What is an Influencer?
An influencer is a person who has influence over other people. They could be someone within an organisation such as a corporate organisation or a social media influencer. In this article, we’ll be referring to social media influencers. Social media influencers are very active on social media such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and even LinkedIn. For example, a popular Instagrammer who has 10,000+ followers with high levels of engagement is seen as an influencer. There are famous influencers such as Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian West, also known as macro influencers. And there are micro influencers, who are people who have a large degree of influence, but not on the scale as macro influencers.
There are several types of influencers:
- Celebrities (macro influencers)
- Industry experts and thought leaders (i.e. Gary Vaynerchuk)
- Bloggers, vloggers and content creators (i.e Casey Neistat)
- Professional meme creators (i.e. Lad Bible, Uni Lad, etc)
- Micro influencers
- Pet & animal accounts
What is Influencer Marketing?
Since influencers usually have a substantial audience with their followers’ attention being on what they do and buy, influencer marketing takes advantage of this situation. Influencer marketing is when a brand works with an influencer who will advertise your brand and services to their audience.
People follow influencers based on their lifestyles, hobbies, interests, and likes. Therefore, careful planning needs to be taken into consideration when working with influencers. You want to be working with influencers whose audience is your target market. If your brand and business is about selling motorbike accessories, it most likely won’t make sense to work with a hair and makeup influencer who mostly has an audience of teenage girls.
At the same time, a true influencer won’t promote or sponsor anything that will discourage, mislead, confuse or upset their audience. Good influencers are usually good business people who see and treat their followers as customers and fans. They won’t want to do anything that’ll harm their relationship with their followers.
Ways of working with an influencer
There are a number of ways of working with an influencer:
Payment – this is exactly how it sounds and it involves exchanging money for a single post or a campaign. The advantage of this method is that you’re increasing your chances of a quality output depending on the level of payment and who you’re working with. However, there is no guarantee of results as you’re paying for output and not results.
Commission/affiliate – the influencer is given a promotional code and earns a cut every time that code is used. The advantage of a commission payment is that you’re only paying when the influencer’s code is used. Therefore, in theory, the influencer should promote harder. In some cases, you might be working with an influencer who you initially pay and provide a commission to.
Free Products – you can offer free products in exchange for posts or reviews. The advantage of this is that to a degree you’ll be saving money. However, money talks. If an influencer is only at the level of working for free stuff in my experience you might not receive a professional service. In this case, you’ve lost money via the free product.
Payment by engagement – you can pay the influencer by the level of engagement they get for your posts. Engagement being likes and comments. The advantage of this is that your payment will be based on results.
Macro influencers vs micro influencers.
A study by MediaKix on macro influencers (100,000+ followers) vs micro influencers (between 10,000 and 100,000 followers) found that macro influencers did overwhelmingly better on Instagram in terms of likes, comments and reach.
The advantages and disadvantages of macro influencers:
- Larger reach
- Broader audience
- Less time spent on influencer selection & management
- Less risk of fake followers and engagement
- Higher levels of professionalism
- More cost effective
- Less trusted by followers
The advantages and disadvantages of micro influencers:
- Small reach
- More of a niche audience
- More time spent on influencer selection and management
- Higher risk of fake followers and engagement
- Less experience with sponsored content
- Less cost effective.
- Trusted more by their followers
While the numbers show that macro influencers have the better results for brands and marketing departments, big brands are still utilising micro influencers with great success. For example, the watch brand Daniel Wellington works with animal and pet and travel influencers to promote their watches. This has enabled them to target a market outside of fashion and reach a greater audience.
How to find influencers
There are a number of ways to find influencers specific to your target audience:
- Hashtags: search relevant hashtags and see who the top posters are. Engage with them, like and comment on their posts, send them a DM. If you’re a new brand or one they haven’t heard of you’ll need to work on building a relationship with them before they might consider working with you.
- Influencer agencies: these are specialist influencer marketing agencies that you can work with. The agency will do the legwork for you, but you’ll obviously be paying a fee. This is a great option if you just want to outsource it.
- Influencer marketing platforms: these platforms have a database of influencers that you can search for and work with. You’ll be able to search influencers based on location, industry and stats. You’ll be able to track how successful campaigns are.
Is influencer marketing suitable for everyone
Influencer marketing is suitable for every business. However, social media influencers may not be suitable for every business. For example, if you’re selling engineering parts to automotive companies you’re not going to find many influencers in that space. However, there might be an influencer within your industry who is very well respected that you could partner with. If you’re selling to the consumer in most cases influencer marketing would be suitable.
How influential are influencers
But really, how influential are influencers? My personal opinion and from my experience of working with and watching influencers, I get very turned off when I see an influencer working with so many different brands. Especially if an influencer is working with brands from the same category. For me, it says ‘sell-out’ and that they’re just wanting free products with no loyalty to any brand. As a brand do you really want your brand sat along all your competitors on someone’s profile? Probably not.
“Once an influencer attaches themselves to multiple brands, their impact is diffused.” – Devon West, Director of Sephora
I think influencer marketing has its place, but it’s not a silver bullet. Not in today’s world. Back in around 2008 you could easily launch a new business and take full advantage of social media in a much easier way. Brands like Gymshark, MVMT and Daniel Wellington were pioneers of using social media and influencers to spread their brand around the world. But now everyone is doing it and market is crowded. As I said before, I see influencers raving about one product one week and the next week raving about a competing product.
“Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.” – Twitter (2016)
However, influencer marketing still has a place but you need to be smart about it. To increase your success of working with influencers your efforts need to be well planned and well coordinated. Working sporadically with just any influencer and your message will never get out and your brand will never gain traction. It is far better to build relationships and work with brand loyal influencers who genuinely believe in your brand and are real fans.
While not suitable for every business if your business can benefit from influencers then it’s an avenue you should be exploring.