What is Influencer Marketing? The Complete Guide

The digital marketing landscape is always on the verge of being disrupted by a new breakthrough. Marketers and business owners need to stay abreast of the latest trends and statistics. One such development that has taken social media and digital marketing by storm is the rise of influencer marketing. But what is influencer marketing, really?

It involves working with people who are considered influencers to promote a brand, campaign, or product. It is a highly effective method to expand reach, create brand awareness, reinforce customer loyalty, and drive conversions.

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Many brands are proactively harnessing the potential of influencer marketing. According to a report by Linqia, influencer marketing was used by 86% marketers in 2017. And 88.5% of them considered it to be valuable for their overall marketing strategies.

This makes it imperative for business owners to explore this avenue, regardless of the size and niche of their businesses. Before we discuss the questions of what is influencer marketing and how it can be leveraged, let us first understand the concept of influencers.

Understanding the Power of Influencers

To better understand the question of what is influencer marketing, you need to first understand who are influencers?

Social media influencers are different from the celebrities of yesteryears. In simple terms, influencers are people who can influence the decisions and opinions of other people.

They are often perceived as industry experts. They also share a friendly rapport with their followers. As a result of their influence, they tend to have a significant and loyal social media following.

Unlike some celebrities, influencers don’t live under the veil of secrecy. They use their social media profiles to maintain a personal connection with their fans.

This helps them develop a trusted community of followers who perceive them as authority figures on certain subjects. Such followers see them as role models and often swear by their recommendations.

It is evident that influencers have a certain amount of power within their fan communities. And it is this power that can be leveraged by brands to reach out to a massive audience.

Since their followers readily place their faith in the influencer, it becomes easier for brands to promote their products or services. An influencer marketing campaign, if executed properly, can help increase sales and provide a high ROI.

Let’s now try to better understand the question of what is influencer marketing. We will also explore the various advantages it offers when compared to other forms of digital marketing.

What is Influencer Marketing?

If you have reached 2019 without understanding the question of what is influencer marketing, it’s high time you brush up your marketing knowledge.

In layman’s terms, influencer marketing is the process of partnering with influencers to promote a brand and its products or services. It involves spotting the right influencers and working with them to create powerful campaigns that put your brand at the center.

According to Statista, the number of social media users is expected to reach 2.77 billion in 2019. It is likely that your potential customers are already using one or more social networking platforms. Reaching out to this target audience on social media is of the utmost importance.

However, owing to fierce competition and changes in social media algorithms, your content may not always be able to cut through the noise to reach your target audience. This is where influencer marketing can be extremely helpful.

Collaborating with an influencer gives you direct access to their loyal and engaged fan base. This is useful to expand your reach and boost brand awareness. It also saves you the trouble of identifying and targeting the right audience. That job is already taken care of by the influencer.

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It’s important to note that adding an influencer’s voice to your content increases its credibility. Consumers are highly skeptical and often find it difficult to trust brands that blow their own trumpets. They often tend to ignore content that is overly promotional.

They’d rather rely on content and recommendations from a trusted influencer. In fact, according to the previously-cited Linqia study, influencer content yields far better results than brand-created content.

Image via Linqia

Influencer-created content is often perceived as more authentic because it comes from real people who are also authority figures. Such content often drives more engagement in terms of likes and comments on social media and blog posts.

And if an influencer’s fan community likes your content, they are also likely to share it within their own networks. This helps you take your content to an even larger audience and in turn, enhance brand awareness.

Recommendations from influencers can also have a positive impact on your brand’s reputation. If an influencer posts about their positive experience with your brand, their followers will be naturally drawn to your products or services. This can be extremely useful in generating new leads and increasing sales. Needless to say, this has a significant impact on the overall growth of your business.

Partnering with influencers also has a positive effect on your website’s search engine rankings. By taking your content to a larger audience, you can drive more traffic to your site. In addition, influencer marketing also improves your inbound link profile. A properly executed influencer marketing campaign helps you earn high-quality backlinks.

Finally, working with influencers lets you leverage their content creation skills. Influencers create highly valuable user-centric content for their followers on a regular basis.

So when you collaborate with an influencer, it breathes new life into your own content strategy and gives you access to a treasure trove of user-generated content. In addition to keeping your social feed fresh and unique, this can also improve your search engine rankings.

Now that you understand the answers to the questions of what is influencer marketing, let’s discuss the real-life example of a business that has utilized it well.

How Influencer Marketing Worked for Daniel Wellington

When 26-year-old, Filip Tsyander, launched his watch company, Daniel Wellington, in 2011, he ditched the conventions of advertising. Instead of getting his products endorsed by high-profile celebrities, Tsyander decided to tap into the potential of social media influencers.

He gifted DW watches to selected influencers and encouraged them to post a picture of the product on their social media profiles along with the branded hashtag, #DanielWellington. In addition, these influencers were provided with promo codes to offer their followers a discount on watches from the brand.

This was extremely useful in increasing brand awareness and helped the company attract more than 1 million Instagram followers within the first year. Today, the brand has 4.5 million followers on Instagram and is regarded as one of the fastest growing companies in Europe.

Image via Instagram

The biggest takeaway from this example is the manner in which Daniel Wellington utilizes user-generated content. And the brand’s social media team works towards building long-term relationships with influencers and engage with followers on a regular basis.

This helps build a sense of community, reinforcing customer engagement and loyalty. In addition, assigning a specific promo code to each influencer makes it easier for the brand to evaluate the collaborations that are truly profitable.

It is also noteworthy how the brand solely focuses on one social media platform (Instagram) to connect with their potential customers. This is an obvious choice considering how Daniel Wellington’s target audience is mostly comprised of young, dynamic, and creative individuals.

In addition, the brand often collaborates with several micro-influencers whose style and personality resonate with Daniel Wellington’s image.

Now you have a more thorough understanding of the answers to the question what is influencer marketing, and how it has impacted the growth of businesses. However, creating and executing an influencer marketing campaign is easier said than done. It requires a complete understanding of your target audience and the goals that you want to accomplish.

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How to Achieve Success with Influencer Marketing

According to a survey by Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing ranked first on the list of fastest-growing customer-acquisition methods. The growth of influencer marketing is encouraging many business owners and marketers to collaborate with influencers.

As a result, your influencer marketing campaign is likely to face stiff competition from other brands. This demands meticulous planning and execution in order to achieve the desired results from your campaign.

In addition to a thorough knowledge of what is influencer marketing, you also need to identify the right influencers. This demands detailed insights about your target audience and the brand image that you want to project. In addition, the content you create must be of the best quality in order to ensure that it strikes a chord with an influencer’s fan base.

Set Your Objectives

What are your expectations from the influencer marketing campaign?

  • Do you want to earn high-quality backlinks and drive more traffic to your website?
  • Would you like to increase engagement on your social media profiles?
  • Or do you want to drive more conversions and increase sales?

Your answers to these questions will determine which influencers you should collaborate with. Your end goal also has an impact on the type of content you will create in collaboration with the influencer.

So it is important to list a set of well-defined objectives even before you approach an influencer. Having a clear idea of your goals also makes it easier to evaluate the success or failure of your campaign.

In addition, it is also important to allocate a specific budget for the campaign. Your budget will have an impact on the influencer you can work with.

While bartering can work in certain cases (such as Daniel Wellington), most influencers demand monetary compensation. Regardless of your budget, you should try to provide the chosen influencer with all of the necessary resources to create high-quality content.

Identify the Right Influencers

The success of your influencer marketing campaign depends on the influencers you choose to collaborate with. The most important thing is to identify influencers who are relevant to your niche. Otherwise, their followers won’t take any interest in your products or services.

An easy way to find the most relevant and popular influencers is to run a Google search. You can also use influencer marketing platforms such as Influence.co, BuzzSumo, etc. for this.

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If you have a fair idea of what is influencer marketing, you must also be aware of how important it is to identify the right influencers. When selecting an influencer, you should keep the following points in mind:

  • Reach — How huge is the influencer’s fan base? The bigger their following size, the bigger your campaign reach.
  • Relevance — The niche in which the influencer works must be relevant to your business. This is crucial in order to reach your target audience. In addition, the content style and personality of the influencers should align with your brand image.
  • Engagement — Once you have spotted an influencer with a high follower count, take a look at the comments section to understand how their audience engages with their content. Do their social media posts get a lot of likes and comments from their followers? How often are these posts shared by their followers?You should also evaluate the manner in which the influencer interacts with their fans. To get a better idea of an influencer’s engagement rate, you can use my Instagram Engagement Calculator.

Image via Shanebarker.com

  • Experience — Working with influencers who have worked on similar projects earlier is always beneficial. They can add further insights to make your campaign more successful.
  • Platform — Certain influencers have better influence on specific social media platforms. In order to select the right influencers, you need to determine which platform is best suited for your brand and then select an influencer with influence on that platform. For instance, if you are looking to reach out to young photographers, Instagram would be the best platform.

Once you’ve spotted the influencer you want to collaborate with, try to establish a rapport with them before you approach them for collaboration. This helps build a long-term relationship and makes it easier for you to work with them on a regular basis. Nurturing strategic partnerships with the right influencers is more beneficial than working on a one-time campaign with them.

Don’t Ignore Micro-Influencers

When discussing what is influencer marketing, it’s crucial that you don’t forget about micro-influencers. They’re a savior for small businesses and businesses with small budgets.

Most influencers with millions of followers will charge a hefty sum in order to promote your brand. If you don’t have that kind of budget, you may consider working with micro-influencers.

Despite having a relatively small fan base, micro-influencers often have a highly-engaged audience. This is especially useful for small businesses that are looking to find traction in a specific location.

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Create User-Centric Content

Despite the shifting trends of influencer marketing, top-notch content is still at the core of every successful campaign. The idea is to create meaningful content that adds value to the reader’s/viewer’s life. In the absence of good content, even the most popular influencers won’t be able to provide the desired results.

The best way to do this is to give full creative control to the influencer. They create content for their followers on a regular basis. Therefore, they have a clear understanding of what their audience is likely to accept and reject.

When it comes to the type of content, you can choose among the following depending on your end goal:

Product Reviews and Testimonials

According to a study by gen.video, influencers are the most trusted and effective source of driving sales.

This is obvious considering the fact that influencers are perceived as industry experts by their fans. Therefore, getting an influencer to review your product on their social media profiles can generate a plethora of leads for your business. In addition, it your boosts brand reputation and customer loyalty.

For instance, international hotel chain, Choice Hotels collaborated with various lifestyle influencers and bloggers to promote their new brands, Cambria and Comfort Inn.

They invited popular influencers such as Chelsea Foy to stay at one of their properties and share an authentic account of their experience through videos, photographs, and blog posts. The campaign was immensely successful, reaching more than 40 million potential customers.

Take a look at the blog post written by Chelsea Foy as part of this campaign:

Image via Lovely Indeed

Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways are great tools for increasing brand awareness and reaching a wide audience network. They are also a great way to boost engagement.

Typically, an influencer uses their social media profile to announce a contest in which their followers have to participate in a poll or vote. In addition, they may be required to like the post, tag their friends and upload content with a specific branded hashtag.

The winner is usually rewarded with a prize. It’s ideal that the prize is related to your brand. For instance, you could offer a free trial of your service or a gift basket of your products as the prize. This takes your brand closer to your target audience. If the winner has a nice experience with your brand, they may end up recommending it to their friends and relatives.

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Q&A, Interviews, and Podcasts

You can also create a series of podcasts and interviews with popular influencers in your niche. This provides your audience with valuable and interesting information. It positions you as a brand that cares for the growth of your customers. With regularly scheduled podcasts, your audience remains hooked to your social media pages in anticipation of the next episode.

You can boost engagement further by conducting live podcasts with influencers, and take questions from the audience. In addition, you should also encourage influencers to share the episode featuring them with their own networks. This is a great way to increase brand awareness in an organic way. It also drives more traffic to your social media profiles and website.

Social Media Takeover

Social media takeovers are becoming increasingly popular among brands. Simply put, you relinquish control of one or more of your social media profiles to an influencer for an agreed period of time. The influencer will then create and upload content on your behalf. Such content is often perceived as more authentic and credible.

For instance, Sony Alpha invites photographers to take over their Instagram page. The photographers just have to upload pictures taken using a Sony Alpha camera and share their experience with the product. In addition to giving a fresh look to the brand’s Instagram page, such posts also act as testimonials from trusted real-life users.

Image via Instagram

Guest Posting

If you want to collaborate with influential bloggers, guest posting is the way to go. You can either invite bloggers to contribute guest posts to your website or approach them to publish your posts on their social media profiles. Getting published on a popular blogger’s website helps you earn high-authority backlinks and reach a wide audience.

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Keep It Legal

Knowing what is influencer marketing is important for the execution of a successful campaign. However, it is equally important to have a working knowledge of the FTC guidelines in order to ensure that your business doesn’t face any legal hassles. Maintain transparency through a clear sponsorship disclosure.

In addition, it is also advisable to sign a legal contract with the influencers. Make sure you include the timelines, deliverables, and payment terms. Putting these details on paper helps you avoid any miscommunication at a later stage.

Evaluating the Success of Your Influencer Marketing Campaign

Marketers have come a long way to understand what is influencer marketing and use it to their advantage. However, one challenge that they still face is in determining the ROI of their influencer marketing campaign.

In order to calculate the ROI of the campaign, you need to consider how it has affected your brand in the following areas:

  • Social media following
  • Increase in traffic
  • Organic reach (likes, comments, shares, mentions, etc.)
  • Hashtag mentions
  • Direct conversions/sales

Determining the success of your campaign becomes easier if you assign a customized and trackable link to each influencer. Design a specific landing page to direct traffic from all of your influencer-backed posts.

You can also create customized promotional codes and unique hashtags for each influencer. These tools can be effective in determining which influencer partnerships are delivering the desired ROI.

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Conclusion

Knowing what is influencer marketing is no longer sufficient for business owners and marketers. Tapping into its potential is becoming imperative for brands.

While content is at the core of such campaigns, brands should also adhere to FTC guidelines and develop suitable parameters to evaluate their success. A successful influencer marketing campaign increases conversions while boosting brand awareness, customer loyalty, and engagement.

Originally published at Shanebarker.com.


About The Author

Shane Barker is the Founder and CEO of Content Solutions and Gifographics. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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