Have you ever made a purchase based solely on the positive endorsement of another? I’m talking about a person, usually a friend, whose opinion you trust. If you answered yes, then consider yourself influenced. Now, imagine this principle on a larger scale (sometimes much, much larger – a la Kim Kardashian) and you’re entering the realm called “influencer marketing.”
A quick Google search tells you that influencer marketing is a form of marketing where “the focus is placed on influential people rather than an entire target market on social media.” It identifies those with (surprise, surprise) influence over potential customers who orient marketing activities around high-value personalities. The beauty industry, for example, is rife with colorful influencers like Jeffree Star and Tati Westbrook. These über glam pseudo celebs post weekly video tutorials showcasing new makeup releases. They test out products live for their followers and then give their stamp of approval—or not. Makeup brands love or hate influencers like Jeffree and Tati because they carry enough social weight to make or break a new rollout. It’s fascinating to watch it play out and the stakes are often very high in the beauty world.
Influencers permeate every industry, vary in popularity and can be found all over social media — from YouTube and Instagram to Twitter, Reddit, etc. While at LCI, I’ve led campaigns which have leveraged myriad influencers. One of the most recent instances was for client Sutter Health and its new CPMC Van Ness Campus hospital in San Francisco. Prior to its opening, we touted the facility’s state-of-the-art labor and delivery department by touring parent bloggers through the hospital with CPMC medical staff in tow. Before, during and after the opening, these hand-selected influencers posted to their blogs and across social media highlighting all of the facility’s important bells and whistles, as well as what new parents can expect when receiving care at CPMC.
When determining whether a particular influencer is right for your brand, here are some essentials to consider:
- First and foremost, is this person authentic? Do you trust them to act as the “face” of your product or service? If not, then they’re likely not the right fit and it’s time to move on. Simply put, people don’t buy from those they don’t trust – and this is particularly true for Gen Xers. This group sees through phony and forced promotions in roughly two seconds and will not be shy to call influencers out for inauthentic behavior. Don’t believe me? Read through the comments section of a prominent influencer the next time you’re on Instagram. At the end of the day, tread carefully when picking your influencer and go with your gut with regards to who feels right.
- What’s their track record? Does this person already have media connections? Do they understand both the contract side and the expectations of being an influencer, especially if you’re paying them? When LCI represented home interiors client Native Trails, we often selected influencers who had an “in” with media in order to (ideally) end up with valuable editorial coverage in addition to the social content. Some of our best placements resulted from influencer partnerships. Our team secured coverage in such top-tier magazines as Architectural Digest and Apartment Therapy, thanks in part to understanding how to bring the right person on board and then working closely with them and their press connections.
- Although large followings may be important, decisions should not be made solely based on audience size. An influencer with 1,000 highly engaged followers can be just as powerful and persuasive as someone with 10,000 or even 100,000 followers. Pick the person who you can imagine being the face of your brand; someone who is relevant to those who you’re ultimately trying to reach. If your customers are on Instagram, don’t look for someone whose primary platform is YouTube. It’s better to focus on posting frequency and user engagement in order to favorably impact your brand.
If you’re ready to get into the influencer marketing game, I recommend first dipping your toe in to get an idea of what success will look like before diving in completely. When it works well, influencer marketing can serve as an amazing tool to promote and expand your brand.
Do you think influencer marketing is a passing trend? What are some of the downsides to influencer marketing? Please share your ideas in the comments below.
Blog written by Ashley Boarman.