Marketing evolves at what can only be described as an astonishing rate. From print and other traditional media into the 21st century’s digital media marketing efforts, best practices change almost constantly. The newest and most noteworthy example of this phenomenon is, without a doubt, the brave new world of social media marketing. More specifically, it’s social influencer marketing — a wild, unpredictable, and sometimes mysterious thing indeed.
There may be nothing more incomprehensible to the marketers of the old guard than the new push towards using social media to promote a brand. The Don Drapers of the world would balk at such a suggestion, being unwilling — or simply unable — to understand the implications, as well as the opportunities, social media marketing provides for brand awareness and recognition. Yet social media marketing, and the ultra-powerful subset that is social influencer marketing, is here to stay.
What Is Social Influencer Marketing ?
Simply put, social influencer marketing entails finding someone with a high profile social media account — someone who has been known to influence their follows with their posts — and forging a marketing relationship with them. This relationship is more often than not casual in nature, as it involves asking the influencer to promote a brand’s products that the influencer currently uses.
Sometimes this relationship is akin to a sponsorship, with the brand providing goods and services to an influencer, either for free or at a reduced cost, in exchange for promotional support. The relationship between a brand and an influencer can also take the form of an alliance over social causes. Brands promoting charitable activities that align with the influencer’s personal beliefs are often successful in using influencers to raise awareness of their activities.
Differences Between Traditional Brand Ambassadors and Social Influencers
Distilled to its essence, social influencer marketing occupies a strategic position. It contains elements of both the well-established practice of enlisting a spokesperson or brand ambassador and the innovative approach of letting this same brand ambassador manage the expectations of the relationship between themselves and the brand they’re representing.
A traditional spokesperson provides visibility for a brand by appearing in targeted marketing media. This is traditionally represented by print and television advertising or tightly-controlled publicity events. Social influencer marketing, meanwhile, does not revolve around such structured appearances but instead on a more organic and casual approach that has proven to appeal to the influencer’s audience in a more effective manner.
The Honesty Factor
Social media works well as a marketing platform, but only if approached correctly. Any social media manager worth their salt can tell you how marketing on social platforms is vastly different than in print or other media. Consumers use social media to be entertained and stay informed, and traditional advertising, with a focus on advertising a brand and its products, can have a signal-to-noise ratio that’s too imbalanced to be effective.
Social media marketing, therefore, has evolved to be 80% entertainment and engagement and only 20% traditional sales efforts. This same heavy focus on literally not trying to sell anyone anything is what builds honesty and trust for a brand in a social media environment. This is why finding a social media influencer who provides the same levels of engagement with their followers is such an excellent target for partnership when it comes to brands that are willing to follow the same paradigm.
The Benefits of Influencer Marketing
No one would engage in social influencer marketing if it didn’t reap rewards in ways that outstripped traditional digital marketing methods. Just a few of the reasons that there is such a big push to integrate influencer marketing into existing marketing strategies are listed below:
Social media plays a strong role – A recent report revealed that 60% of retail shoppers were influenced by content posted on social media. For younger consumers, that figure is even higher — 70% of millennials, for example, turn to social media for their purchasing decisions.
Influencers are effective – Non-celebrity bloggers play a strong role in influencing consumer purchase. One study found that influencer Facebook posts, for example, result in consumer purchases 19% of the time. Meanwhile, traditional celebrity endorsements only account for 3% of consumer purchase decisions.
Personal relationships build trust – Consumers enjoy social media content and interacting with influencers, especially when they’re not from traditional celebrities. 34.4% of men (and 15.4% of women) say that electronics blog reviews plays a role in their purchases. Meanwhile, pet owners react likewise, with 30% following and engaging with celebrity pet accounts.
Influencer increase brand marketing effectiveness – Social media marketing works for brands. Research has shown that using Twitter to reach your audience increases purchase intent 2.7 times. However, when the power of an influencer is called upon, this purchase intent multiplier increases to 5.2.
Building Relationships with Influencers
The evidence is clear: forging alliances with social media influencers can help your brand reach new heights. Yet the actual mechanics of building such a relationship isn’t as clear-cut as it is in the celebrity endorsement sphere; there’s no agent or PR representative to approach with a proposal when it comes to social media influencers, as many of them are not traditional celebrities. This requires a different, more organic, and more open approach.
With social media users holding transparency and honesty, it’s imperative that any relationship made with an influencer needs to be done in a straightforward manner. Provide opportunities to show an influencer that your company isn’t a faceless corporate entity but one that cares about what the influencer is doing and you’ll inculcate a relationship that’s built on genuine trust. As that can’t be faked, the relationship you have between you and your influencer will be seen as legitimate.
Social influencer marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. If you want to ensure you can harness this power for your own brand awareness, take heed of the requirements of building a relationship with an influencer; doing so will supercharge your own digital marketing efforts by a substantial margin.
Author: Benjamin Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Writing Service, a Key West-based content agency specializing in delivering personalized experiences. With an extensive digital career dating back to before social media and WordPress, Ben personally works with clients to craft a content strategy that will scale and grow their business. Follow him on Twitter at @nostop_content