What even is influencer marketing?

31 August 2017

Bloggers, vloggers, influencers - whatever you want to call them, they’re important - and they’re here to stay. Our PR and Outreach Specialist Grace Scott tells us how to take advantage.

From cereal to toothpaste, brands have been embracing the power of endorsements for years - originally with celebrities. Think Gary Lineker and Walkers Crisps or Lenny Henry and Premier Inn hotels. In the last 5 years, the type of celebrity involved in these collaborations has changed - to influencers.

From celebrities and household names to regular people who have become famous in their own right, influencers owe their high profile status and ongoing appeal to social media.

So… what actually are influencers?

Influencers, put simply, influence people’s opinions. They create online content (be it a blog, video, photo) that can shape the thoughts, behaviors and actions of their followers - who trust them implicitly. Although they can be described simply, becoming one is complex and powerful.

Influencers start as just any other normal person on social media - and it’s their normality that helps them rise to fame. By developing a unique personal brand, people have access to an influencers everyday life - from daily vlogs to snapchats, it’s access all areas, all the time. The way the ‘fans’ see the influencer - as a normal person - is the true power of the influencer.

However a significant social reach isn’t everything. Those with fewer followers might get 10x more engagement than those with followers in the thousands, so as the saying goes, quality is better than quantity.

Why are they so important?

Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report found 92% of consumers say they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member above any other form of advertising. Word-of-mouth is one of the biggest tools when it comes to people choosing a certain brand, and they see influencers as the ‘friend’ that recommends them a product.

This ‘word of mouth marketing’ means customers are in control of their own digital journey - they’ve got the power. Brands then have to work harder than ever to get these conversations started - offering customers opportunities to talk about their experiences. Here’s where influencers come into the mix.

The rise of social media is really where it all began - they’ve only become influencers because of social media, so not only are the influencers more accessible, but the brands they’re loving are too. When consumers find an influencer that they love, they begin to see that person as a friend - or at least, trust their opinions like they would a friend’s.

The influencers build trust and authority simply because they are real people. But this could also be their downfall… the bigger they get, the more they get offered to create sponsored content. Great for them, not so great for their viewers who might get annoyed with the constant #ads. Maintaining a balance between remaining ‘normal’ but also being an aspirational figure is a tricky thing - but plenty of influencers pull it off.

Facebook reports 47% of people aged 13-34 say they’ve purchased something that an ‘online celebrity’ has spoken about - so if the online celebrity gets the balance of normal/aspirational right, people really do care about their opinions. For a brand, this means they’ve got an ‘in’ with your target audience, and therefore make an excellent brand ambassador.

Why are people saying influencers are ‘dead’?

There’s a downside to everything, and with influencers it’s often to do with authenticity. Not only with their opinion, but with the way they are presenting it. The Federal Trade Commission has recently clamped down on disclosure rules, meaning #ads will have to be more blunt, with no false or misleading text.

Even if they trust the person posting it, consumers can be skeptical about sponsored content, especially if they don’t think it’s something the influencer would genuinely like. That’s why it’s so important to work with influencers who are true brand advocates, rather than simply pay someone to talk about your brand. With article after article popping up about ‘the death of influencers’ it seems some people think influencers are old news, as are the platforms they thrive on - as Matt Diederichs from Hootsuite points out, Facebook is almost old enough to have Facebook.

"It’s important to work with influencers who are true brand advocates, rather than simply pay someone to talk about your brand."

On the 15th of August on its Facebook Business News site, it announced that brands now ‘have the ability to seamlessly drive targeted paid media support behind 3rd party influencer posts’. Previously, marketers could only boost a creator’s post by sharing it first. Now, Facebook has added the ability to directly boost the post as it appears on the creator’s page.

Before this change, brands have had the choice to spend money on influencers or spend money on targeted posts on social media platforms. For brands, this could be a good thing because it means they can do both at once - by simply paying to promote posts by influencers. It could however be a bad thing because Facebook might suppress the sponsored content. For influencers it’s great - it keeps them in control of their post, and they simply give the marketer permission to boost the post when they tag the Page with the ‘branded content tool’. Easy peasy. The target audience will see the post by the influencer, even though it’s the marketer that boosted it.

What’s the future of influencer marketing?

With its downsides and difficulties, according to the 2016 Influencer Marketing Report, 84% of brands already have an influencer marketing strategy in place - with 50% planning to increase what they spend on influencers in 2017. The march of the influencer doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon, but where will it go next? Those with a large enough following are not only making a name for themselves on social media - they’ve branched out into advertising and traditional media. From Zoella’s interview in Vogue to L’Oreal using bloggers in TV adverts and in-store marketing, influencers are starting to dominate advertising as well as social media.

As consumers become more savvy towards #ads and sponsored content, it’ll be more important than ever that influencers are transparent and authentic in what they’re discussing. If consumers still want to experience what the influencer is experiencing, new and innovative technology could provide a fresh way for customers to interact with brands.

It will be interesting to see if and/or how AR and VR branch into influencer marketing. Think influencers in real-time VR sessions interacting with followers, or joining your favourite travel vlogger on their latest holiday. Live videos could become virtual hangouts, shopping trips become a shared experience, and issues with attending events would be a thing of the past. Influencer fancies holding an impromptu Q&A? Meet up? Discussion? They don’t need to be physically present anymore. Game changer or what.

How do we use influencers at Bozboz?

Ensuring that our clients are being talked about by the right people means creating a network of influencers that suit that brand. If the influencer is engaged, their audience will be engaged - and that’s what matters. If you’re interested in influencers, let us find your perfect match.

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