Written by Shariq Toor
Influencers are having their day. From foodie bloggers to self-professed style mavens, they show the world what’s new, what’s cool, and ultimately, what to buy. And they do it in a way that’s akin to having a recommendation from your best friend.
Marketers, what’s not to love?
If you haven’t yet tapped into the power of influencer marketing, it’s time.
Here’s why influencer marketing works and why it’s around to stay. Get excited: you’re about to learn about influencers so you can use, er, work with them to help your clients and yourself gain exposure, get leads, and win more customers.
Be warned: this is comprehensive, so you’re going to learn why influencers enjoy such raw power to persuade. There’s a little bit of internet history and the tiniest bit of theory packed in these paragraphs. But don’t fear the long-form post. You’ll be a better marketer for it.
Understand Influencers. Feel Their Power. Then Harness it For Yourself
Influencers weren’t always the darlings of the marketing world. Admit it: you see them as quirky exhibitionists out for free stuff, products of the hyper-digital, over-sharing, 21st century.
But that’s all changed and, no matter what you think of them, social media influencers are ruling the roost right now in the marketing world. That’s because they have real power to influence what people buy.
What do they offer? Part celebrity endorsement and part chummy online guide to the latest cool must-haves, they’re a social media-based army of connected trendsetters, movers, and shakers. And what they’re offering marketers is pure gold: the power to nudge followers in certain directions… at precisely the right moment during the buyer’s journey.
No Joke, this is an Adapt-or-Die Situation
The bare truth is that, as consumer focus has shifted to a digital landscape, traditional marketing methods are nowhere nearly as effective as they used to be, and marketers ignore this only to their detriment.
In order to remain viable in this new environment, brands need to turn away from older, less effective digital marketing techniques and embrace social media influencer marketing. Here’s why social media influencer marketing is poised to become a major force to be reckoned with.
Influencers Exist Because There Was an Internet Revolution
The prevalence of the internet means that anyone can look up information on any product or service under the sun. It also means that users can leave feedback for consumers to help evaluate these brands before ever purchasing them. Entire niche industries have sprung up around the concept of maintaining high user feedback, with companies devoting large swaths of their marketing budget to anyone willing to write a positive review for their products.
This black-hat approach was effective at first but has grown so out of hand that, as a result, most savvy consumers have learned to discount online user reviews except in cases that they can be verified as legitimate in some way. Amazon, the leading platform that has suffered from a plague of paid user reviews, has been taking steps to clean up user feedback and review sections to combat this, repeatedly attempting to halt these practices through legal channels.
With the resources Amazon has at its disposal, the days are numbered for the practice of buying good reviews for products – it’s time for marketers to abandon this method and adopt new ones. An increasingly common digital promotion strategy that has proven to be highly effective, social media influencer marketing is now likely the best choice for a marketer looking to harness the power social media influencers have over their followers.
Sorry, Kardashians, People Just Want to Hear it from Their Peers
The clout of social media influencer marketing is undeniable. In 2016 alone, 71 percent of consumers were more likely to make purchases based on social media references than anything else, as consumers naturally trust the people they have come to know through social media – people they can see and hear on an everyday basis instead of just anonymous individuals leaving paid reviews on sites like Amazon or celebrities who exist in a higher realm.
Plus, you might have noticed, social media influencers are a breed apart. These individuals are often not celebrities in the traditional sense, but this often plays to the advantage of an influencer as they are seen as just like anyone else. Women especially seem drawn to influencers, as 86% of women turn to social media before making a purchase, and much of that is spent examining what trusted individuals on their social media feeds have to say about a product or service.
In some cases, these everyman influencers can have a greater impact than actual celebrities – teenage YouTube subscribers are 70% more likely to trust an influencer than a celebrity, for example – making it clear leveraging influencers as a marketing strategy can be a winning one.
My Smokey Eyes are Your Smokey Eyes — Take Cues from the Beauty Industry
The fashion and beauty industry is a clear example of how choosing to rely on social media influence marketing has paid off. When it comes to market penetration, influencers are key – of the countless number of beauty videos on YouTube, an overwhelming 86 percent of the videos with the highest views come from influencers.
With the other 14 percent coming from videos directly made by beauty brands directly, it’s become increasingly obvious that consumers are no longer responding to traditional marketing attempts.
The business sector has seen the writing on the wall as the same study found 57 percent of beauty and fashion companies incorporated social media influencers into their marketing campaigns in 2016. An additional 21 percent reported wasting no time in planning to implement influencer marketing in their overall promotional strategies in 2017 as well.
You See a 20-Something Applying Makeup in her Bathroom. Corporate Types See $$$$$$
The beauty industry isn’t the only one jumping on the social media bandwagon. A recent Duke University research study found that companies in the U.S. dedicated an average of 11.7% of their marketing budgets to social media last year, up from just 3.5% in 2009. This will only grow in the future, especially since companies reported in 2016 that every dollar they spend on influencer marketing nets them a $6.50 return on investment.
Even before that, marketers were keenly aware of the impact social media marketing – and specifically video marketing – has on ROI. 51% of marketers agreed in 2015 that video content produced the best returns when compared to other marketing methods, and as a large proportion of social media influencers habitually use video blogging as a core method for communicating to their followers, using social media influencers to market products and services has a universal appeal that is unlikely to diminish any time soon.
Change is Hard—Move Your Cheese and Get Over It!
Moving to a social media influencer focus is a major paradigm shift. Convincing an influencer to support your brand isn’t like hiring a celebrity as influencers don’t just endorse products—influencers need to believe in the value of a brand strongly enough to praise or recommend it to their followers.
You’re Going to Have to Wheel Out the Charm—By the Bucketful
Authenticity holds high levels of value when it comes to influencers and the relationships they have with those they influence. This means that any marketer looking to enlist an influencer to their cause needs to study them, see what kind of person they are, and then approach them with products and services that will make a difference in their own life – and in the lives of their followers by extension.
This may be a difficult tactic for more traditionally minded marketers to adopt, but not doing so will result in a failure to adapt to the changing social media landscape.
In other words, your career will wither and die like a forgotten houseplant.
With the power of social media showing no signs of waning anytime soon – and with research clearly showing the benefits of investing heavily in influencer marketing—not adapting to this new marketing environment can spell doom for even the most previously influential brand. Conversely, embracing social media influencer marketing now, while you still can, might actually pave the way for unfettered glory and success with marketing in the 21st century. Hope you’re ready!
About the Author: Shariq Toor is content strategist working closely with NoStop Ghost Writing, a boutique writing agency focusing on helping small business clients take their websites to the next level. From social media topics to articles on niche industry issues, NoStop’s articles are written with style, attention to detail, and with the client’s audience in mind.