Why Influencer Marketing Works, and How To Apply It To Your Business?
Today’s new word-of-mouth platform reigns supreme in advertising
If you’re a brand owner or keeper, you may be positing the merit of influencer marketing, and wondering if and how to add it to your marketing mix.
At its core, influencer marketing is a viral word-of-mouth platform. Since the invention of products until today, word of mouth remains a primary driver in consumer purchase behavior. People trust people they know and have established relationships with more than brands who are ultimately engaging them to obtain their money.
So, there is no denying that it works. But how you play the game makes the difference in your effectiveness in leveraging the tactic to achieve your business goals.
Just like with anything in life, there are levels to it. There are an infinite number of influencers to choose from, and dizzying options of influencer marketing management (and posting) platforms to consider too — which is true. So where and how do you get started?
- Getting Started — STRATEGY
Let’s begin with my POV that I unequivocally advocate that all brands can benefit from creating an influencer strategy. Whoa! All? Yes, all. Since influencer marketing is a form of word of mouth, it is proven 1000x over and it’s evident that it is here to stay.
Per Hubspot’s Influencer Marketing 2023 Report, 89% of marketers who currently engage with influencer marketing will increase or maintain their investment in 2023, and 28% of consumers from the United States report following at least one virtual influencer on YouTube. Get more context, stats and insights in the below free report.
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2. Choose Your Category*
Which category of content do you want to your customer to intersect with your product. Note I didn’t say choose your product category. You may be a chef, but want to engage fashionistas in an unexpected and appealing way, so wish to leverage fashion or beauty bloggers. Think differently. A few categories are Beauty, Health & Fitness, Food, Tech, Travel, Entrepreneurship and Home & Lifestyle.
3. Choose Your Influencer Level
So get this. It’s NOT all about the followers. For real. I know this may be a hard concept to grasp, but micro-influencers and even nano-influencers often have higher loyalty, resulting in higher engagement and action from their posts than macro and celebrity influencers. YouTube micro influencers (those with 100,000 to 1 million followers) have the highest engagement rates on the platform (Hubspot 2023 Influencer Report, linked above).
Because this is a new and quickly evolving platform, the number of followers for each category is shifting and defined differently by industry leaders. However, in general the follower counts are:
Celebrity — ~1MM+ followers
Macro — ~100K+ followers
Micro — ~1K-100K followers
Nano — ~Under 1K followers
4. Choose Your Content Style
People consume content voraciously now across multiple platforms. In order for your content to appeal vs annoy, think about how to design interesting content that entertains, educates and informs vs just sells. Leverage emotion, personality and consumer need too.
Choose the best form of content both for your brand AND for the influencers you select. I have developed influencer programs that include Instagram, YouTube and other platforms because of the respective influencers’ appeal on different platforms. So give yourself permission to launch a campaign across social & digital platforms. Show up where the influencer has influence to truly make impact. Consider such content styles as:
These have spawned from tutorials in the interest of not so blatantly promoting products. GRWM = Get Ready With Me and allow the influencer to show how they get ready and highlight all the different products they use to prepare for their day, date or whatever occasion they are touting.
Do it yourself is all the rage, especially after COVID. Integrating your brand in influencer “how to” videos” is an excellent way of demonstrating use of your product and borrowing adjacency and implied endorsement from the influencer. Do it!
HAUL & UNBOXING VIDEOS
Young people and older alike enjoy watching a surprise unfold. What’s inside the box? What’s it smell like or look like? Getting an influencer to include your product in an unboxing or a shopping haul video featuring your product can be a fun way to introduce your product to them.
This style is a bit suspect because people are skeptical if influencers will be truly honest. The verdict is out with me on this one, but a consideration for you nonetheless.
Can It Kirkland? Who should we have on next? We love you so much @Brittany_Broski #shortsclip #fyp
5. Choose Your Category
Research conducted by Hubspot 2023 reports that 72% of Gen Z & Millennials follow influencers on social media. Brands can replace or augment their advertising via TV, radio, print and digital by leveraging their influence to reach their audience and be just as effective.
Here are some recommendations to get started with developing & implementing your influencer strategy:
- Use hashtags that consumers would search for your product category to find influencers.
- Identify influencers with followings (or who are based in) key markets that you want to affect and/or see a sales lift. Be strategic with it.
- Research the engagement of your influencer. If you note that the influencer has a gazillion followers and low (think, under 1%) engagement with posts, they likely have purchased their followers. Remember, you want engagement.
- Include a defamation clause. Stipulate that if they do not like your product, they do not have your permission to bash it. They can find something else to say about it, but you are not paying for them to bash. Period. Who does that? And if you do allow for it, don’t pay for it.
- Create affiliate links my friends. Let these folks get paid WITH you. If you get paid, let them get paid. More simply…You eat. They eat. Their ability to earn incremental revenue from your partnership will drive them to make meaningful and engaging content AND promote it too.
- Choose influencers across category strata of Celeb, Macro, Micro & Nano. Most brands use micro & nano to great effectiveness. Just be prepared to dedicate a staff resource to manage them, because it does take more people to manage the number of micro & nano influencers.
I could not conclude this article without addressing this. In short, you have to pay the influencers. In more long form, I will share that I have personally witnessed this industry evolve from in-kind exchanges to a requisite cash spend. Now that this is an industry, many people view this as a career, and as such, payment is a baseline part of the negotiation. You can however augment upfront payments with affiliate payments earned when consumers purchase using their codes.
Olivia F. Scott is Assistant Professor of Advertising at Loyola University, Adjunct Marketing Professor at NYU, and Founder of Omerge Alliances Marketing Consultancy. Learn more at oliviafscott.com.