For a majority of my 20-something-year career, influencer marketing was simply an early phase of most advertising campaigns. Influencers were a target that marketers would reach out to before the mass advertising launched. Typically, they were experts in a field, advisors and professionals. And because they were pros, not consumers, we generally took a B2B campaign approach including direct mail, email, events, conferences, trade media relations and trade advertising. We usually wanted them to recommend our product or service to their clients.
Today, influencer marketing is vastly different. For starters it’s more organic – associating a brand with an influencer. Modern influencers are just as likely to be celebrities, or pop culture phenoms, as they are to be recognized experts. It’s about finding someone with a relevant and devoted following. It’s about getting these influencers to talk about your brand in an authentic way – giving the marketer targeted exposure to a consumer who is already interested and has been influenced to pay attention. And the channels are now primarily social media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat and blogs.
I saw a recent example in Forbes that clearly illustrated the modern concept (“Why Influencer Marketing Will Explode In 2017”). Imagine you are back in high school. You walk down the hall, backpack straps pulled tight. And you stroll past the “popular crowd” of girls – who, metaphorically speaking – would be Kylie Jenner on Instagram. You hear Kylie say in passing, “I love my Fashion Nova jeans.” Instantly you feel as though you have insider information. You now know what she wears, and what she considers to be cool. This is exactly what has happened. Kylie Jenner partnered up with affordable clothing brand, Fashion Nova, and in one Instagram post made this clear point with 2.2M likes. You don’t have to buy designer clothes to look like a celebrity. You just need Fashion Nova.
As you scroll through your own Instagram feed, you are seeing advertisements. You just can’t tell right away. Some of the people you follow are not only giving advice and exploring your mutual interests, they are promoting brands while still staying true to their unique voice and story. The best influencers work to integrate their branded campaigns into their stories seamlessly. They know their audiences are fickle and can quickly leave, so they treat each and every post with care.
So, how are brands and businesses adjusting? By getting the beloved personalities and thought leaders of today’s social platforms to tell their followers what and when to buy. And this trend is not limited to pop culture markets like fashion, athletics or entertainment. There are influencers in markets centered around just about everything including technology, financial services, healthcare and home products.
When assessing an influencer collaboration, look beyond the sheer size of an audience. Instead, consider engagement metrics, just as you do when evaluating other types of digital advertising opportunities.
Many brands are now leveraging micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have smaller followings than macro-influencers—10,000 to 90,000 followers as opposed to hundreds of thousands. They aren’t necessarily celebrities, but they often have a more personal connection with their followers, and yield higher engagement rates with more targeted audiences. And they are more affordable.
To build a relationship with an influencer, generally follow these steps:
In 2017 and beyond, collaborations between brands and influencers are likely to increase. In fact, according to e-Marketer, 84% of marketers plan on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign during the next 12 months. Are you going to be part of that 84%? Let us know your thoughts about influencer marketing on our Twitter page @prestonkelly #influencerpower