Updated: Oct 23
What is influencer marketing? Why does it work?
Everyone is familiar with celebrity endorsements for products. Although celebrities continue to endorse big-ticket brands, the social media revolution over the last decade, in particular, brought in a wave of “influencers” of a different sort. These are individuals with a devoted following on social media. Their opinion on brands and products holds a lot of weight among their followers. As a result, brands routinely seek them out to showcase their products before this captive and often niche audience.
Buyers these days are spoiled for choice. Given the plethora of buying options available to customers, they may begin to lose sight of which brands to trust and may cast about for recommendations from those they deem more knowledgeable than themselves. Influencers, who are often considered experts in their niche, fill that void.
Influencer marketing works, thanks to the high level of trust the influencers have already built among their followers. When they recommend your brand or product, you get to capitalize on this social proof, this social certificate that lends credibility to your enterprise in the eyes of this new audience. Influencers catalyze a feeling of connection between the product and the audience.
Influencer Marketing and eCommerce Brands
When Instagram was fairly new back in 2014, the distinctive look and feel of a person and/or their feed were enough of a calling card for being chosen as a spokesperson for a brand. Millennials took this to the next level with advanced photography and editing skills. At present, there seems to be a return to more casual, simple, authentic content with Gen Z directly posting pictures from their phones with minimal editing.
Adapting to changing times is something that influencers, with their finger firmly on the pulse, are adept at doing. Indeed, it is safe to say that a single influencer with a dedicated following can create more engagement than most advertising campaigns today. Therefore, influencer marketing proves to be a very valuable marketing tool for up-and-coming D2C brands.
Influencer marketing models are a hybrid of traditional celebrity-studded endorsements and modern-day content-driven spokesmanship. The results of influencer marketing campaigns are dependent to an extent on the level of collaboration between the influencers and the brands they showcase.
While choosing an influencer for a marketing campaign, it is important to consider whether they are truly in alignment with your brand’s vision. Since these posts go out on a public forum with a dedicated following, it is important to work with those people that are most aligned with your brand.
Also, measuring the impact of these campaigns is important. Have all of those likes, comments, and shares translated into actual sales? Setting some metrics around site visits, and asking the influencer you work with for their typical conversion parameters, can help in this context.
Types of Influencers
Actors, artists, athletes and social media stars who have 1M+ followers and drive 2% — 5% engagement per post. They have the highest reach on the influencer spectrum, with their influence driven by their celebrity
Executives, bloggers, and journalists who have 10,000–1M followers and drive 5% — 25% engagement per post. They have the highest topical relevance on the spectrum, with category-specific influence – such as lifestyle, fashion or business.
Everyday consumers or budding artists who have 500–10,000 followers and drive 25% — 50% engagement per post.They have the highest brand relevance and resonance on the spectrum of influencers, with influence driven by their personal experience with a brand and their strength of relationship with their networks.
How to create an influencer marketing strategy
Creating an influencer marketing strategy requires a ton of homework and research, starting with finding the right influencer for your brand.
1. Do your research to zero in on the right platform and influencer to broadcast your message. Begin with the one most suitable; you can always cast a wider net when you have learned the ropes of influencer marketing. Use social listening tools to identify where most of the conversation is happening regarding your brand and your industry at large. Then close in on the most influential voices on that platform.
Again, the industry you are in dictates the choice of platform to some extent: for instance, Instagram is the platform of choice for fashion and beauty. It would be ideal if your brand or product already has some presence on this channel or network as it would be easier to strike a chord with your prospective influencer.
2. Decide your goals and settle on a realistic budget. To this end, you will have to gauge your ROI on your tie-up with a particular influencer, plus the costs of running the campaign itself
3. An influencer marketing campaign requires constant monitoring. You need to decide your metrics beforehand. Your metrics can be the percentage increase in sales, the number of comments and questions on posts related to your campaign showing a growing interest in your brand, or the number of freebies claimed using affiliate codes you provided via your influencer. These are largely trackable and allow you to estimate whether your influencer marketing campaign was a success or not.
4. Define your message and goal of running this campaign. This will largely influence your choice of influencer: Are you looking to engage a younger demographic? An influencer worshipped by many of that generation would be the right choice. Are you hoping to reach out to connoisseurs of fine wines or exotic food products? In the case of the latter, micro or nano influencers, who have a smaller, more engaged and interested audience might be right for you.
5. Before reaching out to an influencer, look for whether they have engaged with brands similar to yours in the past. Check out the legitimacy of their following by tracking their engagement ratio to follower numbers. Weed out fraudulent accounts by checking if their feed has more spam-like comments than genuine ones. When you do make contact, request a portfolio of their work.
Make every effort to vet your influencers before you decide on the right one. The right influencer will have a distinctive voice and creative style, which you will certainly want to tweak: it is, after all, where their magic happens. That said, you must be absolutely clear in the message you want to put across through your chosen influencer(s). Before influencers begin to post about your product, the gist of the content must be hashed out and agreed upon by both parties.
6. Decide terms of payment or compensation in kind before you run the influencer marketing campaign. Compensation depends on the terms and conditions of your partnership, the scope and duration of the campaign, the influencer’s “celebrity” status, and so on. Some influencers may request a one-time or ongoing monthly fee, whereas others may want free goodies or exclusive items they can keep once they are done displaying them on their platform. Yet others may settle upon a commission model for the products or services that are sold as a direct result of their endorsement on their platform.
How to track influencer marketing campaigns
Distinctive or custom-designed hashtags are a useful tool to track the spread of your brand message. Influencers can also share the analytics on their posts and keywords pertaining to your campaign. They can embed tracking links or affiliate codes into the posts. You can review the numbers in real-time and make adjustments based on the early insights as well.
Examples of successful influencer marketing strategies
Typical forms of influencer marketing include them sharing an unboxing video of goodies you sent, or sharing affiliate discount codes, hosting competitions, and product giveaways. A great example of tapping micro-influencers for a niche audience is the Tom’s of Maine campaign. Tom’s which makes personal care items entirely from natural ingredients, engaged health and lifestyle influencers to talk about their brand. The influencers, in turn, asked their audience to share their experiences with the products in their own posts. This cascade effect brought a large number of new eyeballs, to the tune of 4.4 million new prospects, to the Tom’s of Maine brand. Closer home, if you noticed the Morphy Richards oven posts on Instagram during the lockdown, you probably experienced an influencer campaign. To tap into the growing urban audience learning how to bake during the lockdown, Morphy Richards partnered with famous food influencers in India and asked them to create recipes that could be made in their OTG. A small number of the right micro-influencers, in this case, outweighed celebrity influencers, as they had the potential to reach the right audience. This approach is also more budget-friendly. Influencer marketing is not restricted to the two-legged kind: some wackier influencers are dogs and cats with their own Instagram following! An eCommerce mattress company named Casper recently worked with twenty canine influencers to host a series of animal fun events at a private launch party in Manhattan, which was live-streamed for a huge, adoring audience. When it comes to influencer marketing, anyone who shares the same brand ethos as you and is willing to work on a commission-on sales model for starters is the right choice for up-and-coming DTC eCommerce retailers.