The rise and rise of influencer marketing

Successful influencer marketing strategy for your digital marketing agency

The rise of influencer marketing shows no signs of slowing in 2020. Many businesses increased their spending on influencer marketing in 2019, and are upping their budget even further in 2020. It’s estimated that the influencer marketing industry will grow to approximately $9.7 billion in 2020


So whether you are a marketer in a business, or work for a digital marketing agency, it makes sense to become familiar with the world of influencer marketing.


So in this article we will look briefly at:


  • What is influencer marketing and how did it start?
  • Different types of influencer marketing
  • How to find an influencer
  • How to implement an influencer marketing strategy
  • How successful is influencer marketing


What is influencer marketing and how did it start?


A simple definition of influencer marketing is using someone to encourage people to buy from you. Someone who has the power to influence the perception of others, resulting in a change in their thinking or behaviour. 


Although the word “influencer” was only added to the English dictionary in May 2019, the concept of influencer marketing is nothing new. Throughout history, mankind has always learned from the experiences of friends and family. Today it’s estimated that 92% of consumers trust reviews and recommendations from peers, friends, and people they admire over and above adverts from the companies selling the products and services they are considering.


Over the years, we have also looked to aspirational figures for inspiration on what to do; including what to buy. One of the earliest recognisable examples of this is Coca Cola’s use of Santa Claus in their 1930’s marketing campaign. In fact, the jolly Santa persona featured in the campaign very much shaped the way in which Santa is portrayed today. But Santa drinking coke certainly got everyone talking, and the brand gained huge increases in popularity and sales as a result.


Since then, there has been a gradual growth of the concept of influencer marketing. Part of this has been the popularity of advertising personalities such as Marlborough Man, the Gold Blend couple, and even Aleksandr Orlov from Compare the Market. But, in parallel with this, there has been the growing use of celebrities to endorse products and services.


A few examples of this are Ronald Reagan for Chesterfield cigarettes, Michael Jordan for Nike trainers, and Jennifer Aniston for L’Oreal Elvive. This trend also developed into some celebrities teaming up with companies to create new brands. For example Kate Moss was one of the first celebrities to be named in a fashion range, in collaboration with TopShop, but there are now many other such collaborations including Rihanna with Manolo Blahnik, Beyonce’s Ivy Park collection with Topshop, Kanye West with Adidas and Nicki Minaj with K-Mart.


In most of the above examples, the celebrities are not actually designing the clothing; it is more of a licensing-type deal through which they authorise the retailer to use their name and brand to endorse the products in exchange for a fee. The celebrities have huge followings and can therefore influence consumers to buy the products.


These kinds of collaborations laid the foundations for the full impact of influencer marketing. Foundations that were then built on by the growth of technology. In the early 2000’s came the birth of blogging. By the end of that decade, what initially started as personalised ponderings across the uncharted territory of the Internet had evolved into a whole new social platform. A platform that was no longer just being used for individual communication but a platform on which brands were being built.


In particular, the arrival of Instagram in 2010 provided another important channel on which people could blog and share. And today, Instagram remains the preferred platform for influencer marketing. 


From 2010 onwards, it became increasingly recognised how much the Internet had opened up opportunities for real voices to have their say. Blogging continued to spread, and the growth of social media was explosive. Both of these were incredibly significant factors in the rise of influencer marketing.


Different types of influencer marketing


Influencer marketing has now grown to the extent where there are many different types; not all of them using well-known celebrities. Let’s take a quick look at some of the more clearly-defined types of influencer marketing, and how they could benefit your business.

  • Micro-influencer

These are individuals with smaller numbers of followers on social media: think thousands or tens of thousands of people. Whatever content and channel(s) they use, they will tend to have a higher engagement rate and interact more regularly with their smaller audience. A micro-influencer is ideal if you need someone who can potentially have a more personal interaction with your customers.

  • Blog influencer

We have already mentioned the significant part that blogging played in influencer marketing. Blog influencers are likely to have thousands, or even millions, of readers. So if you can be mentioned in one of their posts, or sponsor a post on their blog about your products or services, it will have a high reach. 

  • Key opinion leader (KOL)

KOLs are high-level experts in any specialised topic. So if yours is a niche business, a KOL would be a great asset due to their renowned expertise. For example, if they reviewed one of your products their opinions would be trusted by people looking for a niche product such as yours. They would also attract new consumers to your business from their niche audience of followers.

  • Social media influencer

Social media influencers have thousands or millions of followers on social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter. One way you could use them would be to share content and images that promote your product or service, and also link to your social account. Another could be to have them host a contest or giveaway with your products.

  • Celebrity influencer

These are famous people with millions of followers, and can reach multiple audiences across various channels. They can therefore be very successful in promoting your brand and influencing your target audience, but would be unlikely to be available for more personalised interaction. 


How to find an influencer


So if you decide that one of the above types of influencer might work for your business, how do you actually go about finding one?


It’s important to take your time about this. You need to find the right person that will appeal to your target audience, in terms of both quality content and brand authenticity: does this influencer and their lifestyle fit your brand image?


You also need to consider whether there are any conflicts such as them having previously worked with your competitors. And, of course, whether they fit into your budget: influencers can charge anywhere from around £500 to upwards of £100,000 for a sponsored post or endorsement. 


If you already have a celebrity in mind that you would like to approach, you will most probably need to go through a talent agency to do this. 


But there are a whole raft of influencers out there who may not be celebrities as such, but are in some way  “Internet famous”. These are people who have built up their reputation and their following solely through the power of the Internet and social media. One of the real voices that we referred to earlier. Such influencers are more approachable and relatable than a typical celebrity, and can most likely encourage people towards a lifestyle that is seemingly not too far out of their reach.


Some of the ways to track down the right influencer are:


  • Google: search for people who are already creating relevant content and reaching your target audience. 


  • Social media: search for profiles, pages, hashtags and comments relevant to your business area and brand, including your competitors, to see who is making relevant contributions. 


  • Word of mouth: check out all your various networks, both personal and professional, to see if there is anyone that is recommended by others that you trust.


  • Blogs and vlogs: find bloggers/vloggers that are relevant to your brand and see if either they – or others that they refer to – may be a suitable fit for your business. 


  • Influencer software: there is now specialist software available to help businesses identify potential influencers for example BuzzStream and BuzzSumo


How to implement an influencer marketing strategy


Once you have found the right person and they have agreed to work with you, following these five key steps will get your influencer marketing strategy off to the very best of starts:


  • Determine your goals: The most common goals of influencer marketing include increasing brand awareness (85%), reaching new audiences (71%), and generating sales and conversions (64%). It is important to have established goals right from the start so that you can track the success of your influencer marketing campaign as it rolls out.


  • Define your target audience: Who are you going for, and how will your influencer engage with this audience? It can be helpful to create an audience persona to gain a really clear understanding of how to relate to your intended customers.


  • Choose your channel(s):  As we saw earlier, Instagram remains the preferred platform for influencer marketing. Around 90% of businesses that are using influencer marketing use Instagram, including Instagram Stories, which is becoming increasingly popular. The next two most used influencer marketing channels are Facebook and Youtube, with Snapchat and Twitter trailing significantly behind.


  • Clarify expectations: You need to make it clear to your influencer the messages that you want them to endorse, and any related brand guidelines such as voice, language, and tags. You also need to specify whether you are going to create content for them or expect them to do this themselves. You need to ensure that they have all the tools they need to deliver the results that you expect. Equally, they will need to know from you about how they will be paid or rewarded, how long you are likely to be working together, and when and how you will communicate. 


  • Track your campaign results: Whatever goals you set at the beginning, as with any other digital marketing strategy you need to track these as the campaign goes on. It is essential to measure the level of success that the influencer has helped you to achieve, so that you can decide how to continue your campaign in the most effective way. 


How successful is influencer marketing?


We have just discussed the importance of measuring the success of your influencer marketing strategy, and to conclude our article here is some positive news about the kind of results that businesses have experienced from implementing an influencer marketing strategy:


  • 91% of marketers say that influencer marketing is effective.
  • 89% of marketers have experienced ROI from influencer marketing that is as good as or better than other marketing channels.
  • 71% say the quality of customers/traffic from influencer marketing is better than other sources.
  • Google searches for “influencer marketing” grew 1500% in the last three years.


So, it seems like influencer marketing is here to stay. We hope that the above information helps you to get started on your journey into the world of influencer marketing, and achieve the success that your campaign deserves. 


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