty time-consuming when you’re just starting out.
How to Make Influencer Marketing Effective For Your Brand
How can your brand turn all of these components into a digestible strategy that even top-level executives can understand? When deciding whether or not to hire an agency to facilitate your influencer marketing campaigns, brands should consider several factors.
Consider your resources.
Consider the size of your company, marketing resources, and goals. For lean, internal marketing teams, it’s hard enough to keep essentials running smoothly. Adding in something new to master and manage can be overwhelming. Usually, the most effective and efficient solution, at least in the short term, is to contract a digital marketing agency that has the experience needed to tackle all aspects of an influencer marketing campaign.
What’s your budget?
Keeping influencer marketing in-house equates to high costs. You’ll be paying for software, tools, legal fees, and salary that can add up. It may be worth paying for the expertise, resources, and responsiveness of an agency. Best practices, things to remember or avoid, and developing templated processes can be done, but do you have the time and bandwidth right now? If not, outsourced experts are your best bet.
What’s your goal?
When it comes to influencer marketing, especially for small businesses, everything can seem unattainable. An influencer marketing agency brings an understanding of measurable KPIs and strategies. Whether your goal is brand awareness with a new audience, increasing your social media following, or boosting revenue and sales, an influencer agency can immediately help execute campaigns that convert.
Influencer Marketing Best Practice: Educate, Don’t Sell
Today’s consumers are more informed, more connected, and more demanding than ever before. In fact, according to one study, roughly 81% of respondents say they regularly read customer reviews and ratings before making a purchase.
Education’s Place in Influencer Campaign Strategy
Recently, interacting with reviews has become increasingly harder. This is because popular social media platforms have evolved their advertising capabilities. Consumers can do more than just read reviews on a native website. They can also watch videos created by others who have purchased a product of interest, scroll through online forums discussing the purchase, and listen to related podcasts.
If you’re worried consumers have access to too much information, don’t fret. This drive for educational content is something brands can satisfy through influencer marketing. We understand that shifting from a more traditional sell, sell, sell tactic sounds unfamiliar.
Content that is education-oriented rather than sale-focused makes consumers 131% more likely to buy.
Why is an Education-Based Influencer Strategy Relevant?
There is some psychological reasoning behind what makes education-focused influencer campaigns drive conversions. All humans have a natural desire for belonging and some level of conformity to “fit in.” We are trained to embrace influencer marketing tactics because they are more authentic and more attractive than other types of marketing.
We have also adapted to tune out more traditional forms of advertisements. Who hasn’t clicked SKIP AD immediately, or scrolled right past posts marked Sponsored?
Influencer marketing is a proven strategy for many reasons, but it’s extra effective when it’s used correctly.
A successful influencer campaign should focus on educating before selling for the following reasons:
Reason #1: Ads Are Interruptions
Social media algorithms are built to show users content that specifically relates to them. It’s how they keep people scrolling longer and with more user satisfaction. It can be jarring when a brand ad pops up unexpectedly in the middle of a video. This can happen when you’re watching a video of a dog communicating in English, or someone showing off a ridiculous pair of glasses they ordered from Amazon to help with motion sickness.
That second one is about a product and, with over 14.8 million views, it probably has led to increased sales. But because it’s posted by a regular-looking person, it fits into a normal feed.
Here are some examples of ads that we wouldn’t describe as seamless because they are sales-focused:
Reasons these ads stick out like a sore thumb:
- It’s an ad for a TV show. If you want ads for TV shows, you’d be watching TV, not doing a TikTok deep dive on a true crime case from 1964.
- This brand is attempting an educational approach to its advertisement by adding the text overlay “How to play Lightning Link?” But it is so obviously an ad that we almost passed by it before going back for a screenshot. Tip: look at the engagement on the right-hand side and compare it to our examples below.
- A shoe company ad for their latest product. They used a smart tactic by adding the TikTok question/answer block on the top left, but it’s still an ad that links to a product page.
Though platforms like Instagram and TikTok are good at hiding it, that tiny ‘Sponsored’ tag at the bottom of each ad is what will lead users to swipe away. Now, let’s take a look at some approaches by influencers and brand partners:
All three of these examples demonstrate the effectiveness of influencer marketing that educates rather than goes for the sale and that fits easily into a targeted audience’s timeline.
- Even with ‘AD’ as the first word in the caption, this content piece is effective because it demonstrates the product in action. With over 23,000 likes and 580 shares, this un-sponsored ad no doubt led to some conversions for Scrub Daddy.
- Katie Feeney is an influencer with the blue checkmark which automatically gives her authority. In this video, she is pushing for sign-ups for Amazon’s Prime Student program while dressed for the part. This video would no doubt show up on college students’ timelines due to the algorithm and with over 300,000 likes and 2,000 shares, it was effective.
- Unlike the shoe ad, we talked about above, this unboxing video details a color-changing shoe product by showing it happen. This video has over 2 million likes and 38 thousand shares!
Reason #2: Building Trust Through Influence
Seeing a product (or service!) touted by a regular person is the key to building trust for your brand.
A study found that consumers find a brand more trustworthy if they consume its educational content a week later.
Need more reason to create content that educates? Consumers’ brand affinity compounds with time, rather than diminishes.
Finding the right type of influencer to represent your brand is an important part of establishing trust with prospective consumers. With either micro-influencers or macro-influencers, consider their size of following, their particular content focus/niche, and their post engagement rates.
People follow social media influencer accounts that they relate to and trust the brands these people say they like or use themselves. The content strategy you develop with influencers should include multiple posts about the same product. This further increases their authority on the subject and builds trust with their audience.
Reason #3: Increasing Brand Awareness
Brand awareness describes how familiar your target audience is with your brand and their sentiment about it. Familiarity and trust play a huge role in consumers’ perception of brand awareness.
Influencer marketing strategy helps increase brand awareness because influencers have a built-in audience that is relevant to their content focus. This is another reason why choosing the right influencer to work with is so important! Increased brand awareness leads to increased trust in your products or services, which leads to increased leads or sales – without sponsoring posts or using sales-y jargon.
The Bottom Line on Strategizing for Influencer Marketing
Consumers want all the information they can get about a product or service before making a purchasing decision. Marketers can strategically guide the delivery of that information by developing influencer marketing campaigns that are education-focused rather than selling-focused. When this is done effectively, your brand will increase its awareness and recognition, and consumers will develop trust in your brand, leading to conversions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is used to provide testimonial experiences for brands that are shared with an influencer’s niche audience.
What is a key strength of influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing’s biggest strength is its ability to reach an audience who trusts the content creator and thus is willing to listen to testimonials and marketing pitches about a brand the influencer partners with.
What's the difference between a content creator and an influencer?
The terms content creator and influencer are used interchangeably.
What is the future of influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is continuing to grow every year. Brands should view influencer marketing as a strategy that is here to stay and should consider adding this technique into their own campaign plans.