Influencer Marketing: Is it effective?

Influencer marketing is estimated to become a $10 billion industry by 2020. Rooted in a sense of community built within social media, influencers, otherwise known as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs),  have become trusted advisors on consumer products, opening up a new platform through which brands can market their products and services. Brands and influencers bank on authenticity when it comes to this marketing strategy, as KOLs are perceived to be more connected to their audience when compared with their traditional celebrity counterparts. However, despite its rapid growth, the industry is still unpredictable and many challenges are still present given the current lack of rules and regulations. Our piece discusses the effectiveness of influencer marketing as a strategy, authenticity within the industry, as well as ways you can create a good campaign plan.

 

Why has influencer marketing become a popular strategy?

There are two big reasons why influencer marketing has become a popular strategy. First, because of social media, there is increasing accessibility to various platforms as well as niche communities. Over the years, the number of active users on social media websites has grown exponentially. Popular choices for influencer marketing Youtube and Instagram boast over 1 billion and 800 million active monthly users respectively. Through these platforms it has become easier to find people with similar interests, with communities forming around interests and hobbies like technology, art, beauty and makeup, just to name a few. As a result, there are clear paths to finding and reaching niche markets; there are pre-existing communities that marketers can tap into to get their message out there.

Besides this, the increasing accessibility to the tools needed to make high-quality content has allowed more people to become good and impactful content creators. Cameras, drones, and all sorts of media-making equipment have become more prevalent and affordable. Smartphone camera technology has also improved significantly over the years, becoming comparable to a digital camera, allowing people to conveniently and quickly capture, edit, and upload high-quality content all from their phone. Moreover, since content is mainly created by the influencer themselves, there is room for them to make use of their own creative style and voice to share organic and authentic opinions.

 

Is influencer marketing even effective?

According to a survey conducted by Mediakix, 80% of marketers find influencer marketing effective, measuring this by ROI as well as by the quality of traffic and customers gained through this strategy. 71% say the quality of customers is better than other marketing sources while 89% say ROI is as good or even better than other marketing channels.

These results show that marketers do find this strategy quite effective. However, what are the reasons behind this? One of the biggest justifications to investing in influencer marketing is the audience surrounding the influencer. KOLs have been found to be much more effective than traditional celebrity endorsers precisely because there is more engagement within the community formed around an influencer. Influencer content tends to be more interactive, allowing audiences to participate in the conversation and have direct contact with the influencer themselves.

Moreover, since influencer marketing is a collaborative venture, the voices of the KOLs mix with that of the brand, which allows brand messages to come across less aggressive and more subtle, easier for audiences to respond to and engage with. All this makes content feel more authentic and organic and less like an advertisement.

Finally, since influencers are reputable members of their community, good campaigns attract the right kind of consumers down the conversion funnel — those who already share the influencers’ interests, are invested in the topics they have to share, and are more likely to be attracted to the brand’s product or service.

How is this effectiveness measured?

Most brands currently make use of influencer marketing to increase brand awareness, according to a survey conducted by Relatable, with 50% of respondents making it their top concern. Driving sales comes in at 35%. The common KPIs used to measure the effectiveness of campaigns are conversions and sales, engagement or clicks, views and reach, or content quality.

 

How to do it well

A successful influencer marketing strategy has to be well thought out. Below are five questions you need to consider when planning out your strategy.

 

  1. What is your goal?
    • The first thing to consider when planning an influencer marketing campaign is your goal. It could be one of the following: increase brand awareness, drive sales, drive traffic to your website, promote a new product launch, etc. Having a clear goal will allow you to decide what type of influencers to work with and what kind of content you would like to create. For instance, if you’d like to drive sales, consider offering a discount code or affiliate link through your influencers. If you’d like to increase brand awareness, a longer and broader campaign would be a good idea.
  2. What are the trends in your market?
    • Each industry has different trends. The way content is shot or styled, the captions and words used, and the platform where audiences are most active are different for different industries. Understanding what is popular and engaging for your target audience will help you choose which influencers can help you better create this content. This would also give you a framework to plan content that is engaging, yet stands out at the same time.
  3. What other work has this influencer done? Does the quality match what you are looking for?
    • Researching potential influencers is crucial. With such a saturated market, finding a quality influencer that matches your brand can be difficult. Looking at what past work an influencer has done will help you assess whether they match your brand, but also whether your brand would fit into their portfolio. Also ask yourself whether they are able to deliver the content you are looking for and reach the goal you’ve set for this campaign.
  4. What are you offering? 
    • Know what you are able to offer an influencer in exchange for content. Some influencers can charge hundreds, if not, thousands of US dollars per post. What is your budget and what are the products or services you are able to offer to them in return? An alternative to consider is working with micro-influencers, who are often happy to post content without monetary compensation. In this situation, a long-term partnership where both parties can grow together would also be beneficial.
  5. What are the schedule and deliverables?
    • Know your schedule and what you need from the influencer. Is there a specific event or launch you are promoting? If so, when would you like influencers’ posts to go out? How many pieces of content would you like the influencer to post? All these details should be clearly worked out and agreed on while preparing the campaign.

 

The question of authenticity

While a highly effective and sufficiently popular marketing strategy, there is still a lot of concern over the authenticity and actual impact of influencer marketing. According to the same Relatable survey, over half of marketers face opposition from managers who do not understand the metrics of influencer marketing, nor see how to truly measure results, leading to hesitation toward this strategy. This is paired with the concerns over fake followers and fake engagement within social media platforms, with the rise of bots that can drive up engagement rates without genuine quality. This is why research is crucial to finding good quality influencers.

 

Conclusion

Social media has created a new platform for marketers to reach out to potential audiences and customers. However, influencer marketing also comes with its own challenges as it continues to grow and mature. With the proper planning and strategy, your influencer marketing campaign can be successful and effective in helping you reach your business goals.