The Sphere of Influence: How to Utilize Influencers for Your Marketing Strategy

July 27, 2018

Since the beginning of social media’s breakthrough  into the mainstream, marketers have worked tirelessly to understand and harness its power with consumers. The days of simple print and video campaigns for products and services are a thing of the past - with potential customers more savvy and resourceful than ever. Armed with the  internet in their pockets, modern shoppers seek unfiltered reviews and perspectives on the goods they seek, preferring the authentic voices of real people over actors on a TV screen.

While it is wise (and necessary) to invest in a strong digital presence alongside your traditional methods of advertising, the effectiveness of your campaign is highly dependent on how consumers perceive your products and services. Out of every method for generating buzz for your business, however, nothing ranks stronger with customers than the genuine opinion of a trustworthy face. More so than any tightly crafted commercial or artfully composed magazine insert, the opinion of a peer hits the closest to home for internet audiences. What, then, is a marketing strategist to do?

Enter Influencer marketing - a campaign  trend so hot that an incredible 59% of marketers are increasing their budgets for it. “Influencers” are best described as independent marketing collaborators on social media, and are typically popular individuals with exceptionally high follower counts. These “Influencers” reach their massive audiences on a variety of platforms, but their impact is most strongly felt on Instagram and YouTube - platforms with a heavy amount of video content. This allows them to more easily  shape opinions and drive customers towards the products, goods, and services they sponsor. In this article, we will be discussing the ins and outs of Influencer marketing, including more details on the varieties of Influencers, how a business can utilize them, and all the benefits they can bring by drawing their followers in your direction.

The Name of the Game

As we mentioned above, Influencers are easily summarized as popular social media users with a large amount of followers, high engagement, and frequent,  well-received content. Influencers easily remove any trust barriers that consumers may have with your business or brand due to their perceived honesty and authenticity - all which derives from their history as a social media personality. This factor alone makes influencers worth seeking out, as their endorsement instantly spreads to their following, creating a built-in audience for your product or service.

Influencers tend to fall into two primary categories based on the size and scope of their online following; micro and macro influencers. A  micro-influencer tends to have a significant, but not massive, social media following. This typically ranges  between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. One of the biggest benefits of partnering with micro-influencers is their tendency to show stronger engagement with their fans, whether it be more frequent content production or more casual discussion within their smaller, more manageable network.

Macro-influencers, on the other hand, are what one could refer to as “e-famous,” or online celebrities. These influencers tend to have follower counts ranging from the 100,000s to the millions, and are genuine internet trendsetters and personalities. Though their engagement may not be as frequent or as intimate with their followers, the sheer volume of connections they maintain instantly creates massive exposure with a single endorsement. Choosing the right influencer is heavily dependent on the type of campaign you are running, so it’s worth weighing exactly what sort of exposure scale you want before selecting an influencer partner.

It's Who You Know

Once you have the scope and scale of your campaign in mind, it’s time to find and deploy an influencer for your business or brand. This step requires some Social Media knowhow as well as solid research in order to find the best possible endorsement, as not all influencers are created equal - and neither are the methods of finding them. Most campaigns typically start their research by browsing popular Social Media accounts on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Searching via hashtags, search topics, and categories will easily bring up several popular accounts that engage in relevant content and discussion. Many of these will be influencers, but it’s important to also look at the followers for each of these profiles along with the content they post. Some accounts may be flooded with artificial followers that inflate the audience of a profile, which does nothing for promoting your brand. Other pages may have a high genuine follower count, but doesn’t post often enough to really promote your product or service. Finding a strong balance of both aspects is imperative to success.

In addition to organically seeking influencers, the use of specialized apps such as Whalar is becoming more popular. These apps assist in your research and instantly provide you with a variety of influencer options to look through, as well as their follower counts and previews of their posts and content.

Once you’ve set your sights on an influencer, the next step is as simple as contacting them to discuss promotional and endorsement options. Most influencers will have price points in mind before you message them, but it’s important to keep in mind that this line of work is oftentimes the influencer’s main livelihood. Being overly frugal with your influencer budget can backfire strongly, as the influencer has the power of opinion on their side, and can potentially share a negative statement about a business or brand that reached out to them with an unsatisfactory offer. This isn’t to say that every influencer thinks and acts this way, but it is important to be considerate of the sway they hold with their audiences.

Leading The Pack

Now that you’ve set your budget and acquired an influencer, the actual campaign portion of influencer marketing is rather straightforward. You, the marketing strategist, simply provide material to the influencer (such as talking points, product/service demos, and marketing material) and let them handle the rest. You will sometimes see the influencer create a specific piece of content for your campaign, such as a video review of your product or a shoutout to your material in a “vlog”, or video blog.

One of the most prominent ways influencers harness and wield discussion to their advantage is through use of hashtags. Just like how trending topics apply on Instagram and Twitter, influencers use the same basic process when promoting a product or service for a brand or business. These keywords, as they are, are prefaced with a “#” symbol, which indexes the word for easy searchability on a given platform. Hashtags can also be paired with one another to create an association between two points of discussion, something that influencers take full advantage of. An excellent example would be a frozen dessert manufacturer partnering with an influencer who pairs a hashtag featuring the name of the product alongside #NationalIceCreamDay or #SummerTrends. This interjects the product into other topics of discussion, allowing for even greater exposure beyond the influencer’s initial audience. Additionally, any time an influencer’s follower re-posts or participates in a discussion featuring your product or service, their followers will see it, and so-on with their followers as well. This is the key to viral success for any campaign, and it always starts with influencers, their followers, and well-placed discussion.

Influencers Are Their Own Reward

When all is said and done, it’s easy to see just how effective an influencer campaign can be for any marketing strategy. With a loyal, built-in audience as well as instant trust and recognition, it’s no wonder influencer marketing is set to continue dominating the information space for products, promotion, and media.

As we discussed above, the key to successful influencer marketing is solid research and an understanding of the scale of your campaign. Micro and Macro influencers both have their pros and cons, and whatever option you go with should relate back to the objectives of your overall campaign. The influencer you choose should be contacted in advance and thoroughly engaged with in order to ensure a smooth relationship and a mutual understanding of budget and scale. Lastly, the influencer should be provided with ample marketing material alongside a concise agenda for your entire campaign. Hashtags, talking points, and areas of discussion are all worth consideration, as are product demos, advertising material, and testimonials.

As influencer marketing continues to be a smashing success for both consumers and advertisers, the competition for better influencers and higher quality campaigns will only become more fierce. Combining trustworthy, authentic faces with meticulously prepared marketing strategies is a winning combination that expands brand awareness like no other. How will you harness the power of influencer marketing?