Influencer Marketing — Who and What is it?

August 27, 2019
If you’ve heard the term “influencer marketing” recently, it’s no surprise. The term increased by 325% in Google® searches in 2017 alone, which tells you something.

There are two types of social influencers: celebrities and everyday people. Due to their high profiles, celebrity influencers can draw a huge following on social media. But the everyday influencer is someone who has a passion for something – makeup, gaming, vegan cooking – and starts gathering and sharing their knowledge online through videos, blogs, and other form of social media. These everyday people can gain followers by simply posting about their passion on social media. Some have even become celebrities in their own right.

According to Medium, social influencers “have gained immense internet popularity, allowing them to shape and influence audience opinions on matters….” Their passion and success in a specific area make them credible subject matter experts. And their legions of fans see their reviews and opinions as relatable, authentic, and trustworthy. And that’s key.

With trust in businesses, governments, and media at an all-time low, social influencers are “the ideal marketing tool for companies. They already have a large following at their disposal,” so by working with a handful of influencers who have a huge number of eyes on everything they say or do, businesses can reach exponentially more people with just a few posts or a short blog. In return for promoting a product or idea, influencers usually get paid, or get free promotional products or some combination of free goodies and payment.

According to a global report by public relations agency Edelman, communication is now largely peer-to-peer, with top-down information seen as the least trustworthy. The majority of purchasing decisions, “researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on,” now happen online, between peers or on places like Amazon® and Yelp®. “In 2016, Facebook® [posts] influenced 62% of consumers’ online and offline purchases,” and people increasingly search for opinions online from peers or from trusted influencers for the “real truth” about a product or idea.

Because influencers have a reputation to uphold with their followers, they “trade in credibility and are unlikely to engage with brands they don’t already use, trust or see value in themselves.” Influencer marketing campaigns are the most successful when the product someone promotes already aligns with what they are saying or doing.

REI® and UnderArmour® are great examples of successful influencer marketing. They work with influencers who are already focused on the outdoors or fitness to develop brand-appropriate content while still delivering value to the audience.

Businesses who are able to successfully engage with social influencers to promote their products in a way that feels authentic and trustworthy see major gains and a huge return. For every $1 spent on influencer marketing, businesses are receiving $7.65 on average in profit. If
you’re looking to build or regain some lost trust and grow in your market, perhaps now is the time to consider aligning your brand with a trusted influencer or two.

…communication is now largely peer-to-peer, with top-down information seen as the least trustworthy.

Sources: “The Remarkable Rise of Influencer Marketing,” Influencer Marketing Hub; “Under the Influence: The Power of Social Media Influencers,” Medium; “Why Influencer Marketing Is Unique and Even More Vital for B2B Marketers,” Advertising Week; “The End of Solution Sales,” Harvard Business Review; “Americans’ Trust in Government Near All-Time Low, Survey Finds,” Time; “Trust in CEOs Plummets and Hits All-Time Low: Global Survey,” CNBC; “Trust in Mass Media Returns to All-Time Low,” Gallup; “Why America Has a Trust Problem,” The Economist; “Media Now Least Trusted Institution Globally,” Edelman; “Survey: People’s Trust Has Declined in Business, Media, Government, and NGOs,” Harvard Business Review.

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