Influencer marketing is not new to the industry. It is just the current buzzword. Likened to movie stars of old Hollywood talking about a product on the radio, influencer marketing is the same idea, only a new channel. It is word-of-mouth marketing with a megaphone. Can it help or hurt your business?

What is influencer marketing?

Let’s start with what is influencer marketing. In the scope of social media, influencer marketing is when people with an expert level of knowledge or social influence endorse a product, idea, or lifestyle. Influencer content can be a testimonial to their followers regarding a product or service. Or a call to action for a cause. Using their access to a broader and loyal audience, they influence decision-making on a whole host of things. Influencers, also known as brand ambassadors, often are compensated by brands to talk about their offerings.

Why use influencers?

We trust people we know. Before social media, we believed what friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers said about companies, products, services, or causes. Now with social media, instead of a circle of 30 people, it is 30,000 people. People have developed relationships with others online. They are creating a level of intimacy and trust.

In a Nielsen report, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising. Beyond that close group, 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.

Brands that deploy influencer marketing do it for different reasons. One reason is to establish credibility in the market place for their product or service. Another is to create social conversations around the brand. Or the brand wishes to drive sales of their products or services either online or in-store.

How does it work?

Creating an influencer program, you need to develop a plan. Before you even go online to research influencers, you have to define clearly your criteria for a brand ambassador. The requirements will be unique to every brand, and not just based on the number of social media followers they have since that can be gamed.

List the attributes you want in an influencer which helps in your search for the right match. You will need to ask the following:

Does the influencer have the experience or credentials in your industry to boost your brand’s credibility?

Do they have a complementary persona to your brand?

Do their values align with your brand’s mission and values?

The most efficient way of researching influencers is to go to your social media accounts. You may already the influencers following and interacting with your brand. As part of an overall marketing strategy, you should be monitoring what is being said online about your organization. Use social listening tools searching for your brand and who are already talking about your product or service.

Once you find them, it is essential to vet them through an interview process. A contract laying out your expectations and what rewards they will receive is crucial. In should include an out for you if there is behavior unacceptable to your brand values and mission.

Is it worth it?

Brands that have worked with influencers regularly believe this method is effective at raising brand awareness, increasing engagement, and growing sales.

Based on recent research, 80% of marketers find influencer marketing useful and that 71% of marketers rate the quality of customers and traffic from influencer marketing as better than other marketing sources.

And 89% of marketers say influencer marketing ROI is as good or better than other marketing channels.

What is the downside of influencer marketing?

Like with every campaign, there is a possibility it could go wrong. Social media has always been about numbers. How many likes, shares, and followers. Those are vanity numbers and can be inflated. Many influencers can purchase followers and likes giving them the appearance that they are influencers when they aren’t.

Brands have to be aware of that situation, but also when attaching their name to an influencer. That can become an issue when an influencer does something opposite to your brand values.

With careful consideration and a plan, influencer marketing can benefit your brand.

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