Getting IN with the Influencer Crowd
Travel ten years back in time and tell yourself that television ads would soon not only not be the pinnacle of product or service marketing but that the championship belt might belong to … random people on the internet. Your younger self might not be able to envision such a dystopian future.
Welp, here in 2019 (the future!), that’s the world in which we live. In many, many cases, customers make buying decisions solely based on the opinions of those random Internet denizens. Except that they’re not random; they’re professional. And they carry a lot of weight. They’re called influencers, and in a lot of ways it makes a lot more sense to be influenced by the people who buy and use products, as opposed to an actor in a commercial.
As “real people,” influencer partners can serve as powerful advocates for a brand. They demonstrate to other consumers through actions and words that Brand X has earned their trust — trust that can be an incredibly powerful tool for a brand when it comes to reputation, credibility and awareness. If Brand X can establish a partnership with an influencer and directly ask consumers to trust that influencer, it feels (and usually is) more authentic and trustworthy to the consumer. And in today’s world of constant and unlimited information, trust is often in rare supply, even as audiences value it more and more.
But don’t take our word for it
A recent study conducted by McCann found that 42 percent of Americans find brands and companies less truthful today than 20 years ago. This means that brands need to find an alternate route to share their messaging. They are, and it’s working.
Online reviews and social media chatter are the driving factor behind a customer’s decision to make a purchase. Influencers are the driving force behind this trend. According to Influicity, 71 percent of customers are more likely to purchase based on social media references. That in itself is a telling statistic, but Influicity goes a little farther, showing the stat that should effectively end this blog: For every $1 spent on influencer marketing, companies saw an average of $6.50 ROI.
When a trend becomes a fact
Here’s the thing. We don’t see any of these influencer trends changing. Audiences spend a lot of time on social media, and that time isn’t decreasing. Spending hours a day on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat has become the norm. And while the social media reach of brands has consistently declined, there’s an easy-to-connect correlation with the fact that influencer reach and engagement is up. As specific brand channels become less and less visible, brands need influencer partners to stay relevant to new customers. Direct brand engagement falls, but engagement through or because or influencers goes up.
To influence or not to influence
So influencers are important. However, not all influencers are alike, so it’s vital for a brand to fully vet a potential partner. As with any other partnership or initiative, an influencer partnership should be chosen based on your brand’s objectives. Are you looking to go big and broad? Keep it intimate and organic? The right fit is out there.
Typically influencers are placed into one of three categories:
- Micro influencers — With followings between 500 and 10,000 viewers, these are the most affordable partners, but they’re also effective, having been shown to drive engagement rates up to 20-25 percent per post. We see this level of influencer holding the most trust among their followers, as their authentic posts are not solely driving their income.
- Macro influencers — These posters generally have followings between 10,000 and 1 million. Within the macro-influencer realm, you’ll be viewing industry-specific influencers (think lifestyle, pet or fitness) who generate their income from their brand partnerships. There may be some downside to this, since audiences can smell cynicism 12 posts away, but the upside is that macros aim to post natural and authentic content in order to keep their followers’ engagement and trust. There’s a fine line between authentic and promotional, and the better ones straddle it perfectly.
- Mega influencers — Now we’re entering the Kardashian realm. For very large brands, these professional “amateur” spokespeople can be a great way to launch new products, as every post is likely to be viewed by over a million people. A recent study found brands partnering with celebrities saw a weekly increase in sales of around 4 percent.
Diving even deeper under the influence
Because nothing is ever simple, each category of influencer features subcategories that target different markets or audiences, and this is where it becomes vital to know where you want your brand to be. But it’s not easy, and it helps to have some experts on your side to navigate through the tall grass.
Woodruff works with our clients to determine their objectives, which helps determine the best influencer category to meet those objectives. Woodruff uses internal and external tools to select influencers on behalf of our clients.
When reviewing influencers, here is just some of the criteria we look at:
- The partnership must be beneficial to both parties
- The partner should not produce, represent or share controversial content
- What is considered controversial is dependent on what your brand is
- Target demographics must align
- The influencer should not endorse any competitors and/or values that conflict with your brand’s
- They must be reliable, responsive and willing to negotiate rates or be paid through an even exchange, such as product (think micro influencers here)
Finding the right influencers doesn’t happen overnight. It can be a long process. Anyone can label themselves an influencer, so it’s important to research and vet potential influencers against a set list of criteria. An influencer list can start long and, through the vetting process, be narrowed down to the best fit. Remember: quality over quantity.
The future is now
Influencers are valuable assets for brands large and small. They assist in storytelling, creating awareness and mitigating issues, and they hold great ROI potential. Woodruff has taken many steps to ensure success and created safeguards to protect our brands. Through thorough vetting and strict understanding of scope, they’ve got tools whose influence you should gladly exert.
If only we’d had this influence a decade ago!