With the explosion in influencer marketing - the industry was worth $2bn in 2017 and is set to reach $15bn by 2022 - I often describe social media as a bit like Times Square: you’ve got thousands of people all in one place and all these brands fighting for your attention. There is so much noise, bright lights, gimmicks etc. that your attention span shrinks to seconds because you physically can’t absorb everything you’re seeing. And this is a bit like your newsfeed on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. With the omni-channel experience, and having ubiquitous content at your fingertips, it’s become increasingly easy to get a share of voice, but as a result it’s become increasingly difficult to get share of mind.
That’s why we have seen social media habits changing: we have moved from using social media as a broadcasting tool, to using it as a community building platform. Communication styles have become more personal; content is more deliberate and relevant to the individual. It’s not about popularity - or who’s got the biggest, most expensive ad - it’s about aligning values. And this is why influencers can be the embodiment of your brand or organisation in grabbing hold and hanging onto that share of mind.
Which is why we always kick off any influencer campaign with a strategic up-front piece where we deep-dive into who the target audience is, and what their wants and needs are. Then we can map these out and consider the type of influencer that is best placed to talk to those points and aligns most with our client - this can include bloggers, business leaders, celebrities and even brand advocates from within their own organisation.
The challenge is how to gain, and hold onto, the attention of savvy users without abusing their trust or impinging on their privacy - according to the 2020 Edelman Trust barometer 63% trust influencer messages more than brand messages. Ultimately, what society wants is for brands to be authentic: 42% of British people like brands that are willing to get involved in social issues and 52% believe a brand should be able to express an opinion on a certain topic (YouGov).
So, as a result, ‘purpose’ is arguably the new brand currency - telling a powerful story is the most effective way to create a deeper emotional connection with your audience.
As marketers/PR pros we’re in a constant battle to find the ‘sweet spot’ between what audiences want to hear and what we want to say. And I believe that ‘sweet spot’ is where influencers can sit - acting as the ‘middle man’ between us and your audience. User-generated content massively changes the relationship between audience and businesses. Raw, uncensored content accompanied by character - and belief in the content creator - helps to bridge that gap between audience and business/brand.
According to a 2020 HubSpot social media report, 90% of purchasing decisions are led by user-generated content. So, I think moving forward we will continue to see brand content that doesn’t look like an agency made it.
We’ve worked with influencers on many campaigns and the one thing we hammer home to our clients is the importance of trust and authenticity. According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust influencer marketing over traditional advertising – this is because influencer content feels like you could see it from your friends or people like you. After all, people buy from people and that is essentially what influencer marketing is. And no doubt the other reason is because you can have a ‘real’ conversation with an influencer, see a human face and engage.
Three-quarters of influencers are most likely to reject a pitch because of its lack of relevance to their audience, which is why we place such high value on understanding a client’s target audience, and their journey to purchase. This is really important for any brand or organisation to take on board: just because an influencer is well known and has a huge following, they might not be the right person to successfully build brand engagement for you. Authenticity is key to a successful influencer marketing campaign – there has to be a natural fit between the influencer and what they’re promoting, or your audience will lose trust, and this could be damaging.
And of course, one of the real benefits of influencer marketing is the demonstrable way you can prove ROI: everything can be tracked – engagement impressions, clicks, conversions, product sales – and there are many platforms to use to measure the success of your influencer campaigns. There is so much insight you can gain from audience interaction and that can really help inform the next steps.
The world of influencer marketing is constantly evolving, and brands must continually evolve their strategies. I’ve given a number of presentations over the last year on how to partner with influencers to build relationships with your audience , so if you’re considering how an influencer campaign could help you then drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org