Influencer marketing is a specific market in which social media influencers are the advertisers. Essentially, the influencers endorse products on behalf of the brand that has hired them. Instead of advertising directly to a large group of consumers, a business or brand will hire an influencer to create social media content involving the product. The influencer’s followers will then see this endorsement of the product or brand, and in the case of successful collaboration, this will generate awareness and sales for that company.
Social influence marketing is a very useful tool for brands and companies because it can be used to make trends and encourage influencer’s followers to buy their products. When used effectively, it is a relatively low risk marketing strategy to reach a well targeted audience. Brands often love to use social media influencers to market their products as social media is such a widely used platform, and many people will see the influencers’ endorsements. In the Uk alone in 2020, 45 million active social media users were recorded.
It is useful to think of this market as a straightforward advertising market. We can see that the companies who make use of influence marketing are the product providers and that the social media influencers are essentially their own advertising agencies. We can say that this is a fairly straightforward market once we see that the product that is being paid for is the influencer’s expertise and their engagement with their audience. The aim of the brand is that these will equate to more sales for them and more engagement with their own company.
Of course, the bigger the following they have, the more likely it is that an influencer will actually have their own agent who will negotiate any marketing deals for them, however the smaller ones are less likely to. This is something that companies will have to consider when choosing whether to make use of social media influencers in their marketing strategies or not. In this article we will discuss the benefits and potential drawbacks of working with social media influencers.
The Pros of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can transform your business. Here are some of the positives to incorporating it into your strategy:
1. Their Seal Of Approval Is Meaningful
Influence is built on a mechanism of trust and likeability. There is a connection between an influencer and their audience which is valuable because it implies shared interests and values. When an influencer endorses a product or brand, they are using this connection to ensure that their audience is aware of the product’s values and the brand’s overall character.
This means that when an influencer endorses something on their social media, their seal of approval holds significant value for the company being advertised. When the influencer has a genuine connection with their followers, this results in more sales or engagement with the advertised brands.
One example of a very successful influence marketing campaign on the social media platform Snapchat was the Dunkin’ Donuts campaign with several micro-influencers on National Donut day. This content saw a total of 3 million views across the influencers’ platforms, and Dunkin’ Donuts had 10 times their monthly average of new followers in a single day.
This is a great example of how successful social media campaigns can boost brand engagement. It was also part of the resulting success that the product and campaign were carefully matched to the influencer’s values as lifestyle content producers.
2. Direct Access To Specific Audiences
Social media influencers usually have a dedicated and distinct following who share many of the same interests as them. This is because consumers obviously follow accounts that relate to their areas of interest and passions.
What this means for companies and brands using influence marketing strategies is that their campaigns can allow them direct access to specific audiences. For example, if they are looking to promote a product or event related to the music industry, they will effectively reach the relevant audience if they use an influencer who has expertise in that area. Another significant benefit of influence marketing is the boost to brand awareness.
3. A More Intimate Way Of Advertising
Influencer marketing is a much more targeted and swift method of advertising that traditional advertising techniques. Online, print and billboard adverts for example are much more generalised to a wider audience, and operate on a more widely distributed level in the hope of attracting more customers.
Influence marketing on the other hand is much more carefully targeted, and brands have a lot more control over which groups they are getting their promotion through to. When they choose an influencer to work with, they have a good understanding of which demographics make up that influencer’s following. This means the brand can more effectively match their products to their audience with this more intimate form of advertising.
4. Different Types Of Influencers
It is worth keeping in mind that there are a variety of types of influencers. These are often categorised by a number of followers, into mega, macro, micro and nano influencers. It is not necessarily the case however that more followers mean better engagement. Micro and nano influencers, while they have fewer followers, often have a far more dedicated and specific following too. They are also often more able to engage with all of their followers and share their expertise with them.
Some good examples of nano influencers are the fashion company Boohoo’s student campaigns. These involve nano influencers such as @hannachambers_ posting content of their outfits and promoting the brand. It is also worth noting that micro and nano influencers are likely to demand less creative control of the posts than their larger counterparts.
Another thing for a brand to consider is whether they want to take advantage of a more general audience or a more niche and specific one. It might even be a consideration for a brand to hire multiple smaller influencers and reach a more targeted yet spread out audience. It is also worth mentioning that while Instagram is currently the most widely used platform for social influence, other platforms can be used, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Google and increasingly TikTok.
Depending on the product, a company can use different types of influencer to reach a certain size of the audience. This is another way in which brands have excellent control over this method of marketing.
5. Instant Results
Brands can easily see instant results when they work with influencers on social media. This can be done by using swipe-up links to view click-through rates, analysing changes in follower counts and monitoring sales. Brands can also instantly gauge the results of their campaign by using the influence market calculator, which divides the return by investing in the campaign. These are all ways for brands to ascertain their campaign’s ROI (Return On Investment).
Influencers can also generate direct sales with companies using the process of affiliate marketing. This involves the influencer promoting a code specific to their social media channels, for example, “MYCODE20” for a 20% discount at a certain website. This is often used when an influencer has a partnership with a certain brand, and are not necessarily hired for just one campaign.
A good example of this is the Instagram body-positivity influencer Emily Clarkson’s partnership with sportswear brand Sweaty Betty. She often reviews their products, and promotes affiliate marketing codes such as “SBEMILY20”.
The Cons of Influencer Marketing
While there are plenty of positives to influencer marketing, there are some issues with it too. Here are some to keep in mind:
1. There Is No One Size Fits All
We have already mentioned that different types of influencer can be used to promote different types of product, but this can also present a challenge for brands who are looking to promote themselves through social media influence. They may want to use a variety of influencers for a specific campaign, and in this case it can be fairly difficult to match up the sizes of followings and keep track of which audiences the campaign is being exposed to.
This can mean that a brand does not face an easy choice when it comes to deciding what type of influencer to hire. They will need to consider whether they would rather use an influencer with a larger following in the hope of reaching more people, or whether it would be more beneficial to hire a number of smaller influencers who have a more targeted approach and more engagement with their followers. Ultimately, a company will have to decide this depending on their campaign, product and goals.
2. Following Does Not Necessarily Equate Into Engagement Or Sales
When a business makes the decision to approach an influencer, they must consider how effective that influencer might actually be. A high number of social media followers does not automatically equate to audience influence and influencer status. There are many other considerations and signifiers as to whether a person is influencing their audience’s behaviours. This might come down to how many of their followers actually follow and share the links they post, engage with the pages and brands they promote, or use their discount codes for example.
A true social media influencer is someone who actually engages with their followers and has a decent level of expertise on the product area.Celebrity status or familiarity with wide audiences is often confused for true influencer status on social media. For example, a reality tv star may have millions of followers, but if she/he does not engage with them, or promote brands and products that would actually appeal to those followers, they might not be influencing any consumer habits at all and therefore, they are not true influencers.
3. They Charge Different Prices
As there is such a variety of sizes of influencer, so the prices they charge vary hugely too. The costs can vary greatly depending on the industry, size of the campaign, and number of followers the influencer has. There are many variables in the market, and no two influencers charge the same rates, but it is estimated that in general an influencer will charge roughly £5-10 per 1,000 followers. However, engagement must also be taken into account, and an influencer with 1,000 followers may charge the same as one with 10,000 followers for the same content.
Another thing to keep in consideration for brands is that larger influencers are more likely to have an agent to negotiate any marketing deals for them, while smaller influencers might not have this step in the process. Either way, a lot of time and effort is needed to allow a brand to properly decide which influencer is the best fit for them.
4. Influencers Require Vetting
Whilst social media influencers can be a great tool for the brands and companies who use them, there is a risk of scandal and doing damage to the brand if the influencers are not carefully considered. The good news is that this can easily be avoided if a brand takes the time to carefully consider whether their values and ethos matches up with those of the influencer they are considering.
If influencer marketing is not done right, it can do irrevocable damage to the brand. This is why it is so vital for a brand to vet their influencers first and check that their values are aligned. They should also do their best to check that an influencer’s followers are mostly genuine, as some do pay for their followers and this means less real engagement.
Another significant example of a social media influence campaign that went wrong was the case of Luka Sabbat, who came up against a lawsuit when he failed to uphold his end of the bargain on his collaboration with Snapchat’s Spectacles product. It seems the influencer and company were not quite on the same page when it came to the terms of the deal they struck, and the consequences were costly for both. This is a very good example of why influencer candidates need to be carefully vetted by brands thinking of working with them.
5. Influencers can misuse their power, and things can go very wrong
When a company gets a social media influence campaign wrong, the implication for their business can be significant. One of the most high profile influencer scandals was the Fyre Festival scandal in 2017. Extremely high profile influencers were hired to promote this event on a private Bahamas island, which ultimately turned out to be a fraudulent event which never happened as advertised. As a result of this scandal, confidence in influence marketing dropped dramatically for a while. This was a good example of potential drawbacks of the market: when the advertisers are promoting a product that fails or does not meet the promised quality.
Using Influencer Marketing
When weighing up the pros and cons, influencer marketing provides more benefits to businesses than potential pitfalls. The potential disadvantages can easily be managed prior to the campaign and through research, and when effectively managed/ predicted, can still result in a fantastic marketing opportunity. The ROI (Return on Investment) for companies using this strategy can significantly increase, although if the campaign does not go as planned, this result may not materialise.
Brands can significantly increase consumer engagement with this strategy, and can attract new fans of their products when seen on familiar channels. As long as a brand carefully considers the potential drawbacks of this form of advertising, influence marketing is an incredibly effective tool for businesses both big and small.