Our digital-first world has fueled the power of influencers across all areas of interest, from politics to products, from makeup to marketing — and today, “influencer marketing” is having a dramatic impact on the modern marketers’ strategy. According to a SmallBizGenius infographic, there’s been a 1,500% increase in Google searches for the phrase over the past three years, and 93% of marketers use it. Business Insider reports that the market for influencer marketing is set to reach $15 billion by 2022.
Why? Because it works. Nielsen’s Consumer Trust Index reports that 92% of consumers trust influencer marketing over traditional advertising. Not only that, influencer marketing content delivers 11X better ROI than other more traditional marketing tactics.
Influencers Are Real, Ads Are Contrived
As I noted in a previous article, younger audiences in particular are skeptical of traditional, one-way communication strategies and celebrity endorsements. But the reason influencers are so important right now is not only due to a growing lack of trust in advertising; consumers are hungry for authenticity. Research shows about 30% of all internet users use ad blockers to remove distracting display ads as they access online apps and services. And a GlobalWebIndex survey revealed, 47% of consumers use them because ads are “irrelevant and annoying.”
On the flipside, for many consumers, influencers epitomize authenticity. People can engage directly with influencers, many of whom respond to posts and comments and participate in two-way dialog with followers. Research backs this up: A 2017 survey of 4,000 social media users across the U.S., UK, Germany and France concluded that authenticity is the main reason influencers are trusted. Particularly in the current environment, in which the growing skepticism of advertising is compounded by a general distrust of the press and politicians, influencers who can exude authenticity and form meaningful connections with followers will be held in high regard.
Not Just for Consumer Brands
Although celebrity influencers such as Kim Kardashian West and Kylie Jenner have been leveraged for promoting consumer products, B2B organizations are seeing the obvious benefits of having highly influential people tout their offerings on social channels, as well. In just the last 10 years, influencer marketing has risen from obscurity to the top of the B2B CMO’s agenda as the most effective way to connect and interact with customers and prospects, and drive brand awareness.
Examples of successful influencer programs in the B2B world are popping up with increasing frequency and tremendous impact. SAP is often cited for its success with using influencer marketing to promote its events. For example, for one event in Germany, five influencers were invited to discuss hot topics like machine learning, data analytics and IoT, and ended up driving 50% of the social mentions about the event. And Dell nailed its foray into influencer marketing with its Dell Luminaries podcast, which features influencers Mark Schaefer and Doug Karr along with technology visionaries from Dell and other leading organizations.
While many sought-after influencers have immense social media reach, there’s a growing body of evidence that micro-influencers — folks who’s audiences aren’t too big or too small — can be more influential. Research shows that micro-influencers deliver 60% better engagement and 22% higher conversion rates.
Looking to Partner with an Influencer? Do Your Homework First
Before contacting an influencer to forge a connection, do your research. It’s critical to find someone who has an angle — and a niche following — that’s relevant to your business. If your company sells software that features AI, for instance, a renowned data scientist might be a good fit. If your audience is digital marketers, a respected SEO expert may be your best bet.
Make sure the individual you choose has a character and personality that fits your company culture and mission. Importantly, many companies are taking public stances on high-profile social-political issues, and any influencer you partner with should maintain views that align with your company’s position. An influencer who is too controversial or may post comments that could reflect negatively on your brand can impact your organization’s reputation in a matter of minutes.
Once you decide on who to target, try to find common ground and show them you’re interested by following them on social platforms. Like their posts. Send them content that’s related to the topics that matter to them. Then, after you have their attention, slowly introduce the idea of partnering with them for a blog post, podcast or other marketing op. Be careful to stop short of being a pest. The best way to win them over is to make engaging with you seem mutually beneficial.
Can’t find the perfect influencer for your business? Don’t despair! You might be able to create one through the power of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). Checkout Lil Miguela’s Instagram for inspiration.