Word of mouth is one of the most powerful methods a business can rely on to gain new customers. This makes sense. If your friend told you about an acne cream or a pair of running shoes they swear by, you’d probably give it a try. The problem with word of mouth is that it’s unreliable. Brands can’t know when a customer will share their experience, regardless of how frequently they patron the store or report that they’re satisfied with customer service.
That’s where influencer marketing comes in. Influencers are individuals on social media who have follower counts from the thousands (micro-influencers) to hundreds of thousands (macro-influencers) to millions (mega-influencers). They post content and engage with their audience regularly to create familiarity. When a brand offers them a product or monetary compensation for a shout-out, they utilize that familiarity for new customer acquisition.
It’s essentially paying for word of mouth marketing.
Does Influencer Marketing Work?
Sure, taking advice from a friend makes sense, but do people really listen to strangers online just because they have a large following. The answer is yes and no.
Yes, according to a survey taken by Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing had a return of $7.65 for every $1 spent. Of the 272 marketing managers who responded in this survey, 28% of them went on to say that influencer marketing is the fastest growing method of customer acquisition. The next highest was “Organic Search” at 15%.
No, people aren’t listening to influencers because they have a high follower count. Sure, some probably do, but the reasons go deeper than that. According to CPC Strategy’s Influencer Marketing Report, an influencer’s recommendation seems trustworthy for a few reasons.
- The post explains that the influencer uses the product personally
- The influencer is knowledgeable in the field
- They’re able to answer followers’ questions about the product
- They’re transparent about the post being paid content
To sum it up, influencer marketing works because consumers trust influencers. Over time, influencers have built a reputation for speaking honestly and posting personal content. When it comes to recommending a new energy drink or showing off a new razor, followers assume the influencer has taken the time to ensure the product works.
How Influencer Marketing Works?
If you’re considering influencer marketing to gain new customers and increase your sales, the world of influencers might seem intimidating. There are hundreds of influencers in each niche, sometimes thousands, which makes choosing the right influencer for your brand all the more important.
The key is to move step by step and tackle each issue as it arises. For a general scope, the basic outline for influencer marketing involves:
- Setting your markers and goals for what success looks like to you
- Segmenting your audience and creating individual personas
- Finding the right influencers in your niche
- Creating content that fits both your brand and theirs
Set Your Markers For Success
There are several ways to use influencer marketing to promote your brand, but it depends on what your company’s goals are. Are you trying to increase the number of followers your brand’s social media has? Or, are you trying to increase product sales through the influencer?
Knowing what your goals are will determine what kind of posts to make and who you want to use as influencers.
Segment Your Audience
The influencer’s followers are going to be the ones seeing and reading about your brand. Are they your target audience? Do you know who your target audience is? Segmenting your audience and creating average consumer personas can help match you with influencers of the same audience.
Segment your audience based on a few key factors:
- Geographic location – Where they live and what type of weather they experience changes what people buy.
- Demographics – Know who your audience is by breaking down age, gender, race, income, marital status, occupation, and other relevant factors.
- Personality – Know their lifestyle, buying habits, preferences, and the like. Is your community into high-end fashion and art, or is it a goal-centric, hardworking community?
Once you know these key facts about your audience, you can break them down into averages and start creating customer personas. This will tell you which platform to use and what kind of marketing will work best. Younger generations are likelier to be found on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Older, professional demographics are going to be on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Find the Right Influencers
Figuring out which influencer is right for you depends on three different areas. What follower size you’re looking for, what genre or niche the influencer is in, and, as mentioned, if your target audiences match.
Beginning with follower size, there are three different categories of influencers, each with their own set of pros and cons.
- Mega-influencers – 1M followers or more – Think of mega-influencers as celebrities. These are going to be actors, musicians, sports superstars, and notable famous people. They are the most expensive per post, some garnering upwards of a million dollars for a single Instagram post. Because of their high follower count, mega-influencers do less interactive engagement with their audience.
- Macro-influencers – 100,000 to 1M followers – Macro-influencers are personalities and experts. They have something about their feed that makes them unique, and people enjoy following them because they’re ordinary people who have gone viral for some reason. They don’t have that “untouchable celebrity status,” but they’re still well-known.
- Micro-influencers – 1,000 to 100,000 followers – Perhaps the most significant of the bunch is micro-influencers. They’re interesting because they have the perfect follower size to capitalize on what it means to be a successful “influencer.” They engage with their audience and can answer all their questions because they only receive around 30 to 50 comments per post. And they can continue rolling dialogue and post personal stories because they’re not well-known enough for it to take away their privacy. Plus, micro-influencers are not making life-changing sums of money, so they’re less likely to “sell-out” and more likely to work with brands they enjoy.
Pick two words that could sum up your brand. There are niche influencers who utilize those same two keywords. Pick another two words; there’s another batch of influencers to match.
When becoming an influencer, one of the most common recommendations is to narrow down your niche by choosing two words and then revolving your content around them. This is great for brands who aren’t sure how to find influencers. Start with the same question and find influencers who fit.
Create Content for You and Your Influencer
Once you’ve found the influencers you want to work with, the next step is to create content that both you and the influencer agree on. Some influencers demand total control over the creative process but will listen to suggestions when it comes to the description and hashtags. Don’t be discouraged by this. It might end up benefiting your brand.
Allowing the influencer’s natural voice to shine through is a crucial aspect of paid advertising. You don’t want them to sound robotic or sales-pitchy; this will tip followers off that it’s an advertisement.
The next question to decide on is what content you want to make. Each platform has its own set of content you can create.
- Standard posts – A picture and a caption make up the standard post. Don’t get caught up with all the frills of the other types of posts; there’s a lot you can say with the standard format.
- Video posts – Great for showing off how to use your product. If you make waterproof earbuds, for example, showing them working underwater would be a key selling point.
- Stories and highlights – Relatively newer features. Stories and highlights can sit on the influencers page for a set amount of time. Any traction they gain will also funnel back to your brand.
- Carousel posts – On Instagram, you can have up to ten photos on a carousel post. This is great for brands who offer multiple services and want to show off each one.
- Boomerangs – A fun way to do a quick action. Makeup brands will often use this with the influencer turning left, then right to show off both sides of their face.
Downsides of Using Influencers
While using influencer marketing has incredible upswings, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Know that when you bring an influencer into the brand to market for you, you’re responsible for what they say and post. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it’s the reason why carefully choosing influencers is essential.
Check their post history to see if anything they’ve said goes against your image as a brand. While nobody’s perfect, you can make sure nothing insensitive will blow up.
Lastly, understand that influencers are people. They’re prone to change their minds, go through mood shifts, get angry, and have offensive thoughts. The difference between influencers and regular people is that they’re more likely to post about these things and share them with their audience. To prevent this from affecting your brand, build a strong relationship between you and the influencers. This could prevent them from going off the rails because that would also mean hurting your brand as well.
Should Your Brand Consider Using Influencers?
There are many reasons to use influencer marketing. The return on investment is high, it utilizes word of mouth—one of the most effective customer-acquisition methods—and it helps build social media presence. Influencer marketing does take time and energy, though. Be sure you have a team dedicated to managing and keeping up to date with any influencers you want to work with.
Influencer Marketing Hub. The Remarkable Rise of Influencer Marketing. https://influencermarketinghub.com/the-rise-of-influencer-marketing/
CPC Strategy. The 2018 Influencer Marketing Report. https://learn.cpcstrategy.com/rs/006-GWW-889/images/2018%20Influencer%20Marketing%20v3.pdf
Pew Research Center. Social Media Use in 2018. https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-2018-appendix-a-detailed-table/
CNBC. Kylie Jenner reportedly makes $1 million per paid Instagram post—here’s how much other top influencers get. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/31/kylie-jenner-makes-1-million-per-paid-instagram-post-hopper-hq-says.html