The proliferation of influencers and content creators in the digital marketing space has become a central and impactful feature of communication for many brands. The increasing diversity of platforms provided by influencers across sectors and niches gives a brand a unique set of channels to target consumers. To understand how to effectively utilise influencers in a strategic marketing context and the influence of influencers, it’s essential to focus on the process by which influencers impact and influence consumers. The process is known as social influence. Social media influencing is another term to describe this process.
Social influence is a central feature of society and socialisation in a physical and – increasingly a digital context. Social influence is continuous and not concentrated on those who are perceived to have higher social standing. A key pillar of social influence is conformity. The power of conformity is the foundation which influencer brand partnership activities are built upon.
Table of Contents
It is also important to consider that social influence is not an exclusively one-way phenomenon, it is also relevant to an interactive dialogue behind different parties. This is particularly relevant to the community building aspects of influencers, and their building of digital communities of like minded individuals. There are a number of different types of influencer, including beauty influencers, fitness influencers, and mega influencers who typically will have over a million followers on Instagram.
Influencers ‘Harness the Power’: What is the meaning of Influencer?
Influencers harness the power of social influence’s perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. The global influencer marketing industry is worth $21.1 billion (Statista, 2023). We often see influencers conducting a range of activities, these can include things like: uploading Instagram posts; creating makeup tutorials (for example, if beauty is their particular niche); and being a content creator on YouTube. Influencers make content on multiple social media platforms and social media channels to engage and target their social media following.
How consumers perceive a brand is the fundamental basis of decision-making in the purchasing process. 80% of consumers have purchased a product or service based on a social media influencer recommendation (Oberlo). Therefore, influencers can become a key part of establishing and influencing the perceived benefits and value that products or services possess. This is also the case when it comes to beliefs – fundamentally individual beliefs are a core part of their self-identity.
How a consumer views themselves as an individual and in society is core to understanding their consumption. As such it is useful for brands to engage relevant influencers to effectively target and connect with relevant market segments.
Consumers’ beliefs affect how they not only view, but interact and consume products/services. Top influencers can present and frame products, services or ideas in a way that fundamentally alters or reaffirms a consumer’s beliefs. This develops consumers’ beliefs about a brand and their attitudes towards it. This often takes place on social platforms or social network sites where the top social media influencers with a relatively high number of followers can sway consumer attitudes towards products.
From a marketer perspective, it is attitudes that are the natural result of experience and beliefs that truly dictate consumer purchasing behaviour. It is the role of a marketing strategy to utilise influencers to manage the impression of a brand and in turn seek to manage attitudes towards a brand. Attitudes dictate behaviour, and for brands, this affects if and how consumers purchase their products or services.
Characteristics of the influencer that can make them more influential include:
- Expertise: People who are seen as experts in their field are more likely to be influential.
- Credibility: People who are seen as having established credibility, or who appear trustworthy, are more likely to be influential.
- Charisma: People who are charismatic, or appealing, are more likely to be influential.
Situational factors that can make social influence more likely include:
- Ambiguity: When we are uncertain or unfamiliar with a situation, we are more likely to look to others for guidance.
- Group pressure: When we are in a group setting, we are more likely to conform to the expectations of the group.
- Authority: When we are faced with an authority figure, we are more likely to comply with their demands.
As mentioned, conformity is key to understanding the power of influencers. It acts as an accelerator to the influencer brand partnerships and is vital to understanding the role of the influencers in society. In essence, social influence can make an individual change their attitudes or behaviour. This essentially is an individual conforming to relevant segments and/or wider society to adhere to social norms.
As such, it is the creation and perpetuation of social norms through conformity that drives much of influencer culture. This social physiologic principle is important for brands to appreciate, as it is central to accessing like-minded followers who generally fit into similar demographic profiles. This is a key basis of market segmentation and target marketing. When a brand understands conformity – they can leverage it effectively.
Tactics and Methods
There is a vast range of tactics used by influencers to fulfil the role as brand ambassadors, although their methods may vary, there are consistent underlying social/psychological principles that universally drive them. These principles are pillars of social psychology, and applying them to the activities of influencers enable brands to develop and focus their strategic communication strategy.
A strategic framework should not only include a clear profile of relevant market segments, but also seek to build a profile of consumers as individuals. This enables brands to target particular relevant niche influencers. More broadly, social influence can be conscious or subconscious.
As such it can be utilised in overt or subtle ways, helping individual influencers to tailor their strategy accordingly. This is particularly relevant to platforms such as Youtube and Instagram. Emerging platforms provide further brand partnership opportunities. Emerging platforms such as TikTok and Clubhouse are continuing to provide valuable branding opportunities. The tactics available to influencers with further marketing integration into these platforms is consistently enhancing the power brand partnership in the social media space.
Consumers can be targeted by methods ranging from aggressive, explicit, shout-out features to more muted product placement. Equally, the community-building aspect of influencers’ followings means that brands can utilise interest expressed in their products or services within comment sections and can provide a commercial impetus to partner with a particular influencer.
This utilises the power of social norms. Influencer directed brand activities are concerned with the concept of power, alongside the creation and perpetuation of social norms. These two social psychological principles illustrate the process that is unleashed by influencer brand partnerships and influencer community interaction. Social norms are particularly important to understanding the impact that influence behaviour concerning brands can have. They are, in essence, the behaviour and manner of presentation that are deemed to be appropriate in a given group. They are social and cultural standards.
Influencers are uniquely placed to set these standards, often unleashing aesthetic and behavioural norms that compliment and/or centre around brands, products or services. This is why brands must effectively segment the market to enable them to optimise target marketing through relevant influencers platforms.
The Concept of Power
The concept of power is also incredibly important to understand the process of social influence through influencers. In a social context, power dynamics are central to the nature of interaction or communication. Possessing a platform that enables individuals to influence others is power in itself, regardless of the personality and status the individual has. As individuals, influencers have different sources of power.
The sources of this power vary and conjoin. ‘Reverent power’ stems from an intense admiration for influencers which sees their followers look up to them. ‘Reward power’ stems from a perceived real reward an individual as a followers gains from another, being the influencer. This may be in the case of influencers and their followers’ social standing from the consumption of a product or service. This is particularly relevant for lifestyle influencers whose success is built upon offering a rewarding experience or education to followers.
Are Influencers Really ‘Experts’?
An influencer may also possess perceived or real expert power which empowers them to speak with authority on particular products or services, and therefore utilised by brands. Influencers also can enjoy informational power, this source of power doesn’t stem from a formal position. This is particularly useful because it enables influencers to possess authority on topics that, as an individual, they don’t possess specialist knowledge on a particular topic. This enables brands to partner with less-niche influencers and utilise their potentially broader audiences.
An influencer can also possess negative sources of power such as a coercive power. This power can see an influencer leverage fear and misleading content to sell irrelevant or defective products, reputable brands should avoid such individuals that could cause severe reputational damage.
This is exemplified by influencers who in the past have partnered with brands that pushed ineffective alternative medicines. Further, this reputational damage has been caused by irresponsible and sometimes illegal behaviour by individual influencers during the COVID-19 pandemic particularly related to foreign travel.
The Ethical Considerations of Influencers
One of the most important ethical considerations in influencer marketing is transparency. Influencers should always disclose their relationships with brands, both to their followers and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This disclosure can be done through clear and conspicuous language in the influencer’s content, such as using hashtags like #ad or #sponsored.
Influencers should also be authentic in their endorsements of products and services. They should only promote products that they genuinely believe in and that they think would be of value to their followers. Influencers should also avoid using deceptive or misleading tactics to promote products, such as making false claims about the product’s benefits or using fake reviews.
Conflicts of Interest
Influencers, or social media personalities, should also be aware of potential conflicts of interest. For example, an influencer who is also an employee of a brand should not endorse a competitor’s product. Influencers should also disclose any financial incentives they have for promoting a product, such as affiliate links or paid sponsorships.
Summary of Influencers and Social Influence
To summarise, influencers have become a central feature of digital marketing strategies because of their unique, targeted reach and reference among their audience. It is important for brands not only to understand the reach of influencers but also to appreciate the underlying psychological principles and processes that drive the effectiveness of partnerships.
This understanding and focus enables brands to fully utilise and optimise their use of influencers. This optimisation is not a matter of negative commercial exploitation of human nature. By contrast, it is understanding and adapting digital marketing strategies to complement underlying social psychological conditions within society in a complementary and responsible manner.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: How do I identify the right influencers for my brand?
A: Identifying the right influencers for your brand requires a careful consideration of your target audience, brand identity, and campaign goals. Influencers are becoming powerful marketing tools and are taking over traditional celebrities due to their relatability with audiences. Start by defining your target audience, including their demographics, interests, and online behaviour. Once you have done the research, look for influencers who align with your brand’s values and have a strong following among your target audience. Consider using influencer marketing platforms to discover and connect with relevant influencers.
Q: What are the different types of influencers?
A: Influencers can be categorized based on their follower count and engagement rate:
- Mega-influencers: These are the more popular influencers who typically have over 1 million followers
- Macro-influencers: Macro-influencers have a large audience from around 500,000 to 1 million followers
- Mid-tier influencers: 100,000 to 500,000 followers
- Micro-influencers: 10,000 to 100,000 followers
- Nano-influencers: Under 10,000 followers
Each type of influencer has its own advantages and disadvantages. Consider your budget and campaign goals when choosing the right influencer level for your brand.
Q: How do I measure the impact of influencer marketing campaigns?
A: Measuring the impact of influencer marketing campaigns requires setting clear goals and tracking relevant metrics. Common metrics include:
- Brand awareness: Increased brand mentions, social media engagement, and website traffic
- Lead generation: Increased opt-ins, newsletter subscriptions, and form submissions
- Sales: Increased sales conversions, revenue generated, and coupon code redemptions
- Engagement: Likes, comments, shares, and retweets related to influencer content
Use a combination of analytics tools and direct communication with influencers to track these metrics.
Q: How much do influencers charge for collaboration?
A: Influencer compensation varies widely depending on their follower count, engagement rate, niche, and experience. Factors like campaign complexity, deliverables, and exclusivity can also influence pricing.
Q: What are the different methods of influencer compensation?
A: Common methods of influencer compensation include:
- Flat fee: A fixed payment for the influencer’s services.
- Performance-based compensation: Payment based on achieving specific campaign goals, such as follower growth or engagement metrics.
- Affiliate marketing: Payment based on generating sales or leads through affiliate links.
- Product gifting: Providing influencers with free products in exchange for promotion.
- Equity or ownership: Offering influencers a stake in the brand in exchange for their long-term commitment.
Choose the compensation method that aligns with your budget, campaign goals, and influencer relationship.
Q: How do I ensure transparency and authenticity in influencer marketing?
A: Encourage influencers to disclose their partnerships with brands clearly and conspicuously using hashtags like #ad or #sponsored. Ensure influencers promote products they genuinely believe in and avoid misleading tactics.
Q: How do I protect my brand reputation in influencer marketing?
A: Whilst it may seem daunting, you’ll have to find influencers and partner with reputable ones who align with your brand values. Provide clear guidelines to influencers about expectations and monitor campaigns closely. Address any concerns promptly.
Q: How do I measure the ROI of influencer marketing?
A: Calculate the ROI by comparing the cost of the campaign to the revenue or value generated. Consider both direct and indirect benefits, such as increased brand awareness and customer loyalty.
If you found this blog useful you may also want to check out these blogs: