Marketing

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Marketers are always looking for new strategies to strengthen brands and boost business. This article provides an overview of what is influencer marketing and how it has emerged as the hot new strategy for marketers.

In the past decade, Influencer Marketing has emerged as the most sought-after marketing strategy, and according to the statistics, 93% of marketers use it as part of their marketing campaigns while 90% of marketers believe that it is an effective form of marketing with profitable outcomes. As of 2022, the influencer marketing industry is expected to be $15 billion. Today, influencer marketing is the mainstream form of digital marketing and is very common among marketers and advertising agencies. Yet, there are a lot of people who do not understand the phenomenon and wonder what is influencer marketing.

Although this form of marketing has been in practice for over a decade, the past five years have seen an exponential rise in its use. It is clear that it is one of the most impactful forms of marketing and constantly evolving into futuristic means of marketing. This article will help newbies in marketing and the common readers to understand the term and evaluate its effectiveness in the current marketing landscape.

A brief history of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has gained massive popularity in recent years, emerging as the mainstream form of online marketing. While it has been a buzzword for a while now, it is not a new phenomenon. The idea behind influencer marketing has been present in history for centuries.

The word ‘influencer’ might be new, but the concept even existed in ancient Rome when gladiators used to endorse products. As these successful fighters enjoyed a celebrity status amongst the Roman public, their popularity was used to sell products like olive oil or wine.

In ancient advertising folklore, the use of influential people to endorse ideas and products like medicines was also very popular. The Pope and religious authorities used it to influence the general masses.

The same idea of getting influencer people to promote products was also observed at the beginning of modern history. In the 18th century, the members of Royal families were the people of influence and used to endorse products of choice. Queen Charlotte, in 1765, approved the cream-colored artwork of British potter Josian Wedgewood and earned the title of “Her Majesty’s Potter’. Gaining the approval and appreciation of the queen enhanced the status of his product, and he began promoting his pottery as “Queensware.” The royal endorsement accelerated his popularity and brand value, with many people flocking to it soon afterward. This was the power of influence back in the days.

In the early 21st century, with the rise in social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Myspace, blogging became the new thing. The strong influence of a certain group of people over a large following was quickly observed and picked up by brands. The type of influencer digital marketing that we know of today began by PayPerPost, which was the first marketplace to pay bloggers for endorsing brands through their content. While it launched with quite a bit of speculation, blogging at that time was used as unbiased, online diaries.

Adding the element of advertising and sponsored marketing was a move that many hesitated to adopt. But as more and more brands saw opportunities to get the word out of their products and services by collaborating with this content, it finally gave birth to influencer marketing as how we know it today. In 2016, the term influencer was formally added to the English dictionary.

What is an influencer?

Influencers are individuals who have built a celebrity-like reputation on social media and are known to have knowledge or expertise in specific topics. As content creators or bloggers, they regularly post about relevant topics on their preferred social media platforms and engage their followers. Their followers or fans pay close attention to their views. Brands and businesses absolutely love influencers because they can be perfectly used to create trends and boost business.

Influencers in a particular niche have the power to motivate the target audience. They possess specialized knowledge, authority, and insights over a specific subject. Many new brands and businesses can use their pre-existing presence and reputation as a launching pad. For influencer marketing, an influencer is mandatory to assist companies in the form of advertising that builds brands’ credibility.

It is essential to distinguish between celebrities and online influencers. While influencers have systematically built a specific audience that is enthusiastic and engaging, celebrities are known to be popular outside of the digital world. Followers of influencers don’t follow brands but will follow influencers because they trust them and their opinions. The right to maneuver the audience and influence them lies with the influencers, and brands cannot foist business rules and regulations onto the influencers. The followers and their trust belong to the influencer, and that is what a brand needs to promote the acceptability of its brand or business.

Types of influencer

Influencers play a key role in marketing, and it is a practice as old as advertising: using celebrities and known influential people to sell products through television and radio ads. With the rise in social media and digital forms of marketing, the same idea has translated into influencer marketing. There are different types of influencers that fit into the following categories:

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  • Celebrities: Artists, athletes, and pop culture stars.
  • Industry experts, knowledgeable folks, and thought leaders
  • Micro-influencers: Individuals with an impact on social media
  • Bloggers and content creators

What is influencer marketing, and how does it work?

Influencer Marketing is a unique fusion of old and new marketing tools. It makes use of celebrity endorsement and places it into the current digital marketing campaigns. This type of marketing involves active collaboration between influencers and brands. You might be wondering that celebrities or marketers only work with famous people like actors, singers, or athletes. That is not the case. Influencers are not just celebrities. They can be anyone famous on digital platforms and have a considerable following. Influencers have the power to affect purchasing decisions of an audience because of their authority and position in the hearts and lives of the audience.

The practice of influencer marketing involves a brand or a business collaborating with a digital influencer to market and endorse their products or services. Brands work with influencers to improve brand recognition, create brand awareness, and generate sales.

The best thing about influencer marketing is that, as compared to celebrities, influencers can be anywhere. Their large following on the web and social media platforms is what makes them influential. They are approachable and easier to manage. They also make it easier for brands to evaluate and narrow down the targeted audience. Unlike celebrities, they sometimes have very few followers but developed a reputation for being experts in some fields. They are the go-to persons for people and are inquiring about things they hold expertise in. They share the right content that engages and entertains the audience because they are from amongst them and are closer to them than any celebrity.

According to research 86% of women take help from social media for purchasing advice or by speaking to others. As social media is easier to access, a lot of consumers rely on others’ experiences and reviews before making a purchase. And when that review is from a trusted source like an influencer, then it is given due attention for sure.

Influencer marketing is a result of marketers realizing the potential of collaborating with people of influence. As consumers have become more aware of the general sales process and have more choices, businesses have had to work really hard to build productive relationships with consumers through content marketing, email marketing, and influencer marketing.It is also true that people, especially teens, trust social influencers more than celebrities. Influencers are mostly considered part of a peer group, whereas celebrities are idolized from afar. For day-to-day entertainment and information, influencers have gained far more popularity in the lives of the young population.

Another benefit of influencer marketing is that it has emerged as a more profitable form of marketing than print marketing. Print marketing has seen a slow decline since the onset of digitalization, and marketers have sought new and innovative marketing solutions online. Since the online world is massive, brands make it easier for themselves by narrowing down their targeted audience in order to connect with more qualified leads.

Many wonder what is influencer marketing and how it works. The truth is that it works in several different ways bringing innumerable benefits to all three; influencers, audiences, and brands.

1.   Huge ROI

ROI is the most important of all KPI metrics, and according to stats, influencer marketing tops in pushing revenue and generating sizable ROIs. The best thing about influencers’ content is that it remains available for people to discover, whereas, in other ad types, your content fades away as soon as the campaign ends.

2.   Lesser drawbacks as compared to other marketing types

Influencer marketing offers the perfect antidote to some of the marketing drawbacks. When it comes to content marketing, many times, the content doesn’t get picked up no matter how great it is. You fail to get good engagement or number of visits because social media platform algorithms can be tricky to navigate. Whereas influencers have regular viewership and engagement, ensuring that your content is seen and read by the targeted audience.

Influencer marketing is also better than digital advertising as many modern consumers are increasingly turning to ad-blockers.

This type of marketing even has more benefits than traditional PR, where there is no guarantee that your press releases will be picked up by the publishers. However, with influencer marketing, you get to collaborate with the publisher and have much greater control over how you want your message delivered.

3.   Attaches authenticity to your brand

It has been proven time and again that using influencers can not only amplify your brand reach but also make your message appear a lot more authentic. While consumers love brands, they are also very skeptical of the content distributed by them. However, if a trusted influencer promotes the same brand, there is a much higher chance that the consumer will not scrutinize it the same way. Coming from a trusted source makes the message more trustworthy. People tend to trust people more than brands which make influencer marketing very effective.

4.   Enhances brand engagement

Collaborating with influencers not only increases the ROI but also adds value to all your marketing metrics. A successful marketing campaign can help enhance brand awareness and engagement. More people will visit your website or sign up for your newsletter. Whatever the call to action is, it will be a lot more effective than a typical advertisement.

How to choose the right influencer

The right influencer and influencer marketing campaign can make or break your marketing goals. Read further to find out how to choose the right influencer and scale your brand to new heights of success.

1.   Research is the key

Marketing teams always know their target audience and have a well-established buyer persona. They have had an idea of what kind of content the target audience is interested in and where they are normally present in the digital space. Research is the key to all these insights. And all this information is used by marketing specialists to determine the type of influencer for their marketing needs.

2.   Choosing the right one

Apart from being a good fit for the brand with a well-established following of the target audience, the influencer must also have the right stats too. Before you choose the influencer for your marketing campaign, it is best to see how big their following is and if it consists of a large portion of your target market. Checking the influencer’s engagement rate, including the regular comments on blog social media posts, is also necessary. You have to dig deep into the influencer’s performance as a professional because nowadays, there are tons of fake influencers too who have bought fans. There are different software platforms such as Follerwonk or Buzzsumo that can help you find these facts and figures, ensuring you make the right choice.

3.   Grasp the attention of the influencer

A lot of times, influencers are hesitant to work with every brand that comes their way. Maybe it’s that they don’t connect with it or they are too busy. To increase your chances of getting noticed by influencers of choice, it is always a smart move to begin making them feel special before you formally approach them. Comment on their work, engage with them socially, and retweet their posts. Being nice and kind can take you a long way, and with influencers, building a connection is very important if you wish to start a business with them. Put your brand on their radar, and this will greatly increase your chances of them responding to your deal rather than taking you as “just another brand” in their flooded inbox. For many brands, this preparatory method is time-consuming, but it has proven to be worth it.

4.   Determine your influencer marketing strategy

Before you jump into the idea of collaborating with an influencer, it is best to determine the kind of content you wish to create and the results you are looking to achieve through your collaboration. There are many marketing strategies that can be chosen, like video, social competition, podcasts, or blog posts. As a brand, you can always collaborate with the influencer in deciding the best kind of marketing strategy for your KPIs. So share the required outcomes with the influencer and work on creative ideas that will stimulate their specific audience and help you reach your goals.

The usual approach by most brands is that they give the influencer an outline of what they hope to achieve through the collaboration, the kind of message they wish to portray, and any other specific requirements like using a specific hashtag or mentioning something. And the rest is left to the influencer to add a dash of their sparkle and create a successful marketing campaign. After all, that is their job.

Types of Influencer Marketing

There are many different types of influencer marketing campaigns that brands can work on to enhance their business and reach their goals. All these types can increase brand awareness and attract customers.

1.   Host Giveaways

Any deal that strikes mutual benefit and is a win-win for all parties is the most appealing. Giveaway campaigns are the type of influencer marketing that is regularly seen in the digital space and is very popular due to their simple model. Hosting giveaways with influencers as part of a brand campaign has observed substantial growth in social actions like follow, like, share or comment. This obviously brings the brand into the limelight and a lot of engagement to their social page. With more engagement comes more brand awareness and a higher chance of striking deals with potential customers.

Running a giveaway is very simple and uses the power of influencers to engage their following in a giveaway contest and answer some questions. After some time, a winner is announced. The entire process is a great way to create brand awareness. Many times influencers ask followers to tag friends to enter the contest. This, in turn, generates more traffic to the brand’s page as more and more people are added to the contest. It is a very simple type of influencer marketing campaign, but it is undoubtedly a very effective one.

2.   Social Media Takeover

Another great way to spice up your social media marketing game is to try social media takeover. It is another type of influencer marketing that is used to increase brand exposure while giving something entertaining to the audience. Its aim is to be engaging or educational with subtle marketing agendas for a specific time period. It involves partnering with an influencer who aligns with your brand story. They are given the task of creating content for the brand on its social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn for an agreed period of time. Influencers incorporate interactive features on the brand page by hosting contests, live sessions, or sharing interesting content to engage the followers.

3.   Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is another popular type of influencer marketing in which brands rely on partnered influencers to promote their products. When a sale happens through an influencer, the affiliate partner will get rewarded as per the agreement. The influencer is basically an affiliate partner who promotes the brands and generates sales. For each sale procured through the influencer, they will receive a commission on it. In this way, both the influencer and the brand benefit. The influencer gets paid for their services and the brand generates sales. Nowadays seeking the assistance of influencers has emerged as one of the most popular marketing tools as it has proven to be highly effective and encourages the influencer to actively support and create content too as they mutually benefit from the number of sales.

4.   Sponsored Content

As social media platforms have tricky algorithms, many times brands’ social media content does not gain the required attention. There is high traffic on social media channels and your content is very likely to get lost somewhere in between and not reach the target audience. In order to save your brand from such failed social media content creation efforts, another type of influencer marketing Sponsored Content can be a true problem solver. This involved collaborating with an influencer, providing them with a set of guidelines and expectations, and partnering with them to produce and promote brand content on their social media channels. The influencer is compensated for creating sponsored social media content and promoting your product on their own profile.

5.   Product Seeding

Product seeding is a type of influencer marketing in which brands send free products to a group of influencers, carefully selected through research. In return, influencers post about the items gifted to them, share photos, make content around it and share opinions of the product with their followers. This is helpful in generating free publicity for brands through influencer marketing. Creative influencers can make interesting content around receiving the gift and sharing the excitement and anticipation with the audience. It also allows brands an opportunity to test their products and evaluate if customers would like them or not. If the influencer does, it can always turn into a positive review for the product.

How to build an influencer marketing strategy

Once a brand is ready to incorporate influencer marketing into its overall marketing agenda, it is essential to outline the strategy. All marketing tactics require strategy and so does influencer marketing. Building a good strategy helps you achieve your goals methodically and assess both success and failures for the future. With the right strategy, you know the entire timeline of how the campaign will be led, what you require from the influencer and the process of measuring your progress throughout. Here is how you can build an ideal influencer marketing strategy.

1.   Determine and Document the KPIs

All strategies begin with goals. For brands, that is a key performance indicator. When you are building an influencer marketing strategy, deciding the key goals is crucial. These can include building brand awareness, attracting a new target audience, and acquiring more leads and customers.

Influencers are highly trusted by their audience. Their followers believe in them and their opinions matter. In return, influencers are also aware of their follower’s likes and preferences as they have spent years and efforts to build a sizable audience who trusts in them. Brands can make use of their connection with the audience. Depending on the product sold by the brand, influencers have the power to fulfill all your goals and develop a nurturing campaign. Once you have outlined your goals, it is best to identify the key performance indicators. These metrics help you track your campaign and analyze what worked and what did not. KPIs track visits to website or brand page, sign-ups or sales, etc. once an influencer campaign ends your KPIs help you evaluate your strategy and see how to improve it for better outcomes.

2.   Get to know the influencer marketing landscape

Before a brand begins to collaborate with influencers, it is essential to understand the influencer marketing landscape. As mentioned earlier, there are many different types of influencers- micro-influencers, macro-influencers, celebrities, etc.

Before you decide who you wish to work with, it is worth knowing that all have different engagement rates and a large following must never be the deciding factor. Most celebrities have such a massive following that their engagement rate is very low. And their collaboration rates are also very high and most brands can not afford them. There are a plethora of influencers in the market which is why it is best to understand and evaluate all before you select one.

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Take some time to observe them and find out how they promote brands before you send your pitch. This helps in making well-informed decisions.

3.   Connect with influencers of choice

Once you have outlined your goals, documented your KPI, and understood the influencer landscape it is time to connect with the influencers of choice. There are different tools available that can help brands identify the right influencers in particular niches. Awario and InfluenceGrid are two of them. Apart from using tools, brand marketing teams can also do their own research through hashtags and see which influencers are making sponsored posts and ads. Scroll through accounts and discover the type of followers and content shared. Navigating through the social media platforms of various influencers can greatly improve your vision as to what you are seeking and how to connect with influencers. Building a unique and profitable influencer marketing strategy is surely time-consuming but certainly not rocket science.

Top influencer marketing agencies

Influencer marketing agencies can be the middleman in the tedious influencer marketing process. Nowadays, marketing teams take help from agencies to help them through the process of influencer marketing. The entire process of discovering the right influencers, contacting them, and selecting the right ones is too lengthy a process. Engaging with them, building an influencer marketing strategy with them and running campaigns are also very time-consuming. Instead, they would rather let specialist agencies do the job. Many influencer marketing agencies are offering full services and help the brand at every stage of influencer marketing. They play a key role in influencer discovery, management, creating content, and reporting on campaigns’ success.

Agencies have played a crucial role in the marketing and advertising scene for years. There are many popular agencies that observed the trends in influencer marketing and added it to their list of services very early in their list of client campaigns. Here are some of the top influencer marketing agencies of 2022 any brand or business can benefit from. They are known to provide top-notch services and business benefits.

  1. NoGood
  2. Obviously
  3. Carusele
  4. Open Influence
  5. NeoReach
  6. Fanbytes
  7. Audiencly
  8. Influence Nation
  9. HireInfluence
  10. Leaders
  11.  Kairos Media
  12. August United
  13. Sundae Collective
  14. Social Studies
  15. Go Fish Digital

What influencer marketing is not

Influencers are not viral celebrities who have gained stardom instantly. Most influencers who are trusted by their audience have worked hard to build their own influence and cultivate an organic audience. They have built specialties with their fans and followers, which is why they are naturally very protective of their reputation and trusted followers. Such influencers are not interested in working solely for money. They are the slow-and-steady types and are not looking for quick results or high profits. This is why collaborating with such influencers is not a get-famous-quick scheme.

Influencer marketing is a slow process at least it should be in order to build successful campaigns that demonstrate trust, authority, and credibility within the industry. This is why it is essential to understand before signing up with influencers and degrading the position; that influencer marketing is not about finding someone and paying them to say nice things about you. Influencers are credible sources of information for hundreds and thousands of followers. And they care about them. It’s a tempting notion that joining forces with influencers means winning the hearts of their followers. It is not that simple.

Wrapping Up

With the constant evolution in social media marketing, it is safe to say that influencer marketing is here to stay, and it won’t be surprising to see it grow further in the future. Ecommerce brands have truly benefited from influencer marketing and solely boosted sales and brand awareness through it. Influencer marketing campaigns are also valuable for connecting brands with social media audiences and helping them research customer opinions and requirements. There are higher chances of bringing value to future campaigns with more easy interaction.

Today, influencer marketing has managed to emerge as an indispensable factor in promoting brands, building business, and generating sales. Influencers’ ability to create native ads or content that resonates better with their followers has become the reason that many businesses are increasing their influencer marketing budgets and switching their marketing strategies to be more social media friendly. This is why, in the current digital age and era, using influencer marketing for businesses and brands has become absolutely necessary.