One of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing is influencer marketing. The idea that we as a society prefer listening to someone we trust rather than a company trying to sell a product is one that dates back to the early days of marketing. Influencer marketing has taken many forms over the years, but it untimely began with brands reaching out to famous personalities or personas. Think about the 1950s Marlboro Man promoting cigarettes.
Today, influencer marketing endures as one of the most effective methods of product or service communication to potential customers. It’s predicted by Schlesinger Associates that 84% of marketers are planning on taking up an influencer-marketing campaign in the next year.
Why is Influencer marketing Effective?
Though many businesses engage with influencer marketing, is that a strong enough reason for any company to reach out to influencers? Sarah Kurtenbach with the KB Group specializes in social media and growth for companies. She has also spoken about different ways businesses can get started with influencer marketing. Kurtenbach explains why influencer marketing is so effective for businesses:
“Influencer Marketing is a powerful tool for brands to use! First of all, it's not easy for a brand to market itself. CPMs are rising, the use of ad blockers are increasing and it's hard for brands to continually create new and appealing content. When brands partner with Influencers, they do not have to worry about those listed hindrances since they are partnering with professional content creators who can promote the brand using their own genuine voice and personality.”
Where Influencer Marketing is Today
You may be asking yourself, “If influencer marketing has been around for so long, why isn’t every business using it?”
The answer to that question can be different for every business, but ultimately it boils down to the evolution of channels that promote influencer marketing. In the early days of the Marlboro Man, so too came the evolution of the television star. The rise of television commercials elevated the production costs associated with advertising. This increase in cost limited the companies willing to fork out the money necessary to not only produce a radio or television commercial, but also to pay a famous celebrity to endorse their product.
This trend remains true even today; however, a revolution called the digital age is challenging the status quo and opening the eyes of businesses who once believed influencer marketing to be a tactic out of their reach.
Here are four easy ways that any business can start its very own influencer-marketing campaign.
1. Reach out to Local Influencers
Before your business devotes big money into finding an influencer, try reaching out to local influencers around your area. If your city hosts conferences or if another business is an expert in a related industry, try reaching out and see if anyone would be able to provide a quote for an article or blog post.
Kurtenbach recommends that a brand start with “micro-influencers” who would be willing to partner for low-cost or even free product. If your business is hesitant to devote a line in the budget to testing influencer marketing, try offering someone a free product or service for their time.
2. Find Social Influencers
Right behind the digital revolution came the social-media takeover. Today, social-media platforms like YouTube and Instagram have changed how businesses interact with influencers.
Kurtenbach explains how social media has impacted influencer marketing:
“Social Media could be a brand's one-stop tool to partner with influencers. I have actually launched influencer campaigns for clients where almost 100 percent of the process happened over social media. I discovered the influencers on Instagram based on hashtag research, reviewed their past content and branded campaigns on their profiles and reached out/solidified the partnership via IG Messenger.”
Social Media has opened lines of communication between influencers and businesses that never existed in the days of the Marlboro Man. If your business has a strong social-media following, try researching social-media influencers in your industry. Once you’ve identified that they would be a good fit, reach out to them via their social platforms of choice and make a request to partner on a project.
3. Do Your Research
Just as social media has given rise to the social influencer, it also saturated the market with challenges. Today, people can purchase followers on social platforms for the purpose of boosting their credibility with businesses. Social platforms are consistently changing and updating to combat cyber-bullying and hate speech. All of these challenges and more can affect an influencer-marketing campaign.
What then should your business look for when choosing the right influencer? Kurtenbach offers four components of a quality influencer:
- Engagement Rates—Does the influencer have decent engagement rates based on his or her follower numbers? This will provide a guardrail to the brand to ensure it doesn't partner with an influencer who bought fake followers or "bots."
- Brand Safety—Is the influencer brand safe? A brand should review to ensure the influencer fits whatever its "brand-safe" mold is which usually includes no vulgar language, no obscene images, etc.
- Quality Content—Does the influencer create quality and professional content? Also, how is the content from past branded posts? Some influencers can be very creative and original with branded content, while others make it look too much like a "commercial," drastically reducing the performance of that branded post.
- Past Brand Partners—What brands has the influencer partnered with in the past? Specifically, businesses need to be aware of influencers who have recently partnered with competitors or influencers who have partnered with too many brands. When influencers start creating too much branded content vs. organic content, they tend to exhaust their audiences. This means that their audiences will either stop following them or will lost trust from becoming too "salesy" in content.
4. Use an Influencer Database
Businesses also have the ability to use software to find the perfect influencer. These databases crawl social and online profiles to find influencers and categorize them based on their fits with specific industries. These databases are easy-to-use tools that should be used to introduce possible influencers for your business. However, it’s still important to do your own research to guarantee the individual is a right fit for your business.
In an article written by Social Media Examiner, the writer identifies a number of influencer platforms, including these two:
- Influence.co—Influence.co is a tool that helps you easily find and connect with influencers who want to work with brands. It’s like a big influencer database for almost any niche imaginable. Plus, it’s free to use until you get to the point you’re contacting more than 30 influencers per month.
- Zoho Social—Zoho has a massive number of tools to automate your business, but one standout is the social-media management platform Zoho Social. This tool makes it easy to tag and interact with influencers on social media. The standard account is $8.33 per month, billed annually (or $10 month to month).
In the end, the decision to get started with influencer marketing comes down to your business's communication with industry partners. Whether your selling products or services, using influencers in addition to other marketing tactics creates a well-rounded advertising strategy that has the potential to influence potential customers in lots of different ways.