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Lalit Sharma

What Is Influencer Marketing and What Does The Future Hold for It?

Lalit Sharma| Last updated: May 23, 2017 | 3 Comments

2016 has been a tough year for marketing. Most people have turned to Ad Blockers for bypassing YouTube ads and pop-ups ads on most websites. It is no surprise that ad marketers are coming back with a bigger bang in 2017 with something new, unique and quite entertaining. This year is all set to bring new opportunities to the world of advertising. It will be the year of influencer marketing. The term is familiar to most who have been in and out of digital marketing in the recent times. However, not many actually understand the parameters involved in the process.

Influencer marketing focuses on the key leaders of a concerned industry or market to drive a brand’s promotion. That is when a brand chooses a social (media) personality to promote the brand message to the larger market. If you are still paying for generic ad campaigns targeted to a broad group of customers, you are simply wasting your resources. You should rather hire or inspire influencers to carry your message forward to your target groups.

Influencer marketing often works in tandem with social media marketing and content marketing. Social media marketing is, in fact, an integral part of most influencer marketing campaigns. A large number of these chosen personalities make use of social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to spread the word to their followers and your target audience. Content marketing is another important strategy employed by influencers who use blogs to write about various products and services. Finding a content marketing component in influencer marketing efforts is not as uncommon as you would think.

However, just because both social media marketing and content marketing go hand in hand in influencer marketing, it does not mean that they are synonymous with influence marketing.

Why is influencer marketing about to explode in 2017?

Influence marketing is about to be the showstopper in 2017. This is a brilliant way to get one up the menacing ad blockers and ad avoiders. It is a pure blend of marketing genius with a human love for everything trendy. Check out these stats for a clear idea of how big influence marketing already is –

  • 57% of all US beauty and fashion companies are using social influencers as a part of their marketing campaigns. The number is going to be around 78% in 2017.
  • 71% of all customers in the US rely on social media reviews and marketing for making a purchase.
  • Social media influencers do 86% of all reviews based on beauty products and makeup on YouTube.
  • 51% of all US based brands rely on video marketing for their products.
  • 70% of the teenage market on YouTube trust influencer reviews more than traditional celebrity marketing.
  • 2017 will see a sharp rise of 65% influencer videos on YouTube and other video platforms. Most of these will be from beauty brands.
  • In 2016, over 37% of the total advertising budget ($72.09 billion) went to digital marketing.
  • Facebook plays host to about 32% of all influencer marketing campaigns, followed by Instagram, which holds about 24% of the share.
  • Influence marketing is driving 11 times higher ROI as compared to other forms of digital marketing.
  • Influencer marketing has a huge ROI. Last year, an average campaign generated over $6.50 per $1 invested.

The conclusion is that this marketing strategy works much better than all other traditional forms of marketing.

What are the components of a successful influencer marketing campaign?

Now, it is for us to determine the key elements of this marketing strategy. It is a unique discipline that has methods and mechanisms of its own. To set up a successful influence marketing campaign, you will need to follow these steps at least –

  • Identify your product and the key brand and identify your key influencer personalities – The top choices for influencers in any industry involve bloggers, analysts, and celebrities. However, recent studies show that people are more likely to trust non-celebrity reviews and blogs on any social media and blogging platform.
  • Create a primary campaign targeting the personalities, and develop a secondary campaign for these influencers for driving brand awareness to the target group – You should begin by simply building relationships on social media. Follow them, share their content and appreciate their work. Then you can engage them in direct product reviews. Engaging bloggers in reviewing products can be rewarding since your audience will get an unbiased review. They are more likely to buy and try products recommended by people they relate to.
  • Track key metrics and analyze the results for sales and reach – This is a little challenging for influence marketing on social media. It is hard for anyone to track sales or increase in ROI that was contributed just by influencer marketing campaigns. However, more agencies and tools are coming up, and they are committed to this discipline of marketing. By the end of 2017, we are expecting influence marketing to become one of the mainstream methods rather than an offbeat discipline.

This is a long-term investment that keeps giving returns in various forms over extended periods of time. This makes it quite difficult to measure the ROI of each dollar.

B2B influencer marketing is a little different from B2C marketing. Businesses should look for new opportunities rather than popularity.

Is it possible to accurately measure the ROI of influencer marketing?

A very recent study conducted by the Nielsen Catalina Solutions delved into the results of influencer marketing from the viewpoint of White Wave Foods. This is the parent company of Silk Almond Milk and many similarly popular products. Calculating the ROI to the actual dollars was quite impossible, or at least no parameter was calibrated to perfection before the experts conducted the study.

Silk started a Meatless Mondays initiative that engaged exactly 258 influencers. The entire content and the traffic was organic. There was no media amplification. This automated program was overseen, including the FTC disclosure statements. Next came the tracking step, where a tracking pixel determined if a household had come in contact with the content of one or more of the chosen 258 social media influencers. The results were stunning –

  • Households that had access to the contents of the influencers ended up purchasing at least 10% more Silk.
  • The average ROI of the blog posts alone was 11 times higher (after 12 months).
  • Every 1000 people, viewing the influencers, bought Silk products worth $285 more over the control group.

If you are with an agency, this should be a little easier. You can even use the scores of tools that have evolved for this sect of marketing.

Is it the same as word-of-mouth marketing?

Although we have heard many people use the two terms interchangeably, influence marketing and word-of-mouth marketing are two completely different practices. In the former, advertisers leverage the popularity of individuals on social media to spread the word among friends, families and their social media followers. In the case of actual word-of-mouth marketing, verbal communication holds a high value. However, not all word of mouth marketing is dependent on the new age influencer-based campaigns.

How does it differ from advocate marketing?

Advocate marketing is encouraging a customer or group of customers to buy a product or service. This is when a celebrity or an influencer leverages their popularity to share their love of a brand or product. They can use product reviews, TVCs, and blogs to share their message. In this case, the advertisers are more focused on finding the customer groups first and then reaching out to the famous personalities. In the instance of influencer marketing, the advertisers find the influencers first. Advocate marketing puts little focus on payment and incentives and emphasizes more on brand loyalty. Influencer marketing involves payments of some sort, and it usually requires just one vocal member of the campaign.

What is so unique about influencer marketing?

If you can do it right, you can engage with multiple audience bases at one go. It is a subset of traditional marketing techniques. It combines elements of traditional digital marketing with unique elements of social media marketing. This form of marketing does not engage celebrities (in the traditional sense of the term). It leverages the popularity of social media users and convinces them to endorse and review products and services. There are at least a thousand Instagrammers and Facebook users who are currently making Vlogs (video blogs) and writing blogs about products that you would like to try out some day.

This is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise overstuffed world of digital information. The netizens are currently suffering from infobesity. Whom are we kidding? Infobesity is the LBD of the internet. This automatically makes influencer marketing unique. Thanks to a minute or two of video blogging and snippets of reviews, we can now skim through extra content and find exactly what we are looking for.

It is not only about promoting a product. It also opens new avenues for advertisers to co-create projects with the bloggers. It is more about dynamicity of online relationships than direct advertising. It is a long-term investment with a promise of an exponentially increasing ROI.

How is influencer marketing done right?

Nothing is ever complete without examples. Once we started talking about influencer marketing, we realized how lost any newcomer would feel if we did not curate a few successful examples for their better understanding. There are examples of sheer marketing brilliance in combination with nebulous creativity.

  1. SperryThis boat shoe brand started influencer marketing toward the end of 2016. They have over 100 micro-influencers on Instagram. Their project is quite simple. The influencers are currently sharing HD photos of the Sperry products in different day-to-day scenarios. These social media influencers are inviting Instagram users to improve and share social media content. There is no distinction of these micro-influencer accounts from the other Insta accounts. They are simply more popular and more interactive.
  2. My Tales of WhiskeyThe Shorty Award for Best Influencer Marketing 2016 went to the “My Tales of Whisky Holiday Edition: Nick Offerman’s Yule Log (Yule Log)”. This is currently, a video series based on the relationship shared between Nick Offerman and the creative team of Parks and Recreation. This video went viral within a couple of days post-launch. It is a 44-minute video of Nick Offerman sitting beside a burning fireplace, brooding and occasionally sipping his whiskey. That is all! However, it includes elements of cultural relevance, a message for the younger generation (new target group) and a social media signal that caused more viewers to share the content through their YouTube channels and on Facebook.
  3. GAPTheir social media cum influencer campaign was an interesting one. They leveraged the presence of social media influencers to show how GAP is your everyday clothing. They asked influencers to include GAP clothing and accessories in their daily routines. From ballerinas to photographers, everyone remained hooked to this campaign for weeks. The successful Styld.by campaign included a number of popular social media personalities and celebrities. The added advantage of this campaign was the “Shop this Look” option that led the users directly to the GAP store.
  4. Naked JuiceNaked Juice marketing campaign has redefined success in the realm of social media marketing. This bottled smoothie is not only making a mark in the health sections of blogs, but it is also inching closer every day to the beauty and lifestyle zones of Instagram and Pinterest. Thanks to the marketers and ad designers, most social influencers are snapping and posting pictures of their daily wardrobes and makeup kits along with a generous side of a conspicuously placed Naked Juice bottle. Check out Kate La Vie’s Instagram account. She will tell you all the ways to stay cool and trendy this summer with her beauty essentials and a strategically placed NJ mix.
  5. Old NavyFashionable yet affordable is the USP of Old Navy. This clothing chain is currently employing Meghan Reinks to create a series of video and image posts on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Holidays, vacations, snazzy ladies’ night outs, Saturday late nights and big dates, you will have everything covered with Meghan Reinks’ videos on social media. She was the first and easiest choice for Old Navy. She has a whopping 1.3 million followers on Insta and 2 million followers on YouTube. She has a unique style of narration, a quirky take on most traditional clothing and she is totally entertaining. There is nothing more you want from your social media influencer!
  6. GlossierThis Manhattan-based startup focuses on one thing only – beauty! In 2017, it received the award for the Most Innovative Companies of the year from Fast Company. Glossier did not want to go with the big names of the beauty industry. They wanted to find and engage “regular women” to spread the message. It is all about skincare, beauty regimen, and cosmetics. As per Emily Weiss, the Glossier SEO, “The idea is to promote every single woman as an influencer for Glossier.” Very recently, in 2017, the company launched its referral program that allows more powerful influencers to offer brand incentives, including product discounts.
  7. Stride GumHave you seen DJ Khaled’s Snapchat account? That is a rhetorical question because unless you are trying really hard, you will not be able to avoid seeing DJ Khaled on Snapchat. He has a massive following who want nothing but to know more about where he goes, what he does and how he does it. His snaps generate over 3 million views each time. He has been rocking Snapchat ever since he has been there. He is the first in line for multiple influencer marketing campaigns. Be it Coca-Cola or Stride Gum, the “King of Snapchat” is making sure their message goes out to the millions. He regularly takes part in “Snapchat takeovers” where he takes over any brand’s reign for a limited period. His antics and unfiltered posts bring millions of viewers online each day during these takeovers. Last year, Stride Gum introduced the “Mad Intense Gum” Snapchat Takeover with Khaled. It was crazy fun to watch for all his followers indeed.
  8. Estée LauderWhen it was time for this 71-year old makeup company to get in touch with the younger generation, they turned to the youngest of the Kardashian Clan. They appointed Kendall Jenner as their social media influencer. She has a whopping 75.1 million Instagram followers. She has been successfully uploading pictures of the Estée “edited” collection of 82 makeup essentials. Kendall has a penchant for controversy, and that has not deterred big names from appointing her as their queen on social media.The Estée Edit account shares her makeup tips and her favorite products online. Jenner shares the latest releases from Estée on her account.
  9. ModClothThe best way to relate to your customers is to find a social influencer amidst your existing customer group. This is what ModCloth has been doing for quite some time now. They have been using user-generated content to market their new products. They invite their followers to submit their photos in ModCloth clothing. The best shots find a place in their official gallery. As a result, this awesome fashion clothing line has tons of breathtaking pictures of their clothes and the “real people” wearing them. Each image comes with a share button that lets the submitter claim it. This is how ModCloth finds its own influencers and even manages to find new names for its collections. ModCloth has previously named many dresses after bloggers who have given the company new design ideas.
  10. StrongVoltStrongVolt is a company that makes solar panels for the outdoorsy folks. They find people who love outdoor activities to endorse their products. They invite new photos of the gadgets in use, just as buyers are meant to use them. Rather than looking for celebrities or mommy-bloggers with huge followership and low relevance, StrongVolt has found a milieu of nature lovers, hikers, trekkers, runners and adventure sports lovers who need and use solar powered panels for charging electronic devices. The results are stunning photos of nature featuring their products in the best ways possible.

Celebrity endorsement has a lot to do with leveraging a person’s worldwide fame rather than engagement. Most people do not connect emotionally to the celebrity figures from Hollywood. That is the very reason influencer marketing is so successful. While people have been blocking ads by celebrities, people have been streaming and watching YouTube videos and vines made by seemingly “regular” people. These people are the influencers who can emotionally and financially engage a huge market with desired buying capacities.

What about quality control?

Interestingly enough, not all countries have regulations on influencer marketing. As a result, there is no quality control either. It remains the sole responsibility of the brands, the manufacturers, and the influencers to practice any form of quality control applicable. Only very recently, the Federal Trade Commission or FTC of the US started enforcing some rules and regulations in 2016.

This certainly has not had any negative influence on social media marketing and influencer marketing strategies. Very recently, the people and media accused Kim Kardashian of endorsing a product without disclosure on Instagram. This was a result of the recent developments. Any celebrity can endorse products, so can the regular users of social media platforms. However, their posts will have to carry a clear disclosure. This will mean, the audience will be aware of the products, brands, and services, and the reviews will be more unbiased. This is indeed a welcome improvement on the existing marketing strategy.

Wrapping things up

Only a year ago, Facebook saw 100-million hours of video each day. Back in 2015, a Tomoson study showed that the ROI was about 6.5 times. That was over two years ago. Right now, it stands proudly at 11 times the investment. The tools and methods to calculate ROI have become much improved, refiled and accurate. To find out how your brand can improve from influencer marketing, please contact us.

3 comments on this post

  1. Hi Lalit! Awesome article you have here. Influencer marketing definitely plays an important role in today’s digital marketing. I was wondering, do you advice this strategy to small business owners as well?

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