Recently, writer/director/actress Lena Dunham posted on Instagram about a set of hand-crafted soaps she had received from a childhood friend in the mail. Her friend was starting a new company, sent Lena some samples, and Lena loved them so much she shared about her experience online. It wasn’t an official or sponsored endorsement—she simply snapped a pick of a product she was using that she really liked and offered up some information to her fans about her positive experience.
The end result? The immediate uptick in sales from Dunham’s fans caused the products to promptly sell out, temporarily crashing the company’s website in the process.
This is a prime example of the power of influencer marketing—a digital marketing tactic where you entice key leaders and popular personalities to share your brand’s message to their audience on your behalf, boosting your sales in the process.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Rather than trying to reach thousands of your potential audience members individually, many of whom you don’t even know exist yet, influencer marketing is the strategy of partnering with one or a handful of “in-the-know” people to do it for you. Because their opinion has been marked by the general subconscious as one that matters and is trustworthy, influencers’ popularity and credibility can have a serious impact on your sales. Essentially, influencer marketing is word-of-mouth advertising on steroids.
As was the case with Lena Dunham, influencer marketing often has a heavy social media marketing component. Your influencers post to their extensive social media following about your product (either using content you have written for them or content they write themselves) to push your brand messaging on your behalf. Usually, these partnerships are paid, either in dollars and cents or in the form of free products.
Where Did Influencer Marketing Come From?
The idea behind influencer marketing isn’t new news—it’s been around for centuries. The recent surge in popularity, however, is mostly thanks to social media.
As consumers’ buyer journey has become increasingly digital, people turn to social media and other online avenues for their purchase recommendations. And instead of looking to the brands themselves, they want to know what “the cool kids” are up to. Where do celebrity moms shop for their kids? What does that marketing expert they heard speak at a conference have to say about the latest-and-greatest lead generation software?
Social media has given the general public inside access into the minds and buying decisions of the people they admire most in a previously unprecedented way. But this works to marketers’ benefit, as well. You, too, can reach influencers on a whole new level. And the rise of YouTube celebrities, Instagram stars and famous bloggers means that no matter what your niche is, there is someone out there whose opinions your audience is already tuned in to. Influencer marketing is all about leveraging those relationships for your company’s benefit at scale.
The Perks of Developing an Influencer Strategy
It’s no secret that paid advertising is going the way of the Dodo bird. Banner blindness is very real, and consumers are generally distrustful of paid and sponsored media.
According to MDG Advertising, 70 percent of consumers want to learn about products through content, as opposed to traditional advertising methods. And influencer marketing allows you to tap into that desire for credibility while reaping rewards far greater than your paid media strategy can provide. A recent study from Nielsen Catalina Solutions suggests that influencer marketing generates as much as 11 times banner ad ROI.
Launch Your Influencer Marketing Strategy
Ready to launch your first influencer marketing campaign? These steps, as outlined by the influencer marketing pros at TapInfluence, will get you started.
- Identify key thought leaders in your product or service’s industry.
If trying to get Lena Dunham to push your products sounds intimidating, know that you do have other options. Influencers do not have to be celebrities. In fact, it might be better if they aren’t.
Research shows that “micro-influencers,” or influencers with a following of 10,000 to 100,000 people, have the optimal levels of engagement on their social media accounts. Don’t miss out on the opportunities to utilize influencer marketing because you are worried that the only way it will work is if you manage to catch the great white whale.
- Connect with those influencers.
Create a campaign and process for connecting with your network of potential influencers. Sometimes, a hard pitch in exchange for compensation is a great tactic to get the ball rolling. But if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, influencer marketing might be a bit of a slower burn, as you’ll need to make connections organically.
Like any other business partnership, these are relationships that will need to be nurtured over time. Start by asking if you can send a free product their way. Stay in touch over social media, and keep them informed on new releases, the ins and outs of the business, and more. The stronger your relationship is, the more likely it is that an influencer will become your company’s advocate.
- Help them connect with your audience.
Once your partnership is established, create a secondary campaign for reaching your audience. Simplify the experience for each influencer as much as possible. They may choose to follow your guidelines, or they may have their own preference. Either way, you want them to have the most positive experience possible (just like you would any other VIP customer).
Provide them with options for content they can include (unless they have specifically asked to write their own), sample products or complimentary services for their use, and suggestions about timing for their posts.
- Measure your results.
As always, track your work with unique links so you know just how many clicks and sales each influencer is garnering on your behalf. This will help you refine your strategies and partnerships over time.
While you can’t rely entirely on influencers to carry your marketing strategy, they can go a long way toward bringing potential customers to your brand. Have you successfully used influencer marketing for your company? Please share your experiences in the comments!