Contrary to popular belief, influencer marketing is far from a new phenomenon. Influencers have played a key role in marketing initiatives since the dawn of contemporary marketing as we know it today. Sports personalities, movie stars, local celebrities and so on – all fantastic for convincing people to buy your products and services.
It’s just that right now, influencer marketing is experiencing an explosion in both popularity and (appropriately) influence.
Over the past five years, web searches for ‘influencer marketing’ topics have increased approximately 90 times. Within a decade, the number of digital marketers investing in influencer marketing has increased from practically zero to a whopping 93%.
Though as with all types of marketing, not all businesses are getting it right with their influencer strategies.
Why Influencer Marketing Is So Influential
The name alone says it all – influencer marketing is all about Influence and appeal. It’s a strategic approach to marketing, advertising and PR, within which businesses establish partnerships with influential individuals or entities.
In doing so, they’re able to attract and engage audiences by way of a proxy – one with a more believable and influential voice than their own. When a business tells the public to buy its products, it’s a request that falls on deaf ears. When a famous face everybody knows issues the same request, it’s more likely to be heard and heeded.
Putting the power and appeal of influencer marketing into some kind of context, AspireIQ recently published a series of facts and figures for digital marketers. The 10 most important and eye-opening of which are summarised below:
- More businesses are running more campaigns than ever before
Evidence suggests that not only are more businesses than ever before investing in influencer marketing, but those that are have increased the number of campaigns they run annually. Almost 85% of businesses polled said they run more than one campaign per year – 50% saying they run at least five influencer marketing campaigns each year.
- Micro-influencers outperform macro-influencers
You’d be forgiven for assuming that macro-influencers with 500k to 1m followers would have superior engagement rates than micro-influencers with 10k to 50k followers. In reality, the latter group has been found to have an average engagement rate that’s 40% higher. Super-famous influencers may be able to reach more people, but don’t generate nearly as strong engagement rates.
- Video content is still leading the charge
By the end of 2019, YouTube engagement was up approximately 35% over the previous year. The same trend is expected to continue throughout 2020 and beyond, with more than 80% of marketers indicating their intent to invest more heavily in video content. YouTube is quickly becoming the platform for high-impact influencer marketing strategies.
- It’s not all about promoting products and services
Increasingly, businesses are stepping up their investment in influencer marketing for reasons other than selling specific products and services. Wider brand promotion is the primary objective for around 80% of marketers working with influencers, with 45% using influencers to improve their reputation and authority. Content creation is another key point of appeal for marketers – almost 70% stating that they already use influencer-generated content to enhance their online and offline assets.
- TikTok is on its way to superstardom
Right now, no social platform is generating the kind of buzz that comes close to TikTok. As it doesn’t yet offer an advertising revenue model like other social networks, product placement and influencer marketing hold the key to leveraging the extraordinary power and influence of TikTok. With 800 million unique active users and counting, TikTok is fast becoming the influencer marketing platform of the moment for reaching Gen Z audiences.
- Influencer marketing delivers a healthy ROI
Of course, exact returns will always differ significantly from one campaign to the next. Nevertheless, research suggests that the average campaign ROI for an effective influencer marketing strategy is around 430%. The long-term cost-effectiveness of influencer marketing is also unrivalled, as once you’ve been personally approved and recommended by an influential individual, it’s technically a lifelong accolade to brag about.
- 60% of teenagers trust influencers more than celebrities
Revisiting a previous point, there’s such a thing as being too famous to be a viable unbelievable influencer. Precisely why so may of these influencers with audiences of a relatively modest size are considered more trustworthy than celebrities by six out of 10 teenagers. For Gen Z as a whole, the appeal of celebrity endorsements is surprisingly minimal.
- Total influencer marketing spend is headed for $15 billion
Worldwide, it is expected that total combined influencer marketing expenditure will surpass $15 billion within the next two years. Impressive enough in its own right, but frankly astonishing when considering the sector as a whole was valued at just $2 billion in 2017. The vast majority of successful businesses are already investing heavily in influencer marketing – those that aren’t have every intention of doing so in the near future.
- Average campaign costs are surprisingly low
While it’s possible to spend a small fortune on an influencer marketing campaign, it isn’t strictly necessary to do so. In fact, a recent study carried out by Linqia found that the average influencer marketing campaign costs around $25,000 – or approximately £19,000. This is the kind of cash you could easily blow on a single high-profile banner ad or video clip, though in the case of influencer marketing covers the entire campaign from start to finish.
- Twitter is generating astonishing sales for businesses
The results of a recent poll suggest that a full 49% of Twitter users rely on influencers when searching for products to buy. To put this into some kind of context, only slightly more (56%) are willing to rely on the advice and recommendations of friends. In any case, almost one in every two Twitter users has made some kind of purchase based on an influential tweet alone.
Essential Influencer Marketing Best Practice Guidelines
Of course, investing vast amounts of time, effort and money in an influencer marketing campaign doesn’t guarantee success. As with all types of marketing, you need to be strategic and savvy in your approach.
There’s no silver-bullet blueprint for the ‘perfect’ influencer marketing strategy, but there are several best practice guidelines to abide by at all times. Ten of which we’ll now be taking a look at in a little more detail:
1. Identify Your Goals Beforehand
It should be relatively obvious at this stage, but it is impossible to achieve goals and objectives you haven’t yet established. From increasing audience size to generating more sales to improving brand image and authority, an influencer marketing strategy can be used to achieve almost anything. Objectives should therefore be established before taking things any further, ensuring your KPIs are aligned with your goals and you’ve a system in place for measuring the performance of your campaign.
2. Listen to Your Audience
Every aspect of your influencer marketing campaign should be built in accordance with the conversation taking place at the time. Simply by listening to your audience and looking for patterns/consistencies in their conversations, you’ll find an appropriate angle for your campaign. You may also identify questions, problems and needs you can satisfy with your influencer marketing strategy.
3. Build the Basics Before Reaching Out
The basic structure of your campaign should already have been conceptualised by the time you attempt to get influencers on board. You’re far more likely to successfully attract and appeal to key influencers if you can present them with the fundamentals of a campaign that’s already coming together. As opposed to simply contacting them with a vague idea, though nothing concrete to back it up. Everything that takes place at this stage should be a reflection of the goals and objectives you intend to achieve.
4. Approach Appropriate Influencers Individually
Choosing influencers simply on the basis of their fame and audience size isn’t the way to go. Even if an influencer has a huge audience of engaged followers of direct relevance to whatever it is you do, this doesn’t necessarily make them an appropriate influencer for your brand. The influencers you approach must be those who can clearly identify with your brand, its values and its target audience. Always take the time to reach out to a potential influencer personally, explaining why you think they’re the right choice and asking them to share their thoughts about your brand.
5. Be Open to Input and Ideas
Your thoughts and preferences with regard to how an influencer should showcase your brand to their followers may be completely different to theirs. This is where friction often rears its head, with most influencers being completely unwilling to bend to the demands of the brands they work with. Make no mistake about it – influencers know their audiences better than you do. They also know how to reach them in the right way and deliver the right message, which is why you need to be open to their input and ideas.
6. Stay Sensible with Incentives
Realistically, the only incentive the influencer should need to promote your brand is a belief in what you do and the desire to spread the good word to their fans and followers. Payment forms part and parcel of the whole thing, of course, but never to such an extent that you’re basically forcing them to promote you against their will. If the only way to persuade them to promote your brand is to pay them a small fortune, they’re clearly not the right influencer for your business.
7. Provide Plenty of Creative Freedom
It’s never a good idea to approach an influencer with a detailed list of requests as to what you want them to say and do. Instead, it’s better to present them with a short brief regarding your objectives, subsequently enabling them to do what they do best. The more creative freedom you give them, the more likely they are to come up with something that goes far beyond your own capabilities. Just as long as you ensure they understand your objectives, you can leave much of the rest to them.
8. Trust Them to Do Their Job
Speaking of which, the temptation to micromanage those you involve in your influencer strategy can be overwhelming. Not only are you spending a fair amount of money on their involvement, but they’re also holding your image and reputation squarely in their hands. Nevertheless, the key to establishing good influencer relations lies in trusting them to do their job. If they’ve an established and impressive track-record, it’s highly unlikely they’ll let you down.
9. Focus on Micro-Influencers Within Your Niche
As touched upon in the previous points, it’s important to remember that there is such a thing as being too famous. High-profile celebrity endorsements seem like the ultimate no-brainer, but in reality carry very little weight with most modern audiences. By contrast, ‘specialist’ influencers who aren’t (apparently) simply in it for the money and exposure are far more likely to be trusted. Statistically speaking, you’re far more likely to bring home a healthy ROI by working with micro- influencers.
10. Analyse, Optimize and Improve
Lastly, acknowledging that no influencer marketing campaign is perfect holds the key to continuous improvement. From start to finish, it’s vital that you monitor and analyse the performance of every influencer campaign you run. Pinpoint what worked, what could have performed better than what needs to be eliminated entirely for your next campaign. What’s more, don’t be afraid to ask the influencers you work with for their input and ideas – before, during and after your campaign goes live.
Successful influencer marketing is primarily about three things:
- Finding appropriate influencers and bringing them on board
- Trusting them to do what they do best
- Focusing on the continuous improvement of your campaigns
Referring back to an earlier point, the average ROI for a successful influencer marketing campaign is somewhere in the region of 430%. Influencer involvement can help you achieve almost anything, just as long as you have clearly defined objectives established beforehand.