Who are these influencers, anyway?
Are they celebrities? Do they come from some political background?
Well, no! In a nutshell, anyone with a decent following on any social platform can be an influencer. Companies are paying these self-made people to endorse their brands, commissioning collaborations that help them attract new followings.
Let’s list out the things that any brand marketer worth her salt must absolutely know about influencer marketing.
- Micro influencers are more effective because they spend more time interacting with their followers.
- Videos reach more people than written posts and get more attention.
- Brands want people who can authentically deliver their core message.
- Brands are monitoring the ROI of influencer marketing compared to other channels.
Why Are Influencers So Important to Brands?
- Have vast online audiences. Take Zoella, the 26-year-old fashion and lifestyle vlogger with millions of followers, a record-breaking debut novel, and her own beauty line. Want to get your makeup brand noticed?
- Are independent. These digital celebrities all started as indie content creators with something to say. They aren’t signed by record labels, associated with businesses, and they are not obligated to voice content that is aligned with advertisers like other celebrities. At least not yet.
- Their audiences are enthusiastic. Influencers, in many cases, spent years building up their legions of avid fans. The people who follow them are passionate about their particular niche.
- People love them because of their authenticity. They don’t feel like sold out celebrities selling everything from breakfast cereal to lipstick. People trust them. With the oversaturation of ads, online influencers have become a breath of fresh air for consumers.
And for marketers. They provide a unique opportunity for inbound marketing. Influencers allow marketers to get their brand out there in the best possible way. With subtlety, yet reaching millions.
Micro-Influencers are Making a Mark
Companies often target influencers with the largest followings because their potential reach is greater. But lately, even those with lesser following are being paid as influencers.
Why? Because lesser known people are more accessible. Influencers with smaller followings spend more time interacting with their followers. And while there are many reasons why online conversations are effective, in this case, if a brand is associated with an influencer who interacts, it adds to its credibility.
Micro-influencers bring a more “common” touch to brands, making them more accessible and increasing the conversation around them. Their followers also trust their recommendations, ensuring a better conversion rate. This group of influencers are also more affordable, giving you more bang for your buck.
Video Content is Key
These days, many are constantly running short on time. In turn, visual content reaches far more people than written posts. More than 60% of the internet deals with videos and having an influencer go live with a product is a great act of brand marketing. Influencers can wear a fashion brand in one live feed and unbox a product in another.
The key is to making the video look as real as possible. Because videos attract more attention than static posts, many brands are integrating more live video into their influencer campaigns in 2019.
Is the ROI of Influencer Campaigns Really That Fantastic?
Measuring ROI (return on investment) is an important aspect of evaluating any marketing campaign, including those that involve influencers. In order to develop effective strategies and determine which influencers are right for their objectives, brands are keeping track of what methods create the highest return value.
Evaluating the social analytics of these campaigns help them determine which influencers, platforms, and posts are working, allowing them to continuously improve upon their influencer marketing efforts.
One of the most thorough studies on the ROI of using influencers was done as a collaborate effort by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions. They followed the marketing efforts of a fortune 500 food company. Here are the results:
- Influencer marketing yields an annual ROI of $23, compared to the $4.30 of the brand’s best performing banner ads
- For every 1000 views, influencing brought in $285 in incremental sales
- Influencer campaigns brought in 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising over the course of a year
Other studies have found similar results. A poll of marketers by marketing software as a service agency, Tomoson, found that on average, businesses see a $6.50 return on investment. The top 13% of respondents exceeded $20 for every dollar invested.
The influencer effect exists beyond the sphere of internet celebrities. In general, consumers have increasingly been listening to the input of those on their social networks and other word-of-mouth sources when it comes to making purchases, and increasingly ignoring ads. 92% of consumers trust their peers and trusted authorities. On the other hand, consumer trust in paid advertising has diminished by one-fifth over the past decade.
Yes, the ROI of influencer marketing is that fantastic, at least right now it is.
Is the Gold Rush Sustainable?
While influencer marketing is an ROI force to be reckoned with right now, it holds within it a paradox that may lead to its undoing.
- Right now the ROI is so high because influencers aren’t that expensive. Many marketers have found that the real value is with the micro-influencers – those with less than 100,000 followers. These individuals tend to be very true to their niche and are more interested in promoting quality products then selling out for a brand they don’t believe in. They also are often approachable, ‘real’ people, which is much of why their audiences appreciate them so much. How long will the compensation amongst micro influencers be reasonable enough to garner such unbeatable returns?
- The core reason that consumers listen to vloggers, bloggers, and social media-ites is because they trust them. These content producers stuck to their craft and their message, which is exactly why they yield so much influence. Will fans continue to trust them when they start to pitch more and more products?
- Another interesting aspect of the influencer space is the rise of follower fraud. Some influencers have been caught buying followers to win the rat race of “Who’s more visible?” This has created a challenge for brands who want to work with influencers whose followings truly have the potential to be interested in their products. A couple of years ago, Instagram took measures to crack down on the issue, putting priority on active engagements and interactions over number of followers.
- Or what about when influencers literally get ‘bought out.’ This was what happened with Casey Neistat, a YouTube celebrity with 6 million followers. Neistat sold his company to CNN and begins his era as a purchased influencer with a wonderfully honest, humorous and informative video on the transition – and an explanation for stopping his vlog. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute predicts that there will be more paying and less partnering with influencers. As long as influencers can manage to stay true to their authentic roots, fans are likely to follow.
How realistic is it, however, for independent creative individuals and teams to retain their independence once they have to answer to a larger organization – that does have to align with a certain agenda? Isn’t this like trying to force a round peg into a square hold?
If these three conditions begin to fizzle as described above, the great power of influencer marketing may begin to lose its pop. There is still a lot to be done in this area, with countless micro and macro influencers to tap into and infinite campaigns to be developed by creative marketing teams. But like any other wave, the crest must eventually be matched by an equally imposing dip.