When it comes to convincing shoppers, credibility is key. They don’t want a sales pitch, and they don’t necessarily trust brands or traditional marketers to give them the information they’re looking for. Shoppers put a premium on authenticity and transparency, and that’s where influencer marketing comes in.
The Impact of Influence
We’ve touched on the importance of influencers in a previous post, where we discussed the fact that 71% of all consumers are impacted by social media while shopping, and another third turn to online reviewers as the most dependable source of product information. Almost half of shoppers will rely specifically on influencers for making purchase decisions. Undoubtedly, that’s why roughly 24 million brand-sponsored, influencer-created posts will be published in 2018 alone.
There are two factors that affect this. Shoppers identify strongly with their influencers of choice. They’re seen as transparent and authentic because they represent a genuine experience, rather than a disingenuous one manufactured by brands, and that builds a powerful sense of trust. Next, the halo effect inclines shoppers to prefer the brands, products, and services that were recommended by someone they trust. Essentially, if the influencer likes it, it must be worthwhile. As long as that authenticity and trust are maintained; brands that partner with the right influencers will enjoy the benefits of their reach.
A single influencer can only take you so far; drive more redemptions by integrating multiple influencers.
Why You Need an Influencer Network
A network of influencers provides brands with scale. First, it opens the door to segmentation; sometimes the differences in the audiences of two influencers will be minimal, and sometimes it may represent an entirely different demographic. Tapping both lets you reach a larger audience in a manner that speaks to their own interests and experiences. This also highlights the way a network of influencers will provide extended reach without falling into the generic trappings required for mass marketing.
In addition, you could raise brand awareness and lift perception. According to Social Media Today, 88% of marketers already report influencer marketing is effective or extremely effective at raising awareness. It also safeguards loyalty and product movement — 65% of marketers believe influencers positively impact customer loyalty, while another 53% believe the same about driving sales. A network amplifies this to your benefit. Consider what happens when an influencer doesn’t prefer one of your products. Your brand has to be open to that possibility in order for the influencer’s recommendation to hold merit, but if you’re relying on just one influencer, it can also hurt your effectiveness. A network of influencers provides a range of reviews and stories that will guide shoppers’ ultimate purchase decisions, and while you may lose with one segment, you may make up for it with others.
Influencers also provide the opportunity to expand your brand story. Whether you’re a leader in the market, enhancing your role as the dependable option everyone loves, or a challenger establishing yourself as the underdog that’s the better choice, influencers offer the chance to put more than just a human face on your product. They provide the emotion and gratification of a real-world experience. Traditional marketing simply can’t match it, and with a network of influencers, there’s the range of variety and depth to those experiences.
Creating Your Network
Similar to other marketing tactics, creating a network of influencers requires taking things one step at a time to ensure you’re getting the ROI to warrant the cost of particular influencers. These steps will help you get started.
Watch Your Budget.
Some experts consider the minimum budget necessary to make an impact for your brand to be $20,000 if working with an agency to connect with influencers. The bigger your brand, the more complex your network will need to be in order to properly reach your entire audience. In turn, that expands your budget. Big brands have much more room to experiment, but that doesn’t mean it should be done without focus and strategy.
Ensure Your Audiences Match.
Some rules of marketing never change; be sure to “properly target your audience.” Partnering with a particular influencer just because they’re broadly popular, even if it’s within your category, will waste valuable dollars that could go into choosing the best. You should also remember that micro-influencers can be just as powerful. They may have a smaller audience (usually between 1,000 and 100,000 followers), but if highly qualified, you’re building a relationship with shoppers who are much more likely to become loyal fans. A network allows you to strategically select how to reach audiences.
Provide the Materials for Great Content.
The influencer may be the voice that shoppers trust, but that doesn’t mean their content can be created effortlessly. Their job is to share your product in a way that speaks to their followers. Your job is to give them the products and information they need to do the job right and have a positive experience with your brand. The goal is to resonate with the influencers, who then share that feeling with their audience, so it can resonate with them too. Ultimately, it will be a long-term relationship with each, so have a plan in place for how to leverage symbiotic relationships to your advantage.
Respect Creative Freedom.
More than three-quarters of influencers (77%) noted that one of the top factors for whether they would work with a particular brand was being granted creative freedom. Creative freedom is quintessential to the rise of influencer marketing, and curtailing that any more than strictly necessary adds the risk that the content is perceived to be contrived. Remember, they may be part of your marketing plan, but they don’t work for your company.
While influencers are not a traditional media partner, they are content creators with media channels. They deserve to be compensated. Depending on the influencer, this can include free products or experiences (e.g., samples, advanced access, coming to an exclusive brand event). However, it’s important to realize that as influencer marketing has gained a foothold in the advertising world, more influencers see what they do as work that warrants getting paid. If the influencers you select for your network prefer monetary compensation, you should be prepared to provide it. Just be mindful of your budget alongside what you’re asking them to create. Depending on where you find them, which platforms they use, and how popular they are, it can become pricey. Digiday reports the cost for an Instagram influencer is $1,000 per 100,000 followers, while AdWeek tags the average around $300 per post.
As a marketing tactic, you should have analytics in order to properly consider the value of your partnership and build strategies for seeing the best ROI. However, that doesn’t mean you can directly apply traditional marketing analytics. Attribution to this type of marketing may be difficult because of the ephemeral nature of influence. As this marketing tactic continues to grow in prevalence and evolve, new methods for measurement will develop. Already, TapInfluence and Nielsen have released a study showing influencer marketing provides an 11x ROI. Similarly, Twitter and Annalect report that users exposed to promotional influencer content experienced 5.2x increased purchase intent.
Influencers play a huge part in shopper purchase decisions, and that means they need to play a considerable role in your marketing. They can provide some of the authenticity and transparency necessary to stay competitive. A network of influencers will amplify this impact and ensure your brand stays top of mind as the go-to choice. Keep these actionable tips in mind as you develop the network that will give your products a unique edge on the market.