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The growing popularity of social media and the internet has encouraged most brands to have a powerful online presence. This has given rise to cut-throat competition in the online world. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach your target audience without being too salesy.
Marketers are always on the lookout for innovative and aggressive techniques to strengthen brand reputation and acquire more customers. They have shifted from intrusive self-promotional tactics to more nuanced inbound strategies such as influencer marketing.
The rise of influencer marketing is evident from the fact that it was used by 86% of marketers in 2017. In addition, there has been a 1500% increase in the number of Google searches for “influencer marketing” over the last three years.
Before we shed more light on the rise of influencer marketing, let’s first take a look at what the term, “influencer,” actually implies.
Social Media Influencers Decoded
Although a strict definition for the term doesn’t exist, influencers are characterized by a huge number of loyal social media followers. They share a friendly rapport with their fans and are perceived as experts in their niches.
The internet is packed with influencers of all kinds – bloggers, photographers, activists, journalists, celebrities, and more. They use different social media platforms to connect with their audiences. In fact, Instagram alone is home to more than half a million influencers.
Unlike mainstream celebrities, influencers don’t shroud their lives in an air of mystery. They leverage the accessibility of social media to develop personal connections with their followers. This helps them win the trust of their fan communities.
Social media influencers aren’t meant to be put on pedestals and worshiped. Instead, they are real-life consumers who share authentic and valuable information with their followers. They are often perceived as role models and possess the power to influence their followers’ choices.
It is this trust and influence that can be leveraged by brands to connect with their target audiences. They can use it to gain increased visibility and shape purchase decisions. Let’s now take a closer look at what influencer marketing means.
Understanding Influencer Marketing
Understanding the rise of influencer marketing requires a thorough knowledge of this particular marketing strategy.
Simply put, influencer marketing involves collaborating with a social media influencer to increase brand visibility and strengthen a brand’s reputation. When executed correctly, it helps you win more customers and earn more revenue.
While social media influencers are a relatively recent development, variations of influencer marketing have existed in traditional advertising for a long time.
For instance, celebrities are often appointed as brand ambassadors to promote a particular range of products.
However, what sets today’s influencer marketing apart is that it is perceived as more authentic and trustworthy. Owing to an influencer’s rapport with their fans, their recommendations aren’t dismissed as fake and sponsored endorsements.
Instead, their followers often swear by the recommendations made by their favorite influencer.
You can work with influencers to create engaging content for your social media profiles. You can also collaborate with them to host contests and giveaways. In addition, you can invite them to take complete control of your social media profiles for a given period of time.
For instance, real-life athlete and influencer, Brooke Willson, was invited to take over the Instagram page of Eddie Bauer. It is noteworthy how Willson utilized this opportunity to announce a giveaway for the brand, increasing audience engagement even further.
Image via Instagram
The approach you use for your influencer marketing campaign largely depends on your ultimate marketing objective. Depending on your goals, you can also invite influencers for Q&A sessions, podcasts, and guest blogging opportunities.
The rise of influencer marketing has been unprecedented. It has compelled marketers to change their strategies and adopt an influencer-centric approach.
Now, let’s take a look at its evolution and why it is becoming every brand’s favorite marketing strategy.
Tracing the Rise of Influencer Marketing
Celebrity endorsements have existed for a long time now. However, when it comes to social media influencers, many brands were initially reluctant to make them a part of their marketing strategies. Some marketers considered it as an option but weren’t willing to dedicate budget or resource.
However, a few ambitious brands such as Daniel Wellington ditched the conventional route. In fact, the luxury watch brand relied solely on the power of influencers to reach out to potential customers.
The risk was worth taking considering the fact that Daniel Wellington is among Europe’s fastest growing companies.
Success stories of this kind have motivated marketers to look at influencer marketing in a new light.
In fact, according to Mediakix, 80% of marketers agree that influencer marketing is effective. Moreover, 71% of them also agree that the customers and traffic received from influencer marketing are of superior quality.
Image via Mediakix
This is not surprising considering the fact that most influencers focus on a particular niche.
Working with niche influencers makes your targeting extremely precise and connects you with their audience who are likely to take an interest in your product. All you have to do is choose an influencer who is relevant to your niche.
The Power to Influence
Another crucial factor that has contributed to the rise of influencer marketing is the perceived nature of influencers. Their followers often treat them as real-life consumers who share valuable information about the latest products or services in the industry.
Recommendations and reviews by influencers are often more trustworthy and credible as compared to sponsored endorsements. As a result, they can impact their followers’ purchase decisions and attract them to a particular brand.
Therefore, when an influencer shares their honest feedback about a product or service, their followers are encouraged to try it out. In fact, 33% of the respondents in a gen.video study claimed that influencers were their most trusted source for shopping recommendations.
For instance, when Huawei wanted to promote the exclusive Porsche design of their Mate 10 Pro Range, they collaborated with Lewis Hilsenteger. Hilsenteger uploaded an engaging unboxing video of the product on his YouTube channel, Unbox Therapy.
Image via YouTube
It is evident that influencer marketing is a powerful tool for lead generation. It attracts potential customers to your brand without requiring you to indulge in self-promotional tactics.
In fact, influencer marketing is considered as one of the fastest growing online methods for customer acquisition.
Increased Reach and Visibility
In today’s competitive market, it is crucial to start an online conversation about your brand. The wider your reach, the easier it becomes for your potential customers to discover your products.
Influencers, owing to their massive reach and high engagement rates, can make this possible.
When an influencer features your brand in their content, their audience is likely to notice. They are also likely to share this content within their own networks, increasing your brand exposure even further.
Influencers have the power to cut through all the noise on social media and take your content to the right audience. According to a recent study by Influencer Marketing Hub, 37% of the respondents use influencer marketing to build brand awareness.
The ROI of Influencer Marketing
Despite all of the lucrative advantages of influencer marketing, brands have struggled to evaluate the overall performance of such campaigns. They often find it difficult to calculate the ROI of their influencer marketing campaigns.
In 2017, 76% of marketers thought calculating the ROI would be the biggest influencer marketing challenge in 2018.
This problem can be resolved if marketers define their objectives and set proper KPIs to measure the results.
Let’s say your objective is to boost audience engagement. You should track the number of likes, comments, and shares on specific posts to analyze the success of your campaign.
As influencer marketing becomes a widely accepted norm, marketers are devising customized metrics to evaluate its performance. This has made it easier to measure the ROI of such campaigns in recent times.
In fact, according to a recent study, influencer marketing delivers an ROI of $6.5 for every $1 spent. This is far higher than the ROI of other forms of digital marketing.
Social Media Platforms
When talking about the rise of influencer marketing, it is crucial to discuss which social media platforms are being used.
Most influencers are active on one or more of these platforms. However, Instagram is the most popular channel for influencer marketing campaigns.
Image via Influencer Marketing Hub
This is not surprising considering the fact that Instagram has more than 1 billion active users. In addition, it offers far better engagement rates compared to other social media platforms.
In fact, nano-influencers (with 1000 followers or less) see engagement rates close to 7.2% on Instagram. On the other hand, their engagement levels on Twitter are as low as 1.4%.
Influencer Marketing: The Future
A discussion on the rise of influencer marketing is incomplete without explaining what the future holds for it. It has clearly become the buzzword for brands and business owners. Its applications will continue to increase and hopefully, improve.
As marketers become increasingly aware of its benefits, they are also likely to invest more capital and resources into it.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 86% of marketers intend to dedicate a specific budget for influencer marketing in 2019. In addition, 63% of them intend to increase their spending within the next year.
Social media influencers will continue to be an integral part of marketing strategies. The increased budgets and resources will contribute to making influencer marketing campaigns more effective.
Thus, the rise of influencer marketing will continue, as it is set to become a $5 – $10 billion market by 2020.
Influencer marketing has come a long way from being just an option to becoming the go-to choice for brands. Its high conversion rates and ROI have motivated marketers to allocate a separate budget for influencer marketing campaigns.
Influencer marketing is no longer a novelty that is being used by a few niche brands. It is fast becoming a norm for businesses, regardless of their sizes and niches. The growth is expected to continue as marketers become more aware and develop new strategies to make their campaigns more effective.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.