What is Influencer Marketing?
By Richard Parkin
One of the biggest buzzwords in modern digital marketing is ‘influencers’. But what exactly does ‘influencer’ mean? What does influencer marketing look like – and how well does it work?
Strictly speaking, influencer marketing just means having a well-known figure endorse the product or service you’re selling.
When it’s put like that, influencer marketing isn’t as new as it may seem. Using a celebrity spokesperson is one of the oldest tricks in the marketing handbook. In fact, the practice dates all the way back to Ancient Rome, with victorious gladiators endorsing products like olive oil on billboards around the city.
Influencer marketing isn’t quite the same as traditional celebrity endorsements, though. Fully understanding the approach (and whether it can benefit your business) requires a more in-depth look at the role of influencers:
The Difference Between Endorsements and Influencers
Celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing typically differ in three significant ways – although there’s not always a clear-cut line between the two:
Placement: In most cases, celebrity endorsements are designed to appear in standard ad slots (billboards, TV slots, and the like) as a regular part of the advertising landscape. In contrast, influencer marketing primarily appears in channels operated by the influencer themselves – social media feeds, streaming channels, and similar.
Interaction: In most cases, influencer marketing is based around the idea that the influencer regularly uses the products they’re advertising – that the products are part of their everyday lives. While many celebrity endorsements use a similar tactic, it’s certainly not as universal an approach as it is in influencer marketing.
Scale: Celebrity endorsements are almost always at least relatively large-scale. For them to be successful, the celebrity needs to be a big enough name to appeal widely, while the campaign needs to be large enough to recoup the cost of hiring the star.
In contrast, influencer marketing can take place on a much smaller scale. Influencers don’t need to be household names. They often don’t even need to be famous – the rise of micro-influencer campaigns is based around people with only a few thousand followers.
While the actual execution varies significantly between campaigns, influencer marketing can be remarkably effective. With less and less people trusting traditional marketing every year (and a full third of US desktop users running adblock software, the alternative offered by influencer marketing can make all the difference.
That difference is particularly apparent for younger consumers, with an estimated 63% of 18-34 years olds claiming to trust influencers more than brands. In other words, influencer marketing potentially offers an incredible opportunity for some companies – provided that they know how to use it.
Effectively Using Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing isn’t a perfect match for every business – don’t expect to see influencer-driven campaigns for legal firms any time (at least, not successful ones). In contrast, more lifestyle-focused brands can reap many benefits from influencer marketing.
Building an effective influencer strategy requires an impressive product or service, but that’s not all.
For products to be particularly successful through influencer channels, they typically need a relatively low buy-in cost, impressive visual branding, and immediately obvious utility.
Low-priced products are far easier to sell people on through influencer channels, just because of how small an investment is required. Think about the customer journey – it’s difficult to imagine someone buying a car just because someone talked about it online. A water bottle, a new diet product, a piece of clothing are all far easier influencer sales.
The more you have to explain a product, the less likely it is to be successful through influencers. Visually, it’s got to make a splash immediately – you’re competing for attention in one of the busiest platforms in the history of advertising.
That’s also true of the product’s purpose. Potential consumers should immediately understand why your product exists, or you’re going to lose their interest. If you have to explain your product, influencer marketing is less likely to succeed (or may require more in-depth thought).
Once you’ve attracted your customer’s attention, you’ll need to know how to take full advantage of it. Ensure that you have a landing page that understands exactly how to transform budding interest into genuine conversions – read our guide to what makes a landing page successful to see what your strategy is missing!