Influencer Marketing — Influence Or Amplification?
Social media has done it again. Leveraging on the powerful, age-old word-of-mouth marketing technique, the internet has created a new race — popularly known as “influencers”, thus giving rise to the “influencer marketing” phenomenon that we have today. For the last 12 months, there has been a 325% increase in the search phrase “influencer marketing” on Google alone (Source: influencermarketinghub.com). Knowing how digitised our world is today, how powerful is influencer marketing then?
Brands are willing to invest time and effort in influencer marketing because they understand that the pay-off will be worth it. Influencer Marketing Hub shared that businesses are receiving an average of $7.65 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing — who wouldn’t want that? However, the success of an influencer marketing campaign is heavily dependent on several factors such as finding the right influencer(s), as well as having the best product and the right value proposition. Some may wonder — with the immense growth in influencer marketing, is the result of influencer marketing because of the actual influence these influencers have on people, or is it due to the amplification tactics that brands are leveraging to boost their campaigns?
What is Influencer Marketing?
First, let us understand what influencer marketing is. It involves a brand’s collaboration with an online influencer to market its products or services. Influencer marketing is a mix of old and new marketing techniques, where the idea of celebrity endorsements is placed in content-driven marketing campaigns that are suitable and relevant for modern day use. This type of marketing focuses on using prominent and influential personalities to drive your brand’s message to a larger market.
Influencer marketing campaigns often involve two forms of marketing — social media marketing and content marketing. As you very well know, most influencer campaigns take place on social media, where these influencers help spread the message using their personal social media accounts and following. For the content marketing element — the content is either created by the brand, or the influencers themselves. These days, more brands are recognising the benefits of giving influencers the freedom to come up with their own content — albeit with a couple of brand and campaign guidelines — so that these posts come off as less “branded” and more authentic, by retaining the personality of the influencer.
Who Gets Involved?
Unlike celebrities who are often full-time actors, singers or models, these kinds of influencers can be anyone. In fact, many influencers might not even consider themselves famous in an offline setting. Having gained their popularity and fame through social media online, many are often just full-time students, moms, or working a 9-to-5 job.
What makes them influential however, is their power to affect the values, perceptions, preferences and therefore purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, or position. Also, many of these influencers often have a distinct and niche following which can be useful for brands who wish to target more specifically (Source: influencermarketinghub.com). Countless case studies have shown that the power of influencer marketing lies in the perception that these influencers are more authentic, relatable and trustworthy as compared to brands. Hence, influencer marketing is a common tool to build brand trust today as it leverages on the trust that these influencers already have with their followers.
The Different Types of Influencers
What are the types of influencers that brands normally reach out to and collaborate with?
Given the name, mega influencers are those with a massive following. Celebrity influencers often fall under this category. When it comes to influencers of this tier, many brands don’t mind if their target audience do not overlap with these influencers’ followers, because simply getting a mention on their account is already seen as a very powerful form of social proof. These influencers are insanely popular and powerful in helping your brand gain awareness and reaching multiple audiences on different platforms.
Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande are some prime examples. All they have to do is post a picture with the products, tag the brand and insert a call to action, and a large number of people will instantly become aware of that brand (Image: @kyliejenner).
Although brands are dying to set aside loads of money just to collaborate with them, these mega influencers operate with that one-size-fits-all mindset according to Sensei Marketing. Their approach is a very old-school marketing tool — which involves throwing brand mentions in followers’ faces, in an effort to fulfill their sponsorship obligations, and hoping that it will attract and interest their followers in some way. Yes, you might get the brand awareness you desire, and millions of likes on that post; but what are the chances that these followers will eventually become customers of your brand? However, if your objective is to drive awareness, then working with mega influencers can be of great help to you.
Similar to mega influencers, macro-influencers have large amounts of followers too. The only difference is that macro-influencers are largely made up of online-only influencers and not celebrities. Vloggers, influential bloggers and social media influencers all fall under this category. If you are going for a slightly more opinion-driven and less ambassador- or perception-driven kind of influence, macro-influencers are the way to go.
Micro-influencers have a niche following depending on their interests, personalities and lifestyles. Having only a few thousand or ten thousand followers, the content they create is often highly relevant to their like-minded audience. Because of the number of followers as well as the type of content they put out, their posts usually see a higher engagement rate than the larger-tier influencers. Furthermore, these influencers also have the ability to interact with their followers on a more personable and relatable level, which is making brands sit-up and shift their focus toward this group. With the ultimate aim of meaningfully engaging the right target audience, more brands are starting to realise that with these micro-influencers, less resources are required to achieve the best results.
Lastly, the nano-influencers. These accounts are not as polished or “perfect” as influencers with bigger followings, and they usually exercise influence within a small community or a neighborhood — like a local community leader or a local government leader. The whole idea in engaging this group is to show that these influencers are just “regular people” — like you and me — using a brand’s product. Friends and followers of this group usually perceive their opinions as reliable as they do not appear to be “out to impress people”. This group usually garners the highest level of engagement, and is a definite go-to if you want to portray your brand as real, relatable and down-to-earth.
So, Influence or Amplification?
Let’s start by defining both terms. Amplification happens when your content is being shared either through organic or paid means within social marketing channels, which can help increase your reach and word-of-mouth exposure (Source: getmintent.com).
Influence on the other hand, has to do with action — this refers to engagement like clicking through to finding out more about the products featured. This is because influence isn’t just concerned about “getting your brand out there”, but actually “getting people interested in it”; that’s the power of influence. The influence in ‘influencer marketing” indicates that that individual has the ability to influence people’s mindsets and purchasing decisions with the content they are putting out there. With that being said, amplification and influence do complement one another. Just like how we understand that awareness comes before conversion in a sales funnel, amplification to the right audience is often needed to drive some level of awareness before influence comes into play.
Still, for any influencer marketing campaign, brands should place more emphasis on the influence aspect rather than the amplification aspect. Take Kim Kardasian for example — who has 174 million followers, but only has 2 million likes per post. If you calculate it, the amount of likes she gets is around 0.02%, which is only the tip of the iceberg. If the ultimate goal for every business is to affect the bottom line, then vanity metrics like reach, likes and followers may not be as important as getting users to engage with the content in a meaningful manner. Perhaps that is why more brands are turning to micro-influencers and nano-influencers for collaboration because they seem to have a deeper and less superficial relationship with their followers. More often than not, these smaller-scale influencers are perceived to be more trustworthy, authentic, and relatable to followers. So working with them gives brands an opportunity to communicate their message in a more natural approach, and gain more meaningful user engagement.
One example of a good influencer marketing campaign with relatively high engagement is Jesse Driftwood, a photographer who collaborated with Audible.
Despite only having less than 100,000 followers at that point of time, his followers were highly engaged and interested in what he had to say. In his caption, he shared in a personable and friendly way how the brand helps him to learn more about business management, and followers found this believable and relatable.
The ‘Influence’ In Influencer Marketing
Brands have to realise that amplification alone will not get them very far. What you need is to tap on the influence that your influencers have on their loyal followers. As mentioned, these individuals have already done the hard job of winning the trust of their followers, and are usually perceived to be more personal and authentic than brands. In their hands (which hold their smartphones and thus their social media accounts), they wield the power to influence their followers in the areas of brand perception and purchasing decisions.
That said, having a smaller following does not mean that they are less influential. Instead brands are starting to recognise that having a more niche following helps to increase engagement, because these followers are usually more passionate and already interested in who they follow. Think of it this way. Targeting an audience who already have an interest in your product category, or similar categories, can help boost conversion rates and drive higher ROI.
Therefore, given the potential effect these influencers can have on your target audience and your brand, deciding on the right individuals is key. You need influencers whose followers line up with your target market, and whose personality and opinions can add value to your brand. This influencer might be the next face of your brand’s campaign, so don’t rush this step and take your time to find the best fit. However, once you have settled on your influencers, there are still a couple of ways to amplify their content and your other collaborative efforts with them.
1. Make use of paid media
The algorithms for social media platforms are always changing. In order to get the content onto your target audience’s feeds or stories, use paid options like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok ads to help boost your brand’s visibility. These paid functions can not only help amplify your brand, but also allows you to monitor and track the effectiveness of the influencers’ activities.
2. Explore more creative ways
There are also other ways you can amplify your influencer marketing content. Whether it’s through collaborative articles, featuring sponsored content on third party sites, or running social media account takeovers (in Instagram stories for example), feel free to push the boundaries and explore creative new ways in partnering with your influencer of choice, rather than just doing the same ol’ posting and product tagging.
Once you have gotten the hang of how influencer marketing works, as well as a better understanding of what it takes to convert a social media follower into a loyal customer, then will you have a clearer sense of which type of influencer you are likely to go for. So start by identifying your target audience, and which influencers can be the best voice(s) for your brand. Then, focus on building content around and with those individuals, so that it strengthens the credibility of your brand. Remember to first focus on the influencer before thinking about how you want the content to reach more people. With talent management and influencer agencies as partners, and being an official TikTok partner ourself, if you are looking to run an influencer marketing campaign, hit us up and we can see how to help you get started!