Remember when actual brands set the trends for successful marketing? Ah, the good old days.
Today, it’s influencers who are in charge, showing brands what it means to really connect with an audience and successfully promote new products on social channels. Content marketing lessons from influencers are a valuable source of inspiration, particularly for small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).
SMBs in particular can take advantage of some of the ways influencers build their niches and connect with smaller audiences.
This article will cover 4 important content marketing lessons from influencers for SMBs, with a few examples to help inspire you.
- Influencers are pros at building trust — one of the things valued most by consumers about their brand relationships.
- Authenticity and connection are two reasons influencers resonate so much with their audiences.
- Social profiles are just as important for representing your brand as your website.
- Social media stories give your audience a more casual, down-to-earth view of your brand.
Influencer marketing: a quick history
The modern social media influencer may be a new phenomenon, but influencer marketing has been around for centuries. In the 17th and 18th centuries people looked to royalty for the newest fads. The early 20th century saw brands getting in on the game with fictional influencers (think the Marlboro Man) and one of the first true celebrity versions in Coco Chanel.
Later in the 20th century, celebrity endorsements became the norm — and a game changer for influencer culture. Michael Jordan for Nike, Cindy Crawford for Pepsi, and Paula Abdul for LA Gear (among others) proved just how much influencers help a brand resonate with consumers.
There’s one thing about pre-social media influencers, however, that separates them from what we see today: the brands were mostly in charge.
While influencers were the face of the brand, it was still the brand controlling the message. The influencers still depended on the brand to give them a platform.
Today? It’s the influencers who built the platforms and craft the messages. And, quite frankly, it’s often the influencers leading the way on marketing trends and best practices.
Smart businesses have recognized this flip and are willing to learn from it and participate. SMBs in particular stand to benefit from the lessons influencers can teach about creating a niche, connecting with target audiences, selling a lifestyle and more. In the next section, we’ll cover 4 specific content marketing lessons from influencers that every SMB should know.
4 Content Marketing Lessons from Influencers
Authenticity and trust
Consumers today can spot a fake sell from a mile away. The reality is that in a digital world, brands can no longer pick and choose what to share with consumers. Information is out there, and consumers are really good at finding it.
This means brands must know who they are and represent themselves authentically to their audience. It means that brands can’t run from their mistakes — they have to acknowledge and own up to them. It means that the things they post and share have to be honest, because they will stick around forever online.
Most importantly, authenticity builds brand trust, and trust is valued by consumers over all other aspects of their brand relationships. When consumers trust a brand, they are most likely to recommend it, buy from it, and choose it over other alternatives.
Image Source: Marketing Charts
Influencers are really good at this. They know how to build a niche and stick to it. They’re pros at creating #ads that still scream authenticity and make consumers want to buy. And it’s working — the Edelman Trust Barometer found that 63% of consumers trust influencers “much more” than what brands say about themselves and that 60% of consumers have purchased a product based on an influencer’s recommendation in the past six months.
So: what are the takeaways for SMBs here? First, be authentic in the way you represent your brand online. Second, partnering with influencers to build brand trust is a smart strategy, and it doesn’t require connecting with the biggest names. Studies show that micro influencers (less than 10,000 followers) have the best engagement.
In other words: it’s not about finding the influencers with the largest following, it’s about finding the ones who most authentically align with your brand.
Connection with consumers
From authenticity and trust comes connection with consumers. Influencers have perfected the art of connection and evoking emotion in their audience. The way they do it is by showing what a brand’s products do in real life — for real people.
When we consider again that most people trust influencers more than brands, one of the reasons is no doubt that they can picture themselves in an influencer’s shoes. Influencers show products in their real day-to-day lives, not a shiny advertisement.
The obvious way for SMB brands to benefit is by connecting with influencers who can promote their products. But another way brands can execute on this content marketing lesson from influencers (and at lower cost) is to encourage and share user-generated content (UGC). UGC is effective in creating connection in much the same way influencer content is — consumers report that they also trust fellow consumers more than brands themselves.
Ways for SMBs to encourage user-generated content include:
- Asking for reviews and sharing them online
- Creating hashtags for products and campaigns
- Incentives for UGC (like a gift card giveaway)
One great example is the City of St. Petersburg, Florida. They’ve been using the hashtag #sunshineshere for a few years now to encourage user-generated content from brands, visitors, and residents alike (like this example from Gallagher’s Pumpkin Patch).
Image Source: Instagram
Curated profile pages
Social media pages are often a consumer’s first point of contact with your business. As such, it can be just as important as your website in representing your brand. Since influencers rely solely on their social profiles, they create profiles that represent their own personal brands in much the same way traditional websites do for businesses.
It’s a content marketing lesson from influences that SMBs in particular should not ignore. Social profiles can be a huge opportunity for showcasing your brand personality, products and services, and happy customers all in one place.
Social media companies themselves have recognized this and created features that make it even easier to build website-esque social profiles.
Some best practices we’ve learned from influencers that SMBs should know:
- Nail your first impression. Have a profile picture that really represents your brand, and complete the introductory information (like your bio, contact information, etc.).
- Take advantage of highlight features on your social profiles. For example, Instagram has story highlights. Facebook has featured photos. TikTok has pinned videos.
- Be intentional about what you post. Yes — brands can definitely keep it casual in many cases on social media. But that doesn’t equate to haphazard. Make sure your posts have a purpose and positively represent your brand.
Here you can see a few SMB brands doing it right on Instagram:
Image Source: Later
Social media stories
While profile pages may be the curated representation of your brand, social media stories can give your audience a more down-to-earth, unfiltered look at your business. Influencers have no doubt been the pioneers of leveraging social media stories for brand marketing, transforming them from a casual way people shared their lives to a powerful tool for increasing brand reach.
So how can SMBs do the same? Here’s what to know about using stories well:
- You can be more casual. Stories give your audience a peek into the day-to-day operations of your business. Use them to pull back the curtain and really showcase your brand’s personality.
- Stories can amplify other content. Sharing an important post to your story or streaming an event there can amplify its visibility.
- Interactive stories engage customers. Not only can customers feel connected by participating in surveys or polls on your stories, they can give you important feedback! Use questions and polls to get your audience’s opinion and feedback on products or other important topics.
Level up your content marketing
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