An exceptional rise in social media has fuelled the growth of a successful method of marketing that is proving to be a highly effective form of building brand awareness. Brands are increasingly sourcing internet personalities with engaged social media followings to promote and sponsor their products and services using their social media platforms. ‘Influencer marketing’ is a simple and effective principle but – as with every tool in the communications toolbox – it must be deployed strategically.
So, what are the benefits and disadvantages of influencer marketing and how will it shape marketing strategy in the future?
In the first instance, it’s important to recognise that there are many types of social media influencer. At one end of the scale, micro –influencers are people who have an established social media audience; they have an authentic voice in a niche market. Partnering with these individuals can be cost-effective and generate highly targeted engagement with people who are genuinely interested in a product or service. At the other end of the scale sit the iconic ‘personalities’ and celebrities who have millions of followers and stimulate high levels of engagement.
But the question to ask is whether the influencer resonates with the product’s target audience and the brand they are representing?
A recent dispute between makeup and fashion blogger, Elle Darby, and hotel manager, Paul Stenson, challenged the brand-influencer relationship. Darby was refused a complimentary stay at one of Stenson’s hotels on the grounds that her large Instagram following made her no more entitled than any other customer.
The Darby/Stenson dispute highlighted a component of successful influencer marketing that’s imperative for it to work: relevance. This year social media savvy users will continue to increase their number of followers by thousands, but as more people become ‘influencers’ in the market, the more care brands must take to look past likes or followers and focus on the relevance of the influencer.
In any business relationship, we seek out business partners whose objectives align with our own. If the objectives of both parties are compatible and both stand to benefit from the relationship, they are likely to form a successful partnership. The same applies when seeking social media partners. A female stunt artist with a few thousand Instagram followers will be influential among her fan base of adrenaline junkies, making her a great potential partner for companies such as Red Bull or GoPro. But would her influence deliver the same return on investment for makeup supremo, MAC? It goes without saying that she would provide exposure by publicising MAC products, but are her followers the right audience? Put it this way, you wouldn’t be interested in buying top of the range makeup, if you didn’t like or wear makeup to begin with.
The right influencer marketing strategy can deliver great results. We worked with our client, Cofton Holidays, to partner with influential travel blogger, Pip and The City who has an established audience of ‘staycationers’ – a key target audience for Cofton.
In the process of arranging a press trip, which would result in dozens of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts and an online review of her experience at Cofton Holidays, we liaised with Pip and the City to review her credentials as a travel and food writer, the demographics and interests of her audience, and her potential to reach and influence them.
By mapping our client’s objectives against the capabilities of our potential influencer, we were able help Cofton reach their desired target audience generating awareness and a good ROI. Pip and the City exposed Cofton to thousands of her UK based followers by posting on social media and recording live streams during her stay, a brilliant source of direct marketing for our client which predominantly hosts domestic travellers. Pip and the City received over 2,630 likes on her Instagram posts and generated 51,990 impressions overall by tweeting during her stay. She also wrote a glowing review – populated with lots of images and great links – that was read by over 2,650 people.
Influencer marketing may give the impression of being limited to a small number of sponsored ‘freeloaders’, but in Absolute’s opinion, it has the potential to be a sophisticated and effective marketing process. One from which both brands and influencers rightly expect to benefit.
A suitable fit between the objectives of both parties is essential to the success of influencer marketing; the foundations of the relationship must be built on mutual ground. In the same way that your business would vet any potential supplier, prospective influencers should be able to show why they are the right partner for your brand. A clear sense of your own marketing objectives will support the process.
Influencer marketing is shaping brand communications in an extraordinary way and is increasingly essential to a successful marketing strategy.
To find out more about how influencer marketing could support your business’ growth, contact Absolute PR & Marketing on 01392 680740.