Influencer marketing has been hailed as the “next big thing” in marketing, and it isn’t just hype. While endorsements and referrals have always played a role in advertising, influencer marketing has evolved to meet a new set of expectations in the digital age. It marks a powerful touchpoint in the path to purchase for the modern, self-educating shopper.
The Influence of Influencers
Influencers are online personalities that shoppers look to for advice, education, and commiseration. Sometimes they’re celebrities, but more often, it’s regular bloggers and social media inhabitants that have built momentum and gained a large audience of people interested in the topics or products they are posting about or who connect with them in some way. Social influencers have massive reach and inspire loyalty amongst their audience. Sometimes it’s as simple as having the right interests at the right time to engage an audience and essentially have their entire presence go viral.
Why They’re an Influence
Numerous factors impact the power of influencer marketing. Don’t make the mistake of assuming influencers are only for younger audiences. While 74% of Millennials and 80% of Gen Zers are likely to be influenced by social media when considering a purchase, the same can be said of 71% of all consumers. And 31% of all consumers consider online reviewers to be the most dependable source for product information.
But why? Confidence in brands is dropping. One study revealed that only 39% of women trust brands to live up to their promises, and they trust advertising even less (20%). The lack of shopper trust is probably because 96% of people don’t think that advertisers act with integrity, and many (69%) point to the fact that they know advertisers want to sell more effectively. Fortunately, CPG, health and beauty, and pet care are among the top five most trusted industries, and CPG saw a steady 61% of women ready to trust them.
Shoppers want to know more about your brand, and they expect to be able to find the information they want. Transparency means shoppers are more likely to trust you, and that makes them willing to spend a little more — 73% of shoppers will pay more for brands that promise complete transparency, while 81% are willing to sample an entire product line, and 56% would be loyal for life. Failing to provide this has a cost, too, because 39% would drop a brand in favor of finding a more transparent competitor.
When deciding how credible a brand can be, shoppers turn to referrals — 82% will seek recommendations directly from friends and family, a number which jumps to 92% when looking specifically at adults 18-34. Many (67%) are more likely to consider a product or service that had been shared by friends or family in email or via social media. An astounding 85% of shoppers will trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Impact on Brand Choice
Influencers tap into the recommendation-review zeitgeist in a big way. Their videos and social media posts are both authentic and emotionally moving, and their audiences connect with and relate to them. In fact, the emotional attachment for teen audiences to their favorite YouTube creators is 7x that of traditional influencer-type celebrities. When they talk about a brand — especially when they’re excited or disappointed — it has a real impact on their audience. Here’s a snapshot of other influencer marketing stats:
- 19% of shopper purchase decisions are impacted by influencers on Facebook.
- 32% of influencers in the U.S. cite Facebook as the best platform, followed by Instagram at 24%.
- Brands see $7.65 earned media value on average for each $1 allotted to influencer marketing.
- 67% of marketers were able to reach a targeted audience through influencer campaigns.
- 49% of people rely on influencer recommendations for making purchase decisions.
- On Twitter alone, purchase intent increases 5.2x when users are exposed to an influencer’s promotional content.
- The ROI for influencer marketing content is 11x higher than traditional forms of digital marketing.
- 40% of people purchased items online after seeing an influencer use it via Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.
Why Do You Need Influencers?
The social shift in who shoppers trust should be indication enough that influencer marketing requires serious consideration. However, that’s hardly the only factor to be considered. If shoppers are looking for insight and advice about your brand and offerings, take advantage of the opportunity for a dependable voice to raise awareness and promote you, and it gives you the ability to influence the evaluation criteria of your brand.
Influencers also give you a whole new audience to target. This provides another facet to your social message and builds in another touchpoint for brand awareness that can have a major impact on brand perception. Your brand becomes more trustworthy because of your connection to the influencer.
Tips for Using Influencers to Accelerate Your Brand
These seven tips will help you build an influencer strategy that thoroughly aligns with your business needs and provide meaningful results for your brand.
1. Ensure Organic Content Is Developed.
Shoppers rarely want a sales pitch until they’re actually ready to make a purchase. Don’t micromanage your influencers into an overly-scripted advertorial about your brand, products, and services. The reason that influencer marketing has so much power is its authenticity and credibility, especially at a time when confidence in brands is low.
2. Empower Influencers To Create Cost-Effective Content.
Organically discussing your brand requires a certain amount of access to products, services, and information. It also means allowing your influencer to be a creator by giving them creative control of the content; ultimately this leads to a more authentic experience of your brand, both for the influencer and their audience.
3. Work with Influencers Who Are Passionate about What You Offer.
Don’t choose an influencer just because they’re popular. The key is content that’s organic and authentic. If the passion for your industry and brand isn’t there, the audience is going to notice. If they’re excited about what you offer, that will transfer to the audience.
4. Work with Influencers with a Target Audience Aligned with Your Own.
You can’t choose an influencer just based on their their interest in your brand. Influencers are just like any other marketing channel, and if they aren’t connected to the same audience that you want to reach, you aren’t likely to see much ROI for your efforts and partnership.
5. Value Good Content, but Value Engagement More.
Once you’ve established a list of influencers who are passionate about your brand and reach the right audience, narrow it down further. It’s tempting to stick to influencers with a certain quality of content, but that’s not enough to qualify them as the right choice for your brand. Brands should gauge the way influencers engage their followers and inspire action. Great content that isn’t driving conversion is still a wasted investment.
6. Don’t Judge Influencer Marketing on the Same Measurement Scale as Other Marketing.
Advertising attribution can be tricky at the best of times because so many non-linear touchpoints play a role in awareness, message frequency, and ultimately, action. Unlike other marketing tactics, which have a direct call-to-action that’s tied to a specific campaign running over a particular period of time, influencer marketing is about building three relationships: your brand with the influencer, the influencer with their audience, and your brand with that audience. Take the time to develop ROI tracking that accurately reflects the role influencers play in the path to purchase.
7. Follow FTC Compliance.
The Federal Trade Commission has very strict regulations regarding the way brands and their ambassadors disclose endorsements. Influencer marketing might be the latest iteration of endorsements, but the relationship still counts as one that needs to be revealed to shoppers.
Influencers bring with them a level of credibility and transparency that breeds trust, which in turn encourages loyalty; that loyalty can be passed to your brand if you can deploy the right influencers in the right way to engage your audience. Use the seven tips we’ve outlined above to begin developing a strategy that positions an influencer in the right place to help meet your business goals and ensure you see successful ROI.