What’s 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.”
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 $13.8 billion in 2021. 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 are able to tap into the influencer marketing landscape have experienced increased engagement and buzz from audiences they were previously not able 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 their 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 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 their 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?
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 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, 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?
Diving into influencer marketing takes significant time dedicated to researching influencers and their followings, their engagement rates, and their pricing, as well as time spent curating the content they will share on your behalf. Some influencers are managed by firms, and others can be difficult to reach. The easiest way to get started is to hire an agency that can take on that work for you.