influencer marketing

What is Influencer Marketing? And Should My Business Try It?

When it comes to reaching today’s consumers, advertising simply doesn’t have the effect that it once did. Consumers are savvy and know they can’t always believe what a brand says about its products. But when they hear about a product from their peers, that’s where the magic happens. That’s the basis of influencer marketing, a popular marketing strategy that’s doable for businesses of all sizes and stages.

Today’s consumers trust influencers

Whether it’s a YouTube star demonstrating how to draw a cat eye with a particular brand of eyeliner or a teen gamer talking up the latest Nintendo Switch game, consumers are drawn to discovering brands through peer recommendations.

In fact, 49 percent of consumers depend on influencer recommendations when making purchasing decisions.

Since influencers have already built trust and admiration with their followers, any brand they mention can expect to get some level of attention.

Related: 10 Low-Cost Tools to Get Started with Influencer Marketing

How brands benefit from influencer marketing

While influencers may recommend products they have no affiliation with, most make their living by working with brands to promote their products. Typically, the relationship is an organic one: perhaps the influencer has already used a brand’s product or is interested in the general category of products.

Brands may simply provide free products to the influencer in exchange for her talking about it, or may pay her (an increasing practice). The exact parameters of what the influencer will do will depend on the relationship, but may include:

  • Blog review and/or product giveaway
  • Video review
  • Video demonstration of product
  • Photos using product posted to social media

Building an ongoing relationship

While some brands choose the “one and done” approach to influencer marketing (providing products to many influencers in a particular niche in exchange for reviews) the real benefit comes when they nurture a long-term relationship with the influencer.

Here’s an example: ASOS Insiders is a collection of young fashion influencers who, in addition to posting photos on Instagram of other fashion, also style themselves with the brand’s clothing. Because these influencers attract the demographic that ASOS is seeking to reach, they can introduce new products to this audience through their Insiders’ accounts.

Should you invest in influencer marketing?

If you want to find inroads to your audience and aren’t finding success through other channels, influencer marketing could be worth exploring in addition to your other marketing efforts.

Realize that it will cost you, if only in products (but more than likely in money, too). If you can afford to give away products, do so. Be generous and give away extras so the influencer can hold giveaways to get her audience excited about your product.

Your budget will determine the level of influencer you work with. There are microinfluencersendor (those with 10K to 50K social media followers) and then there are celebrities with over 5 million followers. You may not be able to afford to hire Kim Kardashian to talk up your product, so find what level of influencer you can afford to work with.

Also realize that you can use the one and done approach and spread your reach across multiple influencers, though you may not get as deep of traction as you would if you are more selective and work with fewer for longer. It may take some testing out to figure out which strategy is better for your brand.

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The key to successful influencer marketing

It’s essential that you identify influencers that jibe with your brand’s ethos. If you sell breakfast sausage, a vegan blogger isn’t going to be the right influencer to work with. Choose influencers who have either mentioned your product before or who have used a similar product.

Make the relationship authentic. This is not an advertising channel per se; you don’t want the influencer to give an infomercial for your product. Instead, you want a genuine mention. If you sell flour, work with video influencers who can create recipes with it. If you sell pet collars, a pet blogger can show off pics of her pooch in the collar on Instagram and then link to your product page.

While some influencers may not require compensation (or much of it), compensate anyway. Remember: you get what you pay for. Working with a blogger who’s got a long queue of free products she needs to review won’t be in a hurry to get yours published, whereas an influencer who charges for a package of services will be more professional and communicative about the process.

Influencer marketing is just another way to reach today’s sophisticated consumer. When all else fails you—pay-per-click ads, email newsletters, content marketing—having the thumbs up from a well-respected influencer might be just what you need to attract more customers.

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