In the last fifteen years the rise of online social media networks has democratized the media landscape, giving everyone the means to create and distribute their own content. A by-product of social media is ‘influencer marketing’ or ‘blogger outreach’ – a natural evolution of a powerful and highly effective branch of advertising that’s centuries old: the celebrity endorsement. Today, brands are falling over themselves to use social media influencers to promote their products. But who are these influencers, and does it really work?
In his classic book Influence, psychologist and marketing expert Robert Cialdini highlights ‘authority’ as one of the key principles of persuasion. Seeing our heroes using a product or service helps convince us – either on a rational or subconscious level – that it must be worthwhile. Even though we know they’re being paid for the promotion. Skeptical? It really does work. A study by TapInfluence found that influencer marketing delivers ROI that’s eleven times higher than traditional digital marketing methods.
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Influencer agency Social Chain have helped a range of big clients hit some tasty-looking ROI figures. “A recent micro-influencer campaign using 100+ influencers for one of our global fashion clients,” explains Angharad Carlton, Talent Relationship Manager at the UK-based agency, “returned 10x ROI in sales revenue.”
In the age of the internet, the definition of ‘celebrity’ has not so much shifted as expanded. Across YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and other platforms, new internet celebrities – influencers – are drawing a huge number of eyeballs from niche audiences. As blogger and marketing consultant Elena Shamis says: “Influencer marketing has seen huge growth over the last couple of years. It’s secured its place in almost every brand’s marketing plan.”
Yep, there’s a difference between ‘influencers’ and ‘advocates’. Influencers are the big guns, the heavyweights in their space. They might be (but certainly don’t have to be) full-time influencers, working to nurture online brand and following. Be prepared to pay them a fee in return for an endorsement on their social channels. Advocates, on the other hand, have a smaller following. They might even look like ‘normal’ members of the public. But their reach and impact go much further. Advocates are more likely to accept free products or services in exchange for featuring on their online channels.
Want to avoid an online faux pas? Many people, including influencers and advocates themselves, prefer ‘content creator’, a broader term which can refer to both advocates and influencers. If you’re not sure who’s an advocate and who’s an influencer, there are tools to help you identify them. Check out our PDF download to find out more.
Not all influencers and brands are being honest. Many 'buy' followers (often fake accounts) meaning zero engagement and false figures. To help maintain trust with consumers, global giant Unilever has taken a stand against the practice by cutting ties with any influencer who buys followers. It's a great example of prioritizing quality of followers over quantity. “Not all brands understand it” If you do things properly and develop a strong influencer marketing strategy, you'll likely see great results. To help you on your journey to influencer marketing nirvana, we’ve enlisted the help of two experts from both sides of the influencer marketing fence.
Firstly, travel blogger, marketing consultant and Instagrammer Elena Shamis gives us the influencer’s perspective. “Working with influencers” says Elena, “is different to just buying ad space. Not all brands understand it.” For a brand’s viewpoint, we have Gabriel Cabral, Marketing Manager at men’s activewear brand OHMME. UK-based OHMME engages with a variety of online influencers and advocates, helping spread the word of its ethically made yoga-friendly menswear. “There’s a real opportunity,” says Gabriel, “for companies to engage with influencers and access their audience in an authentic and effective way.”
Let’s get started! Download our PDF guide to working with advocates and influencers.