By now, pretty much anyone with a social media account – whether they’re an entrepreneur, marketer, or everyday consumer – has heard the phrase “influencer marketing” more times than they care to think about.
While some see it as a tired, overused buzzword, their beliefs are a bit misguided.
Yes, on the one hand, influencer marketing isn’t anything new. Brands have been using celebrities and “big names” within their industry to gain visibility and sell their products for decades (perhaps centuries). Still, there’s no denying that today’s “influencer marketing” is much different than the celebrity endorsements and sponsorships of days gone by.
Buzzword or not, influencer marketing works.
Case in point: 94% of marketers see it as an effective marketing tactic. And we’re not using the word “effective” lightly, here: for many brands, influencer marketing has been responsible for generating up to eleven times the ROI of traditional marketing methods; Thinkific actually used influencer webinars to increase revenues by 2,000%.
Of course, this success is highly dependant on the way in which a company uses influencer marketing in the first place.
In other words, influencer marketing isn’t a “magic bullet” that will instantly launch your company into the stratosphere. As with all marketing initiatives, it must be approached strategically in order to be effective.
In this article, we’ll look at three main reasons why influencer marketing (when done correctly) is so effective. As we go through each point, we’ll provide examples of campaigns that hit the nail on the head – and campaigns that completely missed the mark.
We’ll also provide a “takeaway” for each point for you to bring with you as you begin to create your own influencer marketing campaigns.
3 Reasons Influencer Marketing is So Effective – and How You Can Use It
As we made clear in the intro, influencer marketing is incredibly effective for both generating buzz for brands and increasing companies’ ROI.
While there are a number of reasons it’s so effective, these reasons all boil down to three main factors. Which is what we’ll discuss throughout the remainder of this article.
Let’s get started.
Influencer Marketing is Authentic
Perhaps the most important aspect of influencer marketing, with regard to its effectiveness, is that the content created for influencer marketing campaigns is highly authentic in a few different ways.
For one thing, the sponsored content posted by an influencer aligns completely with the theme and “feel” of the rest of their content.
Take makeup artist Kate La Vie’s Instagram, for example:
Without actually looking into each of these pictures, you’d probably be hard-pressed to figure out which post is sponsored by a brand, and which is a personal post.
(Spoiler: the middle one isn’t sponsored by anyone.)
This alignment is essential, as it communicates the fact that the influencer isn’t simply showcasing a product because they were paid to do so; they actually use the product in their real life, as well. As the vast majority of consumers (92%) trust brand recommendations from third parties over recommendations from the brand in question, the level of authenticity of the content in the first place is key.
It’s also worth noting that, even though most consumers recognize a sponsored post when they see one, they still take the fact that the influencer has a business relationship with the brand in question as a sign that the brand creates quality products.
On the other side of things, when a piece of sponsored or branded content clearly isn’t authentic, there’s little chance of the influencer marketing campaign being effective.
Check out this infamous Instagram post from Scott Disick:
Not only is the picture obviously staged to be a promo for Bootea, but the caption is a copied-and-pasted message directly from a representative of the company.
Obviously, Disick was more focused on getting the content posted so he could get paid than he was on creating an authentic Instagram post. Needless to say, this campaign completely backfired on Bootea.
With influencer marketing, you’re not paying the influencer to advertise your brand. You’re paying them to create authentic content that features your brand’s products.
As we said, consumers are okay with this. It’s when a piece of branded content is overtly promotional that it tends to fall flat.
Influencers Exist In a Number of Industries
We alluded to the fact that influencer marketing differs from traditional celebrity endorsements in that the latter uses “objectively” famous individuals to generate a buzz for the brand in question.
The problem with this method is that celebrity endorsements that seemingly come out of left field (e.g., Michael Jordan and Hanes) are incredibly transparent in the eyes of the consumer.
In other words, they know the celebrity was paid to do the commercial. And they also know the celebrity probably doesn’t actually use the product being advertised.
With influencer marketing, however, brands focus less on connecting with “objectively” famous people. Instead, aim to work with big names within their industry.
In doing so, brands essentially sacrifice audience width for audience depth.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at the Instagram page of one of the top “foodie” influencers, The Modern Proper:
While a following of 93k-plus individuals is, of course, quite respectable, it doesn’t seem like all that much when compared to the likes of Selena Gomez or Justin Bieber.
But, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of The Modern Proper’s 93,000 followers would be interested in checking out the food-related products and brands featured in TMP’s content. On the other hand, if that same brand were to be featured on Selena Gomez’s Instagram page, for example, most of her followers would probably ignore it.
Takeaway: When it comes to influencer marketing, the relevance of the influencer’s audience to the brand in question is much more important than the number of followers the influencer has.
As with all other marketing initiatives, attracting the attention of the right customers is way more effective than casting a wide net and hoping for the best.
Influencer Marketing is Versatile
One last topic we’ll discuss is the fact that influencer marketing is versatile in a number of ways.
First of all, brands can use influencer marketing in order to accomplish a variety of tasks.
While visibility and awareness are the most obvious use cases, influencer marketing can also be used to demonstrate how a brand’s products or services work, to facilitate engagement among target consumers, or to directly influence sales – and more.
Depending on the purpose of a specific campaign, influencers can house the branded content on a variety of platforms.
For example, if the brand in question is aiming to increase visibility, it might ask the influencer to create content to be posted on their social media pages. If the brand wants to increase sales, they might ask the influencer to create a more in-depth blog post describing the brand’s products or services.
Lastly, brands can work with a variety of influencers, for a variety of reasons.
From major celebrities and industry-specific celebrities to micro-influencers and brand ambassadors (i.e., the brand’s biggest fans), almost anyone related to a given brand can be leveraged as an influencer in some way or another. It all depends on the brand’s needs – as well as the creativity of their marketing team and their chosen influencers.
Takeaway: When considering implementing influencer marketing within your overall marketing playbook, keep an open mind to the numerous possible ways in which the tactic can be used.
Again, while the “typical” use for influencer marketing is to quickly gain exposure, there’s much more it can do for your brand – as long as you know how to leverage it.
While there are a number of articles and posts on the web claiming that “influencer marketing is dead,” the facts don’t lie. Not only is influencer marketing alive and well, but it also shows no signs of becoming obsolete any time soon.
The truth is, those who believe influencer marketing to be ineffective probably believe this because they haven’t experienced success within their own campaigns.
As we mentioned in the intro, influencer marketing is like every other type of marketing: it needs to be done strategically and methodically in order to generate the desired results.
Though many factors will, of course, dictate whether or not your next influencer marketing campaign succeeds, you can optimize your chances of experiencing success by adhering to the principles we discussed throughout this article.
By maintaining authenticity, choosing the right influencer, and defining a specific purpose for your influencer’s content, success will almost surely follow.