Leveraging the Power of Influencer Marketing
October 01, 2018
Todd Henderson

Leveraging the Power of Influencer Marketing

Millennials hate advertisements.

That is, of course, unless the advertisement comes to them through someone they trust. As Forbes noted, 84% of millennials report that they hate traditional advertising. Millennials show this by trending toward premium services like Netflix, preferring to pay a subscription fee rather than sit through television commercials.

But there is a way to reach today’s audience. The same study as quoted by Forbes reported that most millennials are perfectly happy to check out advertisements if their favorite digital content starts with one. 80% reported that they would even watch a pre-video ad—as long as they like what comes after.

Enter Influencer Marketing. This unique marketing platform targets influencers—celebrities, social media stars, and digital content producers—to “sneak” in a few advertisements. This often comes in the form of…

  • Sponsored posts: Many brands reach out to influential bloggers directly and pay for sponsored posts in which the blogger highlights a trend and gives a gentle push toward a specific product at the end.
  • Sponsored social media posts: Follow a celebrity on Instagram? Then there’s a good chance you’ve seen them hawking a product along with a well-staged photograph that highlights its features.
  • Partnerships: Big-name brands are happy to launch partnership campaigns with influential celebrities. These campaigns tend to go beyond the usual sponsorship deal because they’re backed by a new product launch. A recent example is Jennifer Lopez teaming up with GUESS for an all-inclusive sponsorship campaign.

But why is Influencer Marketing becoming so powerful—and might it be possible to leverage its power to boost your brand?

Why Influencer Marketing Works

Consumers expect marketers to focus on the positive, so they turn to the people they trust. With the rise of social media, the circle of people we trust now includes our favorite industry experts, celebrities, and athletes.

-Neil Patel

According to SocialMediaToday.com, the ROI generated by Influencer Marketing is 11 times as that generated by “traditional forms of advertising.”

What explains that level of efficiency?

It comes down to a simple idea: trust. An Adweek study found that millennials are happy to view sponsored content to the tune of 57%–as long as that sponsored content comes from someone they trust. That means intrusive advertising—television commercials, Internet popups, and other “unsolicited material,” so to speak—are left at a disadvantage.

As Neil Patel notes, Influencer Marketing works because it leverages the power of the social Internet: as consumers have become more and more accustomed to reading online reviews and seeking second opinions on purchases before they buy, social trust becomes far more important.

Just how quickly have online retail outlets and social media changed out standards for what we’ll buy and won’t buy online? According to HubSpot, when visitors view a product video they’re 73% more likely to buy it. Online stores without enough visual trust are left at a disadvantage.

Influencer Marketing takes advantage of this effect by going directly to the source: Influencers.

Defining the “Influencer” in Today’s Internet

This term might sound technical, but it’s intentionally vague. It can refer to a wide range of digital content creators, celebrities, athletes, bloggers, and other notable people. For marketing purposes, an Influencer is someone with both a substantial following and a high degree of trust and loyalty from that following.

Consider the case of celebrity Kim Kardashian. Kardashian is a prominent Influencer who happily works in sponsored ads along with the rest of her digital content. The same is the case with the aforementioned Jennifer Lopez. But the word “Influencer” isn’t limited to elite Hollywood celebrities. Influencers can also include the following:

  • Bloggers: Bloggers with large followings and a centralized voice also have a high degree of trust from their audience, making them ideal matches for companies looking to place a highly targeted, sponsored ad.
  • YouTube Stars: YouTube stars with large followings sometimes place sponsored ads directly in their content with a brief mention. Given that today’s YouTube sensations can often send out videos to millions of subscribers, these advertisements can have tremendous reach.
  • Podcasters: Star podcasters like Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss frequently introduce sponsored products during the course of their individual podcasts. As is the case with YouTube stars, these sponsorships often see millions of views.
  • “Social Media” Celebrities: From the “Instagram Famous” to those with exceptional Twitter followings, Influencer Marketers also target those social media celebrities who might not be household names while still holding a tremendous amount of sway with their followers.

It’s not hard to find content producers in today’s Internet. But Influencer Marketers can only leverage the power of this platform if they also find a star that has an audience that also trusts them.

Why Trust is Key in Influencer Marketing

It’s not difficult to gain access to a large audience online. All a marketer has to do is secure a sponsorship with a high-powered influencer with a lot of followers.

But just how effective will that campaign be? That depends on a number of factors—one of the most important of which is trust. A digital influencer with one million followers might be able to provide better results for their sponsors than an influencer with two million less-engaged followers. Here’s what you’ll need to know:

  • 70% of millennial consumers allow their peers to influence their buying decisions to some degree, according to an Influencer Marketing survey.
  • Of the two variables—trust and fame—trust can sometimes be more important when examining the results. For example, blog followers tend to trust the opinions of smaller influencers rather than big-time celebrities. In fact, 3% of consumers expressed interest in buying a product in the physical store if it were endorsed by a celebrity—suggesting a “trust gap” between the largest influencers and influencers with smaller followings.
  • The medium matters. There is no shortage of social channels available to anyone who wants to make an online purchase these days—Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, etc. But as Shane Barker notes, Facebook is particularly effective when it comes to helping people gain trust in a purchase decision.

An effectively-written advertisement still has power in today’s environment. But more and more, people rely on social factors when making digital purchases. Influencer Marketing serves as a quick jolt in the arm for any brand that wants to build trust—essentially, by leveraging the trust already established by digital influencers.

How to Make the Most of Influencer Marketing

The core of Influencer Marketing is in accessing the trust and influence that today’s content creators share with their audience. But how can a company best leverage the available tools to ensure a positive ROI?

Know Your Platforms

It starts with getting a sense of the platforms that might be most appropriate for your specific campaign. According to SocialMediaToday.com, these are the four best-performing platforms for Influencer Marketing:

  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook

But choosing a platform for an Influencer Marketing campaign should also take demographics into account. Think about the type of audience that you want to reach with this campaign—and the general demographics of the users on each platform. It may be that you can reach more youth by using Snapchat, or a demographic with more disposable income on Facebook. Go through these same considerations when you choose your specific Influencers, as well.

Identify the Right Influencers

It pays to take time when researching the influencers who can have the best possible impact on your campaign. But many marketers who have never tried Influencer Marketing before might wonder how to get started. Here are a few key tips:

  • Identify Influencers that share your niche or audience. You wouldn’t try to find an Influencer who posts YouTube videos on gaming content if you had a retirement plan to sell them. Begin the process by creating a list of Influencers who are generally within your same market segment—even if it means looking at lists of the most popular bloggers, podcasters, and social media celebrities and running a finger down that list until you discover someone with an audience that might be open to your product.
  • Don’t exclusively focus on follower counts. It’s okay to start small. In fact, starting with a smaller Influencer might help you build up a sense of how the process works. And because smaller follower counts can often come with high trust, it’s possible that the lower cost could lead to higher ROI overall.
  • Search through content to find the matches for your campaign. A service like com will be a great help here, helping you to find the content marketing topics that suit your product and company. This is just an introductory tool to help you discover new names. It’s still important to be selective as you review each Influencer’s audience and get a sense of what a campaign might look like.

Building a Better Marketing Strategy with Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing isn’t a secret trick. When someone offers a sponsored advertisement in their content, they let their audience know about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective than a subtle advertisement.

Influencer Marketing opens all sorts of possibilities for digital marketers, from dedicated campaigns with social media celebrities to simple mentions in niche podcasts. These mentions have a way of building up credibility with an audience.

As you learn how to better leverage Influencer Marketing, start small and build up. As you find out what works for you—and what doesn’t work—you’ll get a sense of the landscape and the ROI you might see in the future. This will help you determine future budgeting, upcoming plans, and a sense of what’s possible in today’s digital environment.