In the early 2000s, social media platforms started popping up everywhere.
Fast forward 15 years, and these social media channels control the way consumers live their lives.
Not only do people communicate with each other via social media, but an increasing number of people also use social media to discover and shop for new products. In fact, 76% of US consumers purchased a product after seeing a brand’s social post.
Influencer marketing is a strategy that focuses on working with influential people, or influencers, on social media to drive your brand’s message to a targeted audience. It combines the idea of celebrity endorsements with modern-day content-driven marketing methods.
Social media influencer marketing ties in components of both social media marketing and content marketing. Influencers spread the word about a brand on their personal social channels, and they do so by creating content surrounding a brand’s product or service. Typically, the influencer is paid monetarily or in free products.
However, good influencer marketing is not simply a compensated collaboration between a brand and an influencer, but rather a sincere relationship between the two. Instead of brands blindly fixating on the number of follows and likes, it’s more important to build genuine relationships with influencers who share your brand’s vision and goals. Influencer marketing works because it relies on the influencer’s credibility and authenticity, which already exists in the minds of their audience.
Here’s why brands absolutely need an influencer marketing strategy today, along with real-life examples of brands that have done it well.
Benefits of influencer marketing
While some turn their noses up at influencers, the smartest brands leverage influencers’ charismatic online presence and close relationships with their followers to reach their target audiences. But the benefits of influencer marketing stretch far beyond short-term goals like increasing brand affinity and conversions.
It’s word-of-mouth marketing on another level
Consumers do a lot of research prior to making a purchase, especially if they’re preparing to make a big investment. While they’ve always relied on what they hear from people they trust like friends and family, in our digital age, shoppers are increasingly turning to influencers for product recommendations and reviews.
Influencers are some of the most trusted sources on the internet. Contrary to popular belief, most influencers care deeply about being authentic and transparent with their audiences. They know their audiences rely on them for genuine advice and insight into the latest and greatest products on the market.
By working with a brand they don’t actually like or recommending a faulty product, they could compromise the strong relationships they’ve built with their audience.
In addition, they typically have expertise in a specific niche and closely interact with their followers on the daily. That’s why recommendations from a trusted and knowledgeable influencer have four times the impact on a consumer’s purchase decision than a regular recommendation. By extension, working with an influencer can help build credibility for your company.
Influencers are creative storytellers
The real reason people are drawn to influencers is their ability to share their everyday experiences with their audience. Influencers are great at opening up about the good, the bad, and the ugly in their lives. They create relatable, yet aspirational content.
That said, working with an influencer will humanize your company, as they tell an authentic story around your brand. Influencers can seamlessly incorporate your products into their lives and talk about how it fixed a problem in their life, or how it added value to their everyday routine. WIth influencer analytics, you can decide how to use the influencer's platform based on past experiences to build stories that resonate with the audience.
In the post above, @sincerely_sheda candidly talks about her struggles of setting a routine with her kids and how taking some time to enjoy a cup of coffee made with Mr. Coffee has helped her immensely.
Below, NYC-based @lostwithjess shares how she’s been enjoying the little things while social distancing, like picnics on the roof with wine delivered by Vivino. Even though their content is tagged as an #ad, they’re genuine life moments that resonate with many people.
Influencer-generated content can fuel all your channels
While influencer activations deliver short-term gains in reach and awareness, one of the biggest benefits of an influencer marketing campaign is the high-quality content your brand collects following the partnership. Influencer-generated content (IGC) can play a huge role in your overall marketing strategy because it’s:
Cost effective and quick to produce. Influencers are social-media savvy content creators who can churn out content in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months. They are photographers, videographers, editors, and creative directors all rolled into one package, meaning you can cut out the time and resources it takes to hire a creative team, recruit models, plan a photoshoot, and the like.
Authentic. Influencers are ordinary people living seemingly extraordinary lives, making their content relatable yet aspirational. They can tell real stories about how a product or brand has changed their life for the better. Having a familiar face endorse your product will provide social proof and make your brand’s messaging resonate with consumers better.
Diverse. It’s difficult to recruit diverse models, especially because diversity spans far beyond just race. Luckily, your brand can work with influencers who come from different walks of life to include people of all races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, social classes, economic classes — you name it — in your ads.
High-performing. IGC is proven to outperform studio-shot creative. In fact, Forrester found that influencer content on social media earns more than eight times the engagement rate of brand-directed content, and Salesforce found that social campaigns that incorporate influencer-generated content see a 50% lift in engagement.
Conversion-driven.Forty-nine percent of consumers have bought something based on a recommendation from an influencer, meaning influencer content is even better than user ratings and product reviews when it comes to driving sales.
If you’re still skeptical about the benefits of influencer marketing, check out how brands like Ruggable and Stella & Chewy’s were able to cut costs while boosting sales with the help of their brand partners.
Ruggable is an innovative home design brand that specializes in a unique, two-piece rug system that features a machine-washable cover and a non-slip pad. Its rugs come in more than 150 designs and are spill-resistant and non-toxic, which appeals to the accident-prone consumer who still wants to invest in quality furnishings, such as moms and pet owners.
To highlight why real people value Ruggable products, the brand worked with four groups of influencers who best match their existing customer base: moms, pet owners, interior designers, and lifestyle influencers.
The brand created long-term relationships with those who truly love its product and have high engagement by inviting the creators to join Ruggable’s “MVP Program.” By collaborating with the MVP influencers over the span of 3 to 12 months, the brand was able to turn these influencers into brand evangelists who remain loyal to the brand, even outside of their one-off collaborations.
With the help of influencers, Ruggable was able to source 2,300 posts, which gained 36 million impressions and nearly 1 million engagements. The brand also increased its audience by 166,000 Instagram followers. In addition, by implementing influencer-generated content into its paid ads, the brand has seen a 32% higher return on ad spend (ROA) and 25% lower cost per engagement (CPE).
Stella & Chewy’s
Stella & Chewy’s is a pet food brand that focuses on offering best-in-class nutrition to its furry customers. Because the brand raises the bar in the industry, its target audience is dog and cat parents who go above and beyond for their pets. Their ideal customers actively look for premium ingredients and solutions that not only taste excellent, but also support healthy nutrition.
After finding right influencers in this niche, hyper-specific category, each creator began to work with the brand as an ambassador or product reviewer. Top creators created content on a monthly cadence to ensure that high-quality content is consistently drip-marketed to their audiences over time.
As a result of influencer-generated content fueling its marketing channels, the brand was able to spend 25-50x less than when it would use a creative agency. Last May, for Small Business Week, the brand worked with its influencers and ambassadors to send them out to their local pet stores that offer Stella & Chewy’s products.
The influencers tagged Stella & Chewy’s in their posts, as well as the store location, strengthening their relationships with independent retailers while driving 1.8 million impressions and 181.7 thousand engagements.
Influencer marketing best practices
Now that you know the benefits of influencer marketing and have seen the proven results from brands like Ruggable and Stella & Chewy’s, let’s wrap up with five influencer marketing best practices to set you up for success in your next campaign.
Find the right influencers
If you’re the least bit familiar with influencer marketing, you know that connecting with the right influencer is by far the most important step in your campaign. But because there is no universally “perfect” influencer, we’ve got some tips for you to find the ideal influencer for your brand.
Make sure to look for people who:
Align well with your brand in their personal identity, messaging, and aesthetic
Have an audience that matches your target demographic
Are real fans and express their love for your brand in an authentic way
Create highly engaging content
Test and invest
Like many things in life, influencer marketing takes a few tries to perfect. So, work with a variety of influencers with different audience demographics and content styles. Run an initial campaign to test which creators best represent your brand and generate the most fruitful results. Then, reinvest in those top performers and invite them to collaborate again in the future.
Build long-term relationships with creators
Once you find the right influencers for your brand, hold on to them. Long-term partnerships will make the campaign more authentic and allow you to build trust with consumers, as people continuously see influencers raving about your brand time and time again. Not to mention, long-term relationships eliminate the need to constantly recruit new creators, allowing for faster campaigns with fewer misunderstandings and onboarding steps.
Follow FTC guidelines
A few months back, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a new guide laying out the agency’s rules for when and how social media influencers must disclose sponsorships to their followers. The guideline states that influencers must disclose their partnership when:
The influencer has a material relationship with a brand. This includes personal and financial relationships that include the exchange of favors, discounts, free products, and/or money.
The influencer endorses or advertises a business they have a relationship with on a platform. Influencers cannot simply assume that their followers already know about a material connection with a brand discussed in a posting.
As mentioned above, repurposing influencer-generated content is a practice every marketer should be leveraging. Stretch the impact of the amazing content you’ve already sourced by reposting IGC across all of your marketing channels. This will allow you to cut costs while boosting your business.
Start building your influencer community
Influencer marketing has taken over the marketing world in recent years for good reason. Influencers can tell a creative story around your brand on social media, provide social proof to consumers, and generate eye-catching content that your brand can use throughout the marketing funnel.
With these best practices under your belt, start building your influencer community and leverage their power to reach your goals now and in the years to come.
Keep on top of the rapid changes in marketing with the best influencer marketing software to help you and your clients achieve heightened levels of success!