Over the last few years, we've watched influencer marketing explode like a mac truck in a Van Damme movie. The past year was the biggest yet, indicating nothing but a continual climb for the marketing channel in the future. But as big as influencer marketing has become, many small businesses are still unfamiliar with how it works, as well as if it's right for their brand. That's why today we're explaining exactly what influencer marketing is, and why no matter who you are, it needs to be part of your marketing. Let's dive right in.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is the practice of employing someone with a large following and influence to market your product or service for you. Think of it this way. You're trying to sell something you love to a crowd of people. Maybe it's a car. Perhaps it's your prized collection of potatoes that look like Steven Madden. No one knows your beloved product like you, and you're ready to sell the hell out of it. Now, imagine Oprah Winfrey is standing next to you (we know, best day ever). Do you give her the bullhorn, or use it yourself?
Obviously, the answer is to give it to her. While you may know and love your product more, it doesn't matter. She has more sway, more appeal, and more persuasive power than you.
That, in a nutshell, is influencer marketing.
Now, odds are you won't be able to get Oprah to endorse your brand. But you absolutely can link up with a whole smattering of influential people who are actively looking to create relationships with brands in exchange for compensation.
Why You Should Be Using Influencer Marketing
Ok, so you understand what it is, but maybe you still think that it isn't necessarily a good fit for your company. Newsflash: influencer marketing is a good fit for everyone's company. You have an audience out there, however niche they may be, and if you find the right influencer, they'll talk directly to that audience for you. Here are just a few reasons to seek out influencers in your industry:
1. The People Trust Them
The more the internet has grown, the more power has been put in the hands of the shopper. With the ability to review products online and share actual use photos, customers began to depend on one another for information and confirmation before purchasing. Combine that with the general public's declining trust for institutions as a whole, and what you end up with is a buyer who trusts their peers more than anyone.
It's the same reason that shoppers will buy products that are talked about from their favorite content creators over those shared by celebrities. They're looking for real people they can relate to who are endorsing a product. And as followers try out products suggested by influencers that are a win, the more they trust those recommendations and will be likely to come back for more.
2. They Create Content When You Can’t
If you're anything like most businesses, you're strapped for time. In today's day and age of hustle, there never seems to be enough minutes to spread around. Often, content creation gets left in the dust on your to-do list. It's one of those classic, important but not urgent tasks. And friends, they are essential.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates three times more leads than paid advertising does. That's why influencer marketing is so incredibly helpful to your marketing strategy. They create content around your product or service on a schedule that you don't' have to. It's essentially like taking the task from your to-do list and dropping it onto theirs.
3. They Know Their Audience
In the same vein, influencers are not only creating content that you don't have to, but they're creating content that they know will resonate with their audience. Influencers have done their research—they know who they're talking to, what kind of messaging they respond to, and exactly how to pitch a product for optimum success. If you've done your homework, you've selected the influencers that are the right fit for your niche (we'll discuss how to do this in just a minute) and can trust that they know how to deliver the right kind of message.
Pro tip: Pay attention to how they market your product or service. If they're pitching in a proven way to your target audience, you should probably be taking notes.
4. They Drive Sales
All this is great, but it only really matters, when all is said and done, if there's more money in your piggy bank. Influencer marketing isn't free (nor should it be—they should be paid for their services just as you expect to be), and you need to make sure your investment is providing the right kind of returns to make it worth your while. We're here to tell you that it totally is.
According to 99Firms, every dollar spent on influencer marketing in 2017 delivered an ROI of $6.78. That means that influencer marketing is providing an ROI at 11 times the rate of traditional marketing channels. We'd say that's pretty dang worth it. All of these influencers have a sizeable audience that is checking in with their content every single day. That means more eyes on your products, more exposure for your brand, and more trust from your potential customers.
5. They improve your SEO
Influencer marketing is one of the easiest and smartest ways you can build up your SEO game. Like the content you don't have to create, influencer marketing means SEO practices you don't' have to do yourself. Each time an influencer talks about your product on a different channel, they link to your website. Every time this happens, it signals to Google that you are a credible site that people trust and are talking about.
Think about the repercussions of one influencer's promotion. Let's say you're a makeup company and have employed an influencer to talk about your latest lipstick. They might put together a "Top Lipsticks for Fall" video that includes your product. That influencer would then post to YouTube where they link your product in their video description, then post the same video on Instagram where they share your link in their bio. Turning the video content into an actual blog post, once again, linking back to your site is the final step. That's three different avenues out of one influencer post, and every click bumps your SEO rankings.
6. They Give you Credibility
You might be asking, "But isn't all this credibility it a sham if they're being paid to talk about the product they "love?" The answer is no. Influencers get asked to try heaps of products, and they don't have to say yes. They try many that they end up passing on. If they've chosen to promote your product or service, it's likely because they have faith in what they're offering. Remember, people are buying these products based on their recommendations. If they recommend too many products that don't deliver, they lose credibility as an influencer. Therefore, their recommendation still speaks volumes when they choose your product out of the many to promote.
How to Find The Right Influencer to Market Your Brand
We told you we'd circle back to this one! This is a massive part of the puzzle that can't be overlooked. Everything we've discussed only works if you've found a trustworthy influencer that is both the right fit or your product or service, as well as actively engaging with a real audience. There are lots of influencers out there, and they're far from created equally.
For example, you don't want to hire someone who looks like they speak to your audience and has a considerable following, only for that vast following to be primarily made up of paid-for followers that are mostly spam (yes, people do this, and yes, it's gross). Or maybe they have a large organic following, but do a poor job of actively engaging with them—the key to gaining follower's trust that will be turned over to your product endorsement.
As businesses have invested more cash into influencer marketing as part of their strategies, it became more imperative than ever that they were able to vet potential influencers. This need led to a small group of powerful tools that have emerged to ensure the validity of influencers across a myriad of social platforms. Websites such as HypeAuditor, Traackr, Influence.co, and Social Bakers are all great resources for checking out an influencer before devoting your time and money to them.
Sites like this can help you search through their database for influencers that are appropriate for your niche based on a list of survey questions and information. Once they track down influencers in your sphere, they then present each in a profile format. These profiles include overall rankings, grades, their quality audience score, their authentic engagement numbers, how much of their audience is real human beings, their total reach, overall account growth, and more.
Still have questions about if influencer marketing is right for you? We'd love to help.