What Is Influencer Marketing?

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What Is Influencer Marketing? How Can It Help My Brand?

The way people consume content is evolving. To capture the attention of audiences who spend more time staring at their phones than at television screens, brands must alter their approach to marketing. Influencer marketing, which leverages the power of a social media “influencer” (i.e. Instagrammer, YouTuber, Viners, blogger, or vlogger) to expose a brand or product to the influencer’s large follower base - which can number in the thousands or even millions - is one of the most effective ways companies can organically target an engaged audience and increase brand awareness.

Why Influencer Marketing Works

As television viewership continues to decline and traditional marketing channels like television and display ads are becoming increasingly less effective, innovative marketers, advertising agencies, and PR agencies all trying to capture the attention of online audiences are asking the same question: “what is influencer marketing?” Though marketing and advertising with top social media influencersYouTube stars, and Snapchatters may seem like an indirect strategy for reaching new and existing customers, the relationships and relevancy YouTubers, Instagrammers, Viners, and bloggers have with their followers ensures that audiences will not only see a brand’s product or service (views, impressions, reach, awareness) but will also be more likely to act prompted by the influencer’s recommendation and endorsement (engagement, likes, follows, conversions). In fact, if you’ve ever spent time watching your favorite YouTube channels or scrolled through photos on your favorite blogger's Instagram feed, you've likely seen several influencer marketing campaigns.

Who Are Social Media Influencers and Why Do They Matter?

Top adventure YouTuber Louis Cole's YouTube sponsorship with marquee hospitality brand, Fairmont. 

Influencers have engaged audiences that follow them across many top social media channels. They can become very powerful brand advocates as they build awareness for brands and make a product or service relevant to their audience. In a world where recommendations, suggestions, likes, and follows quickly spread from the people who are most popular on social media, influencers are considered those whose opinions are highly valued in the space.

Influencers can have a big impact on your business through several major channels. They can write a great blog or create a video or vlog that incorporates your product or service into their content. By incorporating your brand into their lifestyle, you are creating customers from the influencer's audience who want to share in that lifestyle. With influencers' large social media followings, they can also reach their unique audiences through Instagram and Twitter to further incorporate your brand into their lifestyle.

What Is Influencer Marketing With Social Media Influencers?

Top YouTuber Casey Neistat's sponsored "how-to" vlog for the launch of J. Crew's suit. To boost views and engagement, many creators make these most popular types of YouTube videos. 

An influencer is an individual with a large social reach that has the power to "influence" the decisions their audience makes. Because they’ve built an engaged audience that follows them across top social media channels, influencers can become powerful brand advocates as they promote brands and make a product or service relevant to their audience. In a world where an influencer’s recommendations, suggestions, likes, and follows can affect real-world decisions about what brands customers care about, influencers now wield power similar if not much greater than most celebrities.

Collectively, social media influencers are referred to as social media stars, brand influencers, digital influencers, and terms like YouTubers, Instagrammers, Viners, Snapchatters, vloggers, and bloggers, are used when describing platform-specific influencers.

How Brands Can Take Advantage of Influencer Marketing

To take advantage of each influencer’s targeted consumer audience, brands can create influencer marketing campaigns as part of their overarching integrated marketing strategy. These campaigns collaborate with influencers in a variety of ways to raise brand awareness and increase profitable customer action, and can appear as product placements, product endorsements, branded content, branded advertising, native advertising, sponsored content or some combination of these.

To learn more about the types of content brands can create with influencers, see our post "Native Advertising vs. Sponsored Content vs. Influencer Marketing" here.

Engaging blog articles, captivating YouTube videos, and creative Instagram posts allow social media stars to incorporate a brand’s product or service into their content. By organically integrating a brand into their lifestyle content, influencers create customers from the thousands (or in some cases, millions) of followers or subscribers who want to emulate the way an influencer looks, what they buy, where they go, and the things they do. Targeting audiences with specific interests is also extremely effective when brands partner with influencers that reflect that interest; for example, Aimee Song of Song of Style and Danielle Bernstein of We Wore What are two of today’s top influencers in the fashion space, and fashion brands take advantage of their reach to market to interested audiences.

To learn more about marketing with Instagrammers, check out our dedicated resource guide here.

How to Pick the Right Influencers

Although anyone can work with social media stars to increase sales, truly understanding the right ones in your niche and finding the right influencer for your brand can help your campaigns reach maximum efficacy and authenticity. To identify the social media influencers that will have the biggest impact on a brand’s campaign, marketers first need to identify their target audience, then consider the types of topics, blogs, videos, and multimedia that will create the most engagement. Other factors brands should consider when choosing influencers include:

  • Audience Demographic - who follows them?
  • Reach - how many followers or views do they have?
  • Engagement - do their followers comments, like, and share?
  • Brand Experience - do they have experience working with brands as an influencer?
  • Frequency of Posts - how active are they on their channel?
  • Past Performance - how well have their past campaigns performed?

Partnering with the wrong influencer, on the other hand, can lead to an underperforming campaign at best or damage to your brand’s message or reputation at worst.

The Benefits Of Working With Influencers

Influencers make it easy for marketers to connect with their consumers in an authentic way by reaching out to large social followings that already respect and value the influencer’s opinion. By tracking the reach, impressions, click-through rates, engagement and ROI metrics of their influencer marketing campaigns, brands can also use influencer marketing to better understand who their customers’ needs and priorities. Campaign metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) vary based on each brand’s campaign expectations and goals, but a well-crafted influencer marketing campaign typically exceeds returns compared to traditional advertising strategies.

For more information on how to best measure an influencer campaign, check out our checklist sheet here.

Best Influencer Marketing Campaign Examples

Here are select examples of influencer marketing campaigns:

Conclusion: The Takeaway For Brands

If you’re still asking yourself, “What is Influencer Marketing?” your brand is likely missing out on a valuable way to reach engaged audiences and increase returns on your marketing investment. Consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on influencers to make purchasing decisions, and audiences are spending more time on social media platforms than ever before. To remain competitive in this ever-growing digital space, brands must capitalize on this effective marketing strategy or risk being overtaken by more innovative, socially-savvy companies.

Influencer Marketing Resource Guide
Also See Our Posts On:

Marketing To Millennials Through Social Media

Do Brands Prefer Digital Influencers vs. Celebrities? 

3 Ways Social Media Stars Are Changing Brand Marketing Strategy

Why Audiences Trust YouTuber Product Reviews

Mediakix builds strategies and campaigns around online influencers. Our clients include Hallmark, Participant Media, Blue Apron, Fairmont, Sleep Number, NatureBox, Nordstrom, among many others. For an in-depth look at how we help these companies and more execute standout campaigns, check out our whitepaper strategy guide here

February 1, 2016 By Evan

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