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The Bard once commented: what's past is prologue. This couldn't be truer, especially when it comes to online marketing. Way back when, display advertising gave way to search optimization, which in turn led to social media advertising and where we are today, where marketers are converging with social media influencers who, in a best case scenario, drive millions of eyes to a particular brand or product. There are those out there, including companies like Startup Grind, who say this represents the pinnacle of social media engagement. Here are some highlights from their recent study:
- 90% of consumers rely on peer recommendations when it comes to the products they purchase
- 60% of consumers have at one time or another made a purchase based on an influencer's recommendation
- 81% of consumers trust blog advice
Those who aren't in the know tend to equate the term "influencer" with celebrity. While the Kim Kardashians of the world certainly draw a lot of water in the marketing realm, they are not the only game in town, as this statistic illustrates:
- 62% of young adults would try a product recommended by a non-celebrity influencer
This is compared with some 49% of young adults who say they would try a product recommended by a Hollywood celebrity. That means consumers are 13% more likely to buy something recommended by a YouTuber or blogger instead of even a Taylor Swift. And with thousands of regular folks out there influencing their socks off, it's a fertile resource.
For those ready to dive right into to influencer marketing, here are some principals to keep in mind.
Safety in numbers
Long-tail safety, to be precise. Just like many brands court the hottest marketing agency out there, they also tend to spend all their money on the hottest influencer. This is a mistake. A key point of entering into a business relationship with an influencer is to utilize their reach. It only makes sense, then, that the more influencers a brand utilizes, the greater the engagement. Multiple collaborations are a great way to reach a wider audience.
Take the case of Tyson Foods, for example. Over the 2012 holidays they reached out to dozens of mommy bloggers to help create social media impressions for a chicken-nuggets campaign. By utilizing a high number of bloggers to disseminate photos of chicken nuggets decorated as holiday shapes, Tyson garnered 8.8 million impressions (70% more than their initial goal), which resulted in them emptying their stock of chicken nuggets in time for Christmas. The story became such a hit it even made HuffPost's list of the 10 best influencer-marketing campaigns of the year. And that was in 2013. Can you earn a spot on the list in 2016 and beyond?
Speculate to accumulate
While influencers are bound by a code of ethics, that does not mean they are going to promote a product or brand out of the goodness of their hearts. Freebies are still the best way to go, since offering an influencer a product or service is a great way to get them to post a review. Many influencers even make a percentage based on how many products are sold via their recommendation. Of course marketers can simply pay for a review, a practice that needs to be clearly disclosed on any blog or vlog review of the product. But focusing just on these methods overlooks the beauty of influencer marketing and the potential it has to deliver a huge return on ROI. After all, there is very little romantic about a relationship that is purely a cash transaction. More on this below.
Grow the relationship
Unlike past online advertising strategies--such as pay-per-click or even search engine optimization--influencer marketing is all about direct involvement and engagement. Just as old-school salesmen would tout the virtues of befriending their clients, so must the marketer connect with the person promoting his or her product. It is too tempting to look at influencers as nothing more than their metrics, like how many average video views they garner on YouTube. But no influencer-marketer relationship will thrive without a certain level of mutual respect. Those companies and brands who enjoy successful influencer campaigns usually do their homework beforehand. That means eschewing cold emails with a generic query in favor of personalized correspondence that touts the influencer's past successful campaigns.
Another great way to get an influencer's attention is to go the organic route. Become a fan. The best marketers follow their favorite influencer's campaigns closely. They comment on their blogs, like their Facebook posts and retweet promotions that are particularly savvy. It is all in the spirit of joining the conversation and building relationships.
For all brands navigating the seas of social media, the hashtag is the North Star. It is the anchor point where all eyes must go. Influencers can't do everything on their own, and it helps brand awareness immensely if there is a solid hashtag in place that the influencer can share with the world. Another mistake too many brands make is to insert themselves in the conversation. Hashtags are about having fun, not shameless self-promotion. The best of these start a dialogue and drum up interest. Those who incorporate a brand name will want to do so in the context of an offer or giveaway. Do it correctly and you just may have a runaway hit on your hands, as was the case with #EsuranceSave30.
The most nerve-wracking thing about influencer marketing is what is also the most exciting thing about influencer marketing: it is still in its nascent stages. Brands and companies would do well to leverage this tactic while it is relatively untapped.
Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company. He is also a digital marketing consultant and freelance writer. To connect, tweet him @dannywong1190 or message him on LinkedIn.
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