Nicola Watts
How To Win Using Influencers

Recent research* has widely reported that for the first time, the media is the least trusted of all institutions globally. Out of 28 countries polled, 22 claimed to distrust the media, with the fall largely driven by cynicism in the credibility of search engines and social media platforms. 59% of people felt that “it is becoming harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization.” This lack of confidence in the media to do their job has subsequently resulted in a loss of trust in both politicians and brands; 56% and 42% do not trust them, respectively.

So, who or what do people trust? Technical (63%) and academic (61%) experts, and an average person like yourself (54%). But, a person like yourself has reversed a seven-year upward trend and is at an all-time low.

Perhaps that 2017 was a big year for influencer marketing is related to these phenomena. By all accounts, 2017 was the year influencer marketing went mainstream, with expectations that it would become a $5 billion to $10 billion market by 2020. Brands flocked to influencers in droves to help sell their products and services to their engaged audiences. According to eMarketer, 84% of marketers planned to run some sort of influencer campaign in 2017.

The number of internet users in the world has exceeded 4 billion. Considering that a whopping 53% of the global population is now online, and almost 3.2 billion people are active on social media, the trend looks set to continue.

With our trust in more traditional institutions waning, our customers seek out fellow customers to inform their purchasing decisions and help them navigate the myriad choices they are exposed to. In the past, consumers relied on brands, companies or the media; now they count on each other and their favorite personalities who are securing massive followings on YouTube, Instagram and other social platforms.

Influencers are a hybrid combination of a technical or academic expert and someone like you, people who are regarded as thought leaders or experts in their specific niche or market. In other words, they embody who people currently trust the most.

Influencer marketing isn’t new at all. Brands have partnered with celebrities, athletes or other opinion leaders to grab our attention and endorse their brands for a long time. It’s a clear transaction. Our customers know that the actor, athlete or leader is getting paid to promote a brand.

What makes it different now is that social media has given anyone with internet access the opportunity to share their opinion and content, elevating those that do it well to the giddy heights of social influencer. It’s not just a popularity contest, although many do well under this guise; it’s also about an innate ability to influence the perception of others. An influencer can come from any walk of life and be an opinion leader on any subject, from a child playing with Barbies on YouTube, to a popular fashion photographer on Instagram, to a political blogger on Twitter, to a respected marketing executive on LinkedIn.

Influencer marketing is exciting to brands for four very enticing reasons:

  • Content is actively sought after and can’t be blocked, unlike ads which are blocked, skipped or ignored.
  • New influencers are emerging every day. There’s someone for everyone!
  • If someone you’ve chosen to follow wears, eats or drinks something, you actually pay attention.
  • The best way to gain someone’s trust is to align yourself with somebody your customers already trust.

It’s important to understand that influencers are people who’ve spent a long time building their brand and nurturing their followers. They’re people who’ve had the patience and forethought to succeed in social media, one follower at a time. They’ve built large networks of loyal and engaged fans by passionately producing relevant and authentic content around their expertise. They understand what their followers like and what is expected from them. They live or die on their reputation and can’t be seen to be selling out.

A word from an influencer can make or break your brand. They can become powerful brand advocates, but identifying the right influencers for your brand is not an easy task. But it is a worthwhile one, as your brand gets targeted exposure to the right kind of customer, one who is predisposed to be interested and is paying attention.

There are two distinct types of influencer marketing. The best are earned. These are influencers who promote your brand because they have a genuine relationship with it. They may be longstanding customers or new ones who you’ve developed a relationship with, but your brand has obviously done something right as they are endorsing it without any monetary incentive. However, barring rare exceptions, typically they don’t have large amounts of followers.

Paid influencers usually have a large following and a strong relationship with their subscribers. But customers are exceedingly socially savvy; they notice when influencers are inauthentic or are just participating in a campaign to get paid. They can spot it a mile away and are quick to call out an influencer or brand for this breach of trust.

Done right, this can achieve high returns, but there are no guarantees. Simply paying someone with 100,000 followers to share your post on Instagram won’t automatically bring you a flood of sales, and partnering with the wrong influencer can lead to a poor performing campaign, or even damage your brand’s reputation. What are five ways to ensure that influencer marketing works for you?

  • Be selective on what to promote. Influencer marketing is very good at amplifying, but it can’t perform miracles. Be realistic about your product’s suitability. It won’t turn a poor brand into a top-performing one!
  • Set realistic objectives and budget. Your objectives and budget will determine the category of influencer you go with: celebrity turned influencer or influencer turned celebrity will get you huge reach. However, a macro-influencer (100,000 to 1 million followers) may get you reach with better engagement while a micro-influencer (1,000 to 100,000 followers) could get you better engagement and conversion for a much smaller budget.
  • Decide what influencer. Spend time looking for the right influencer for your brand. Look at their reach but also look at how interested an influencer’s audience is in their posts (follower numbers divided by post likes). Are they a good fit with your brand? Do you share the same values and vision? Who else do they endorse? Once you’ve found someone who feels right engage with them. It should be a win-win!
  • Let your influencer create appropriate content. Trust your influencer to know what works for their followers, and how a post or video should look or feel. You need the content to be personal, authentic and real.
  • Know the rules and track results. The rules changed last year. You need to be open and up front when a brand endorsement has been paid for on social. Define what success looks like and measure it.
*Edelman Trust Barometer

    We'd love to hear from you.