Influencer marketing is hands down one of the best marketing strategies you can use today. In fact, many experts will tell you that it’s the single-best method of marketing.
Over the last few years, influencer marketing has become an immense and essential part of the marketing landscape. Anymore, it’s difficult to find brands that aren’t using it. It’s a powerful marketing approach that allows you to reach your target audience in a uniquely authentic way.
Influencer marketing often sounds too good to be true, but the numbers don’t lie – on average, for every $1 businesses spend on influencer marketing, they make $18.
You’ve probably heard a lot about influencer marketing from the countless articles and videos on the subject. But there’s a lot of conflicting advice and misinformation out there.
So, we wanted to make one huge guide that would answer all of the questions you might have about influencer marketing.
Without further ado, here is our ultimate guide to getting started with influencer marketing.
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What Is Influencer Marketing?
New to influencer marketing? Confused as to exactly what it entails? You’re not alone.
While the term is tossed around a lot, it’s not always clear what it means, so here’s a closer look at what influencer marketing is and what it looks like.
Influencer Marketing Definition
Influencer marketing happens when a social media influencer works with a brand to promote its products. The influencer typically makes brand mentions and endorsements to help improve brand recognition. In return, the brand compensates them with cash or with free products or rewards. That’s a simple influencer marketing definition, but it needs a lot of unpacking. First off…
What Is a Social Media Influencer?
A social media influencer is a person who has gained credibility in a certain niche. There are strains of influencer marketing including YouTube influencer marketing, Instagram influencer marketing, and other social media platforms. The term “influencer” is shorthand for social media influencer.
Social media influencers have devoted followings – people who value their opinions and tastes or who enjoy watching their lifestyle. As such, they affect what their followers buy and can directly influence their followers’ purchasing decisions, hence the term influencer marketing.
Since influencer marketing is directly tied to social media, it’s often referred to as social influencer marketing or social media influencer marketing.
What Does a Social Media Influencer Do?
A social media influencer causes their followers to make specific buying decisions based on their authority and reputation. Followers consider them to be a close friend than a paid endorser or advertiser, which simplifies the task of promoting a product or brand.
Social media influencers leverage their online presence on different platforms to partner with brands they endorse and create content that changes people’s perceptions of those businesses.
The Rise of Influencer Marketing
Today, influencer marketing is a method of choice for top-tier brands around the world, but it wasn’t always this way. For a while, it was considered to be nothing more than a passing fad.
However, over the last several years, it’s absolutely exploded in popularity.
Influencer marketing first gained serious traction when social media began to replace traditional media outlets. People weren’t just following celebrities anymore – they were following non-celebrity social media users who had enjoyable content.
Over time, some of these users gained sizable followings, and while they didn’t have the same amount of reach that celebrities did, they had a considerable amount of influence.
Social influencer marketing became a sought-after occupation in its own right, giving rise to well-curated Instagram feeds and picture-perfect Instagram Stories.
Mostly younger-generation individuals with a penchant for internet fame were learning how to become a social media influencer, how to grow a following, and how to join the coveted list of brand influencers selling their service to businesses.
Today, these social media influencers often have as much influence and reach as many celebrities do (and sometimes even more). In many ways, influencers are the new celebrities. Influencers are highly trusted by their followers, and there are tons of influencer marketing statistics that back this up.
In one survey, 49 percent of customers said they relied on influencers for product recommendations.
In another, 74 percent of people said they relied on social media to make purchasing decisions.
And these people usually follow through with influencer recommendations; a survey by Fullscreen and Shareablee found that 42 percent of people who saw influencer advertising ended up trying a product or service recommended by those influencers.
As social media has become increasingly important to everyday life, influencers have grown in importance. A typical social media user consumes a large amount of influencer content; they might see several influencers’ posts throughout the day. That’s a big reason why influencer marketing has become many marketers’ go-to method.
Another appealing benefit is traffic. If you leverage influencer marketing, you’ll get engagement on your own Instagram page, which will allow you to monetize your Instagram page more easily. It’s truly a win-win.
How Does Influencer Marketing Work?
Let’s understand influencer marketing with the help of examples.
When it comes to this marketing strategy , Instagram is arguably the best platform to use as an example because right now, Instagram is used by virtually every influencer in the world. Instagram influencers are everywhere, and it’s easy to see their influence in action.
Here are a couple examples of Instagram influencers:
That’s Matt King, an Instagram influencer with more than 1.3 million followers. He’ll often work with brands to create sponsored ad posts, which are marked with the hashtag #ad.
Here’s another example of an Instagram influencer in a different niche:
This page is run by food influencer Jeanine Donofrio, better known to her followers as Love and Lemons. She regularly partners with brands to feature foods, recipes, or food-related services.
Types of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can be done in all kinds of ways. At its core, it’s about getting an influencer to share your product or service with their audience, but there are many ways to go about making that happen.
Here are five common influencer marketing methods:
1. Sponsored content
This is one of the most common methods of influencer marketing that you’ll see. Sponsored content is simply a social media post that contains an advertisement for a product or service.
Think of it as a celebrity endorsement for the digital age, a hybrid of old and new marketing techniques. The content is shared on the influencer’s social media accounts, and there’s usually a call-to-action that invites followers to purchase the product.
The two above posts (from Matt King and Jeanine Donofrio) are prime examples of sponsored content. Most often, influencers will post about how they’ve been using the product or service in question. This kind of personal anecdote works well because it provides credibility and creates trust between the influencer and their audience.
Another form of sponsored content that’s becoming more popular is the Instagram shoutout. While this is often a one-off strategy, it can draw lots of attention to your brand, and shoutouts are a breeze to arrange with influencers.
2. Discounts/affiliate links
Everyone loves discounts, and influencer-specific discounts can be powerful. These discounts are tracked using affiliate or referral links.
If a brand doesn’t offer a discount, they’ll still use referral links to track and analyze the campaign. Discounts are almost always combined with sponsored content.
3. Contests and giveaways
Everyone loves to get free stuff. This is especially true for the audiences of influencers. Why? Because the influencer will only offer products that their followers are highly interested in.
Usually, influencer contests and giveaways draw lots of attention and can reach thousands of people.
4. Publishing influencer content on your channels
Most influencer marketing consists of influencers showcasing products on their channels, but this technique flips that approach on its head.
Instead, the influencer appears on your channels, which often drives tons of social media traffic your way. This can take the form of a single post or a “takeover,” in which the influencer has access to a brand’s social media channels, usually for a day.
5. Brand ambassadorship
If an influencer is a fantastic fit for your brand, you might consider making them a brand ambassador.
A brand ambassador is an influencer who works with your brand for an extended period of time. This has many advantages because it’s a form of long-term influencer marketing, unlike the shorter-term strategies on this list.
There are many other influencer marketing methods, but these are five of the most common. Most brands will employ more than one of these tactics when working with an influencer.
Why Is Influencer Marketing Important?
Influencer marketing can do a lot for your brand. Since influencer marketing breaks many of the barriers that were previously impenetrable, it can help you accomplish some incredible goals.
Of course, when it comes down to it, the ultimate benefit of influencer marketing is to drive more sales. But that’s not the only thing it can do for you.
Let’s take a look at the benefits that influencer marketing can provide for your brand.
1. Increased sales
Again, this is the ultimate benefit of influencer marketing, but to understand exactly how effective it is, it’s helpful to look at influencer marketing statistics.
Remember that businesses earn about $18 for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing.
And for many brands, that number is far, far higher.
The exact figure will depend on how much influencer marketing you invest in and how successful each particular campaign is, but it’s clear that the ROI is sky high. (More on that later.)
2. Social proof
No matter what type of business you are, you absolutely need to gain social proof.
As humans, we want to fit in, and that means we often go with the crowd. In other words, we have an innate need to be socially accepted.
By extension, when we see something that other people are interested in, we’re automatically interested in it, too. That’s the essence of social proof.
This is especially true when it comes to influencer marketing.
Influencers are able to magnify the effect of social proof. Just as you’d trust the opinion of a friend over that of a stranger, followers will trust influencers’ opinions more than most other people.
This is arguably the most potent form of social proof, and it’s been proven to work with nearly any product in any niche.
Perhaps surprisingly, influencers can have lots of social proof without having a huge audience. Smaller influencers, known as micro-influencers and nano-influencers, often have high levels of social proof even though they don’t have millions of followers.
Put simply, whenever you use influencer marketing, you’re gaining social proof for your brand.
3. Direct connection to your audience
In order to sell your products on Instagram, you need to get your message in front of your target audience, and that hasn’t always been easy.
Influencer marketing practically solves this problem by allowing you to place your message right in front of your customers on a platform that they use every day.
Influencer marketing is also much better than regular social media advertising because the people who follow influencers in your niche are the same people you’re trying to target.
Even better, since influencer marketing is super organic, it doesn’t feel like marketing, which means people will be more receptive than usual to your brand.
What could be better than getting your products in front of your specific target audience with a glowing recommendation from an influencer? That’s what influencer marketing has to offer you.
The Importance of Online Influencers
Influencers play a pivotal role in today’s marketing ecosystem.
Influencer marketing is so effective because it’s a combination of old and new marketing methods. What influencers have essentially done is taken the celebrity endorsement and updated it for the present day.
However, many influencers aren’t super famous. They’re everyday people with large online followings, and this is one of the biggest reasons why influencers are so important.
People love influencers because they’re not celebrities who are out of reach. Influencers are relatable people with relatable lives.
As we saw before, many people feel that influencers understand them better than their friends do. That phenomenon is unique to influencer marketing.
And the cherry on top is that influencers get personal with their followers. Many influencers engage their followers in comments and even in their content.
This one-on-one interaction creates a positive, long-term rapport between influencers and their followers. As a result, followers trust influencers more over time.
The bottom line: Influencers fill an important space by bridging the gap between celebrities and everyday people. That’s why so many brands are investing in influencer marketing more and more.
The Effectiveness of Influencer Marketing
At this point, you know how integral influencer marketing is, and you know that it has a lot of benefits.
Now it’s time to dig deeper into the specifics and take a look at exactly how effective influencer marketing can be.
To understand the effectiveness of influencer marketing, we can compare it to other types of marketing.
Many people wonder about influencer marketing versus content marketing versus user-generated content. How does influencer marketing stack up to these other tried-and-true strategies?
You might be surprised to find out that influencer marketing can be more effective than other types of marketing.
But what does that mean for other types of marketing? Let’s take a deep dive and find out.
Influencer Marketing vs. Content Marketing
Content marketing is still the top method of choice for many brands and for good reason. It’s a proven method with a great track record.
First off, it’s worth noting that both influencer marketing and content marketing can be insanely effective and should both be part of your marketing mix.
That’s largely because these two types of marketing benefit your brand in very different areas.
However, if you really want to get the most out of both of these two very different types of marketing, you need to balance them.
Some brands are reporting that influencer content is performing better than in-house content. In one survey from influencer marketing company Linqia, 51 percent of respondents said that their influencer content outperformed their own brand-created content.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that marketers are eliminating content marketing from their strategies. It just means that they’re spending more on influencer marketing. Statistics reveal that 93% of marketers use influencer marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy.
There’s a lot of synergy between influencer marketing and content marketing, and this combination will only get stronger as influencer marketing becomes more widespread.
Marketers may not be slashing their content marketing budgets to focus on influencer marketing, but it’s clear that companies’ budgets for influencer marketing are steadily increasing.
Influencer Marketing vs. User-Generated Content
As we’ve seen, one of the big benefits of influencer marketing is that you can have an everyday person representing your brand. In this way, it’s similar to user-generated content.
User-generated content (UGC) has seen increasing levels of use in recent years. On average, 90% of people find UCG helpful when making a purchase decision.
For a while, this trustworthiness was pretty unique to UGC. There weren’t many other channels where customers and their peers were able to create and distribute content.
Influencer marketing changed all that by offering something potentially better than UGC.
Since influencers are so relatable and trustworthy, customers’ attitudes toward influencer content are similar to their views of UGC.
The key difference is that while UGC can build trust, influencer-created content builds trust and spreads the word. Usually, user-generated content won’t have large reach unless you share it on one or more of your channels.
Influencer content also has the potential to be trusted more than user-generated content. Remember that many people feel that influencers understand them better than their friends do. That trust means that people are more likely to take stock in an influencer’s opinion over a random person’s review or testimonial.
At the same time, UGC is absolutely free and still contributes to your credibility. If you don’t have any user content at all, your prospective customers could be scared off.
Ultimately, customers are going to look for both influencer content and UGC when researching products and making purchasing decisions.
Influencer-created content won’t completely replace UGC, so don’t write it off. Just like the question of influencer marketing versus content marketing, the answer is balance.
Influencer Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing
It might seem strange to compare influencer marketing to social media marketing. After all, isn’t influencer marketing just a form of social media marketing?
In a way, yes, but influencer marketing has grown so much that it can be considered an independent form of marketing.
While both types of marketing happen on social media, they have very different approaches and results.
With a branded social media marketing campaign, you control everything. All of the messages you send out are crafted in your brand’s voice.
But with influencer marketing, the content is in the hands of the influencers you’re working with. They’ll bring their unique voices, approaches, and perspectives to the table, and while you’ll lose some control, you’ll gain attention and likely make some sales.
Influencers also have a lot to offer that you can’t get with traditional social media marketing.
For one, you get your brand exposed to audiences who already trust what influencers have to say. Often, these will be completely new audiences who may have never even heard of your brand before.
Overall, social media marketing is still effective, but it can’t replace influencer marketing. With influencer marketing, you can easily generate buzz, increase credibility, and hopefully gain new brand advocates and customers.
The Parallels With Word of Mouth Marketing
One of the biggest reasons why influencer marketing is so effective is because it’s very similar in nature to word of mouth marketing.
And here’s the thing – word of mouth is the most-effective marketing strategy of all time.
Gartner’s 2018 small business survey confirmed this, identifying word of mouth as the most-effective channel.
Word of mouth marketing strategies have been a part of every successful campaign ever, whether it was planned or just happened spontaneously. These strategies can take many forms, ranging from publicity stunts to giveaways.
Some well-known word of mouth marketing examples include Sephora giving customers birthday freebies and Wendy’s hilarious Twitter antics.
Influencer marketing shares many traits with word of mouth marketing. At the most basic level, a recommendation from an influencer is word of mouth (even though it’s sponsored).
Of course, influencer recommendations also cause word of mouth. Once followers are exposed to a product, they’ll usually talk about it amongst themselves. They may even buy the product and tell their network about it, creating another iteration of word of mouth.
Even better, the chances for this ripple effect to happen increase every time you partner with an influencer.
Influencer marketing has taken word of mouth marketing and increased its impact exponentially. As a result, organic word of mouth can happen at a much faster rate, drawing more people to your brand.