Since the development of Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011, these photo-sharing apps have taken over social media, gaining popularity across the world. With users ranging in all age-groups, these digital applications allow users to follow and share photos with friends, family, and even A-list celebrities.
With the significant increase in popularity, digital agencies were quick to catch on to these trending social platforms and discover a way to optimize brand exposure through influencer marketing.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is the ultimate word of mouth (or word of post in this case) strategy, in today’s digital age. It’s a marketing strategy in which focus is placed on a certain individual to drive a brand’s products or services to a larger audience.
Brands partner with popular influencers that are relevant to the brand’s niche (i.e. beauty, health, fitness etc.) to connect with a target audience of consumers, whom are likely to show interest and convert. In other words, companies use influencers as brand ambassadors to get their messaging out for them.
This form of marketing requires a cross-departmental influencer strategy between social media and public relations. The two marketing departments work hand-in-hand to connect with trending influencers and gain media coverage on the influencer’s account, whether it’s on Instagram, Snapchat, or even YouTube.
Through social media research and influencer outreach, digital agencies bridge the gap between brands and social media influencers within a wide array of spaces.
Not only does this form of digital marketing benefit the brand from an awareness standpoint, but it also provides value that some brands don’t initially realize. The success of an influencer marketing campaign stems from three key factors: authenticity, engagement and imagery. Each factor plays a vital role in supporting the brand’s digital marketing strategy across several platforms.
As consumers are introduced to new brands, they are typically very skeptical about the authenticity of a brand and whether or not the company is being fully transparent about their products or services. Let’s face it, a marketing campaign’s success is measured by the conversations it creates and the conversion that result from those interactions, and without consumer trust, you have nothing.
By implementing an influencer strategy within a marketing campaign, you’re building brand authenticity. Influencer marketing allows familiar names and faces outside of the brand to impact the way consumers think.
Not only do they share key messaging and information about brands with their followers, but they also share the messaging in their own voice and provide testimonials based on their individual experiences with each brand’s products or services.
Authentic content establishes credibility and builds consumer trust. By partnering with influencers that are highly respected and relevant within their space, they’re providing a vote of trust to your brand and sharing it with their followers.
Aside from testimonials and brand recognition, authenticity is measured by an influencer’s account size. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the account is, the less authentic it tends to be. This is due to the reality that influencers with substantial social media followings are most likely already partnering with several different brands.
An overflow of promotional material skews authenticity and it is less receptive to its followers. Larger may not always be better in this case, however, social media influencer accounts should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Finding the best influencers for your brand can be a challenge, especially within certain verticals. However, with an emphasis on authenticity and transparency, there is a shift toward micro-influencers, which may be smaller account sizes, but are more likely to have a loyal following and engaged audience.
Influencers are considered key players within their niche, demonstrating knowledge and passion with the space. However, what makes an influencer account successful is the engagement it generates within its target audience. Likes, comments, and shares are common identifiers of engagement within an influencer’s post.
Many brands solely measure these engagement metrics and stop there. What most brands don’t realize, is that influencer marketing opens the door to additional engagement opportunities for consumers to interact with your brand.
When brands partner with influencers, not only are educating the influencers on key messaging, but they are also educating thousands of people who are likely to convert. By providing an influencer with a unique coupon code, it encourages the influencer and its followers to take advantage of the discount. It also allows brands to track the consumer engagement from each unique coupon code and see if any conversions have been made.
Influencers also indirectly expand the brand’s social media following. By giving their followers an inside peak into the brand, people who see the content are more likely to check out the brand’s website, and if they’re really interested, they’ll follow the brand’s social accounts. More social media followers means more engagement, and more importantly, more conversions.
Aside from authenticity and engagement, what provides the most value to brands by working with influencers is the high-resolution images influencers provide. Since influencer marketing is primarily image-based, and often video-based, brands can collect the images taken and posted by influencers and repurpose them for their internal marketing efforts.
Whether it may be re-posting the image on their brand’s social media accounts, using it as an advertisement, or posting it on the company website, obtaining aesthetic imagery is extremely beneficial for brands.
Companies typically invest hundreds, even thousands, of dollars into images for their brands, so having influencers take unique photos featuring their products saves the company from spending additional money. Plus, the influencer images they are acquiring are coming directly from the consumer, which has proven to resonate more with other consumers than professional images.
As a best practice, upon agreeing to partner with an influencer, it’s important to have the person sign an image-rights agreement, giving the brand copyrights to the images they take and post across their social media.
Although each influencer has their own terms and the contract may need to be altered on a case-by-case basis, the brand is likely to obtain copyrights to the images in at least one facet that will benefit their internal marketing efforts.
Marketing strategies continuously pivot as new waves of technology in the digital age are faced with changing consumer needs. It’s no secret that over the years, social media has become an incredibly valuable platform for brands to connect with target audiences.
However, it requires an innovated marketing strategy and a plan of action. Influencer marketing has skyrocketed within the past few years, and its value to brands is going to continue to grow.