MarTech WTF: Influencer marketing

January 24, 2019

Social media’s completely changed marketing. With more and more individuals finding popularity on sites such as Instagram, brands have been turning to them to help sell their products.

And so ‘influencer marketing’ exploded in popularity in the marketing world. It’s highly likely you’ve all seen people with a high follower count posting sponsored ads, but what does influencer marketing actually mean? Is there more to it than a few product posts? We’ll attempt to demystify it with the help of Marcio Delgado, digital influencer headhunter at global advertising and marketing agency RDB. Marcio focuses on influencer millennial marketing, and has created influencer-led campaigns for Western Union, LFC and Global Citizen.

What is it?

In simple terms, influencer marketing utilises popular content creators and their social audiences to communicate with potential customers. “By tapping into the right social graphs, you can amplify the marketing message,” explains Delgado.

Reaching a wider audience with your product, message or brand name is essentially the purpose of influencer marketing. It helps to spread the message beyond traditional media outlets and paid media by directly engaging with potential customers through influencers’ followers. That’s the crux of its success; if companies find the right social media personality, one that really embodies their brand, their followers are also likely to be receptive to the message, and importantly, more likely to pay attention to it if they respect the poster in question.

It might seem like social media was the birthplace of influencer marketing, but it was happening long before the first Instagram picture was posted, says Delgado. “Companies have always used influential people to drive awareness and sales of products and services,” he says. “When Instagram landed in 2010, marketeers and brands were already working with celebrity endorsements over decades.”

Journalists themselves have always been influencers in their own right, too. Consider for a moment editorial coverage of product launches and the efforts of brands to curate exclusive press days to help spread the word. This is important to companies, as editorial makes for more authentic marketing than paid advertisements.

What’s the future of influencer marketing?

Delgado believes that from here, the only way is up. In future, influencers won’t just deliver a pretty post and tag a brand, but must increasingly be part of the entire marketing process.

The trend is also impacting how companies choose and cultivate their partnerships. “It is already leading companies to work closer with content creators in long-term collaborations, rather than [on] random campaigns,” he suggests.

Benefits aside, what are the pitfalls of this kind of marketing? The danger is losing control. “When a company chooses to automate the whole process, from recruiting to managing influencers and deliverables, the results never will be bespoke and 100% aligned with the initial goals,” says Delgado.

People may also be getting bored of seeing the same kind of content. Research by Bazaarvoice found that 47% of consumers are frustrated by repetitive influencer content, with 23% concerned with the quality of the content. Conversely, they are still expecting regular content and almost half (49%) expect new content on a daily basis from influencers they follow.

The fact remains that people are more receptive to influencers they trust; as they have chosen to follow and engage with this person. It furthermore builds an active, rather than passive, marketing campaign. As Delgado says, “It is more direct than any traditional platform (TV, billboards) because, unlike the traditional outlets where the consumer is a passive audience, with influencer marketing they can genuinely interact, ask questions, leave their views or switch to the brands’ site to find out more, with a quick click.”

This trust must be valued, because with influencer marketing there’s a risk of alienating target consumers. In fact, 62% of consumers feel that content takes advantage of impressionable audiences.

Doing influencer marketing right

This is all well and good, but how do companies actually go about selecting the right influencer for their brand?

At RDB, a team is dedicated to researching influencers from all over the world, to find ones that fit each campaign. Delgado himself relies on contacts within media and events, and directly contacts creators he follows on Instagram and Facebook to ask them for suggestions, referrals or to join a project.

While there’s more to influencer marketing than social media, it remains the most pertinent example of it in action. Social media, when properly done, can help a brand to showcase a human side; one that will reply to questions on Twitter or ask about customers’ favourite destination on Instagram, for example.

“It starts a conversation and builds a followership,” Delgado concludes, “so brands can responsibly use their social channels as a marketing tool, sharing campaigns and getting valuable realtime feedback about products and services.” 

In short

  1. Social media helps a brand showcase their human side. It’s also where a huge part of your audience spend most of their time.
  2. Find a social media personality that embodies your brand values, and they’ll bring with them a following already tailored to your goals.
  3. People trust the social media accounts they follow, and by extension the brand endorsed. Influencer marketing helps build an active campaign, starting a two-way conversation that can be very profitable.
  4. Beware of losing control. Don’t focus solely on influencers – people are put off by repetitive promotional content, and worry about exploitation.