Ahhh, influencer marketing. I have a love and hate relationship with it. Like many other marketing strategies, there’s a fine line between beneficial and cringe-y. Very fine. So, I’m breaking down what it is, why it’s great, why it’s bad, and how you can use it effectively in your business.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Many people think influencer marketing is something new that started with the breakthrough of social media, but they are way off. In fact, influencer marketing (though maybe not always referred to as that) has had a place in businesses for decades.
Influencer marketing is using a well-known “figure” to advertise your products or services. This could be an actor, comedian, author, politician, or a celebrity that could be famous for just being popular. The idea behind this is deeply rooted in the study of consumer behavior, where consumers are more likely to purchase something when someone they know or look up to uses the product or recommends it. It’s the concept of trust.
Back in the day (before cell phones and social media), when companies frequently featured beloved celebrities in their commercials – that was influencer marketing. For my fashionistas, notice how every time a celebrity walks the red carpet they mention the brands of everything they are wearing. Believe me, they didn’t spend a single cent on that gown or those jewels – it was given to them by brands that wanted that celebrity to be seen with it so it would boost interest and sales from customers. Again, influencer marketing. Athletes getting sponsors? You got it: influencer marketing.
Now, enter social media, and the game changes. The growth in the number of users on social media exploded and companies did not waste a minute in trying to use it to their advantage. Companies searched for profiles with heavy followings and began reaching out to these individuals to showcase their products.
How Does Influencer Marketing Work?
Of course, it isn’t all for free. Influencer marketing can work in a number of ways. At the very basic level, a company can provide a product (or service) for free in exchange for a mention on the influencer’s profile. Sometimes a script is provided or they are asked to give their honest opinion about the product (which can sometimes be a slippery slope since you have no control over whether it’ll be good or not). You see the latter a lot on YouTube, as YouTube influencers typically post videos about reviews or tutorials for a product.
As you go up the ladder of popularity, the stakes are different. More often than not, influencers who are given products for free ask for compensation for advertising products. Companies either outright pay them a set amount (more likely for celebrities with a bigger internet presence like Kylie Jenner, who literally gets paid almost 6 figures for one post) or provide a unique discount code for the influencer to share. This way, if the influencer influences (ha!) someone to purchase the product, they’ll receive a portion of the sale.
The Good: Why Influencer Marketing Works
1. Building trust with a customer influences their buying decisions.
Again, influencer marketing is deeply rooted in the research on consumer behavior and how building trust with a customer is important. Think about the last time you purchased something because someone whose opinion you valued recommended it. Now think about how often you’ve purchased something blindly without knowing anything about it at all.
As a consumer myself, not going to lie, I have fallen into the spell of influencer marketing. Literally, just last week I got a package of shampoo and conditioner that was recommended to me by an influencer. Who was she? A girl my age that lives in my city, but has amassed a large following on social media because of her YouTube channel. Also, she has really great hair.
2. You reach a more targeted and often larger audience.
As a business, it’s important to adapt to changes and be innovative if you want to survive in this competitive marketplace. It’s important to get your products in front of consumers where they will see them. Long gone are the days of magazine ads, tv spots, or billboards. Notice that people are always on their phones, they barely look up from them while they’re sitting, walking, or driving (which I DO NOT condone, just mere observation).
Leveraging social media is VITAL to your business’s survival. Contemporary advertising doesn’t have the attention of people anymore. You’re likely to reach a larger audience on social media and when you do your research you could reach your targeted audience more effectively than any other form of advertisement.
The Bad: Why Influencer Marketing Doesn’t Work
Like all other strategies, they are downfalls to influencer marketing. The cost of influencer marketing can be very high – the average budget can reach up to five figures for most companies. A bad strategy can cause big damages. Working with the right people and using your budget intelligently is crucial. So, what have I noticed?
1. Influencer marketing can come off as disingenuous.
I want to start off with the scripts that influencers are usually given. I understand the need to control what is said about your product or brand and if you want to provide a script for a caption or a video, by all means, do it. But you might want to consider hiring a great copywriter. It’s important to make it feel conversational and not sales-y, which I see all the time. You can literally point out when something does not sound right or if it is read right off of a paper.
In the Scott Disick example above, he literally copied and pasted what was given to him without editing and posted it by mistake. I heard he didn’t even post it at 4pm… Yikes. He ended up correcting it in the end, but not before the entire internet had screenshots of his major fail.
2. Companies target the wrong markets by sponsoring the wrong influencers.
Mind your market. I see people selling some crazy things: workout gear from someone who has literally never spoken about or shown anything related to working out or fashion bloggers trying to sell me vitamins or medication…
Workout gear should be advertised on an account that promotes fitness and wellness. An influencer who typically posts workout videos or is tracking a fitness journey. Vitamins and medications should be endorsed by those with expert knowledge of health.
In Kim Kardashian’s case, she tried selling morning sickness medication on social media back in 2018. It’s worth noting that half of her kids were born via surrogate and the last time she was pregnant was in 2015. Maybe not the best advocate for that medication. Not to mention, she isn’t a licensed medical professional and this is prescribed medication with serious health side effects.
Mind your market. You’re probably not getting any profound sales from the wrong audience and are basically throwing money away.
3. It’s a high risk.
Not only is it a big monetary commitment, but it’s also very hard to track results unless you’re strategically prepared with the right tools and resources. Be prepared to spend extra money on software created specifically for this.
Working with influencers also means your brand is tied to theirs. Any controversy that may arise on their end will inadvertently affect your business. Remember how Tiger Woods lost all his sponsorships because of his personal scandals? Companies did not want to be associated with him and lose business, but they lost all the money that was already invested.
Jeffree Star has been caught in several controversies surrounding racism and bullying and although he didn’t lose his partnership with Morphe, several customers vowed not to purchase from them again.
Finding the Right Influencers and Making Influencer Marketing Work for Your Business
If after reading all of this you’re still determined to make this work, my biggest piece of advice is: RESEARCH.
- Find your platform – there are various social media channels. Research and figure out which ones you would benefit from having sponsored content on.
- Find influencers whose following are your TARGET MARKET – you can also dabble later on in trying to reach other markets (keywords: later on, focus your efforts on your own market first for the greatest return on investment).
- Research and study these influencers – what’s their story? Are there any controversies attached to them? Learn their social media techniques, their tone, and anything that will help you craft a perfect marketing campaign that fits into their profile so seamlessly it’ll build trust and influence buying decisions from their followers.
- Build a budget – how much are you willing to allocate to this and what’s your expected ROI? Start small, test the waters, and analyze your results. Be strategic.
- Prepare a plan – what products or services will you promote? How many influencers will you work with? For how long? What are you offering to them? What are you requesting from them? How are you tracking your results? Be as specific as possible.
- Plan ahead – whether this fails or succeeds, you should always be prepared for the next step. Maybe you allocate more money, maybe you pull out. Just know what your next moves are.
Influencer marketing is tricky and can feel overwhelming. If you need some help and need someone to shoot around ideas with, send me a message!