Influencer Marketing via social media channels is a relatively new component of the modern promotional mix.
For several years, many established marketing agencies and directors dismissed the tech-facilitated marketing element as just another digital bubble, not worthy of a budget line. However, as Influencer Marketing has grown into an entire industry in and of itself (Instagram Influencers alone were considered a $1 billion dollar market in 2017), the effectiveness of Influencer Marketing is no longer being dismissed.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Influencer Marketing at an annual conference. Maybe you’ve responded to some sponsored content on your personal social media feeds. If you’re like most 21st century professionals, you’ve been exposed to Influencer Marketing, but aren’t really clear as to what this whole “influence-thing” is.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Simply put, Influencer Marketing is a term used to described compensated partnerships between media-relevant personalities and brands. While activating social media influencers may be fairly new, Influencer Marketing itself is not an entirely infantile concept (in the 1760’s, the British royal family endorsed Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, a pottery company seeking increased sales).
In 1955, two university professors – Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld – shared their communications discovery of the influence informal “opinion leaders” had on their networks (who also happened to be consumers, voters, etc.) in their book, Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications. Widespread utilization of celebrity endorsements within the advertising world soon followed. Mikhail Gorbachev and Louis Vuitton, Bob Dole and Viagra, Brittany Spears and Pepsi, William Dafoe and Snickers, Sophia Vergara and Procter and Gamble, and the list of paid endorsements goes on and on.
With the emergence of social media – the ultimate digital democracy – branded opportunities have expanded beyond the inner circle of celebrity elite. Today, bloggers, vloggers, and social media stars with sizable online reach have the potential to provide marketing value to organizations seeking increased brand awareness, hence, Influencer Marketing.
How can your organization benefit from Influencer Marketing?
As traditional media consumption declines, and the use of online ad blockers increases, marketing professionals need innovative and cost-effective mediums to connect with consumers. Recent reports revealed that consumers, especially those identified as Millennials and Generation Z, have become virtually immune to all types of traditional ad placement, from outdoor billboards to prime time commercials.
In addition to having more curation control over their messaging consumption (you caught that part about ad blockers, right?), today’s consumers are trusting network recommendations (like Influencer Marketing) over more traditional types of brand communications, including television ads, magazine ads, newspaper ads, radio ads, email marketing, and ads served in search engine results. Organizations open to integrating Influencer Marketing into their communications repertoire, can competitively increase brand awareness and engage an active community of digitally-savvy consumers.
By delivering brand information through a trusted third party (aka Influencers), organizations can reach commercially-numb consumers in a more authentic and less spammy manner. Skilled Influencers will do more than just relay campaign information to their followers; they will generate an online buzz that has the potential to build a loyal fan base developed through trust-based strategies instead of intrusive broadcasting tactics.
Isn’t Influencer Marketing just for big, publicly-traded companies?
Influencer Marketing is no longer reserved for Fortune 500’s with seven-figure ad budgets; instead, it’s evolved into an essential component of a 21st-century marketing strategy. Progressive organizations seeking sustainable relevance will not dismiss Influencer Marketing as simply another online fad as it’s proving to be an incredibly efficient and downright essential part of a digital marketing plan designed to cut through the “noise”.
While Influencer Marketing continues to snowball into something way bigger than the initial reports ever imagined, organizations of all budget scopes can successfully integrate Influencers into their marketing mix as Kardashian-level social stars are not required to yield results.
One public relations agency working with both social celebrities and micro-influencers (bloggers with less than 10,000 followers) reported that micro-influencers generated 60 percent higher engagement rates on sponsored content campaigns. Just because someone had millions of social media followers (and charged 100x the micro-influencer rate for brand partnerships), didn’t mean their content yielded a proportional follower response.
What’s the future of Influencer Marketing?
Through well-executed strategy and proactive community relations, organizations of all sizes and in all industries can capitalize on the brand benefits of integrating Influencer Marketing into their communications program.
Influencer Marketing is projected to grow into a $10 billion industry by 2020 and has recently garnered the attention of the Federal Trade Commission regarding customized regulations around sponsored content disclosure. It’s no longer the offbeat promotions tactic of 2015 – Influencer Marketing is a big business that can yield big results for today’s organizations.
When exploring Influencer Marketing options, consider how your organizational team can develop Influencer relationships, inspire quality content, and manage multi-faceted (and often, Influencer-specific and cross-channel) campaigns in a socially-savvy manner. If such a process seems beyond departmental scope, don’t fret – there are a variety of marketing and public relations firms that specialize in outsourced Influencer Marketing (Becker Digital is one of those such firms).
Don’t bet the majority of your marketing success on obsolete and ineffective communication tactics. Influencer Marketing is quickly evolving from an exploratory digital element reserved for big box brands, into the future of effective promotional strategies. Competitive organizations will prioritize implementation of Influencer element into their social presence before they are forgotten by today’s always-swiping, ad-immune consumers.
Becker Digital is a full-service Marketing and Public Relations Agency dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to reach their goals. We apply our expertise in community development, social media strategy, and public relations to connect organizational clients with today’s always-scrolling online users.