Denis Sinelnikov is the CEO of Media Components, an award-winning, full service digital marketing agency.
If you’re looking at your 2022 digital marketing strategy and not considering influencer marketing, you’re entering the game at a serious disadvantage. More and more of our lives have moved online, with consumers flocking to sites like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok for entertainment, advice and even news. While you can reach them with social media ad campaigns, you will likely have more success if you team up with an influencer.
Let’s look at what influencer marketing is, how it differs from celebrity endorsements and how you can find success working with a social media influencer.
What is the difference between a celebrity and an influencer?
Celebrities have broad fame and appeal, typically through some form of mass media. While celebrities are associated with their talent, they have broad recognition. You know names like Michael Jackson, Stephen King and Michael Jordan, even if you don’t enjoy their music, horror novels or basketball.
Influencers, on the other hand, are far more niche. While Addison Rae is a successful influencer with over 40 million Instagram followers, no one is going to fault you for not recognizing who she is by name if you don’t spend a lot of time on Instagram. Influencers like her build their platform on a niche and create parasocial relationships with their followers by being (presumably) authentic, relatable and accessible.
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What is influencer marketing and how does it work?
Influencer marketing takes advantage of the parasocial relationship that exists between an influencer and their followers to promote a brand. Influencers build their platform by connecting with their followers through shared interests—making a connection feel like a friendship to their followers. People who follow Addison Rae, for example, might feel like they know her because of their shared interest in beauty and fashion trends.
In choosing an influencer, a company looks for an influencer whose platform and content match its brand. An influencer like Addison Rae may post photo shoots in clothing from a brand she has partnered with on her Instagram. Meanwhile, if she is working with a cosmetic company, she might feature their product in a makeup tutorial on TikTok.
Beauty and fashion are not the only industries that benefit from influencers. Unboxing videos remain popular on YouTube with influencers like iJustine dominating. Her personality and enthusiasm are infectious. Fans of unboxing videos follow influencers like iJustine to see what they think of new tech and make buying decisions based on what those influencers think.
How do you make influencer marketing work for you?
Now that you understand the potential of an influencer for your marketing strategy, you need to know the best ways to make that relationship work for you. Not every influencer is going to be perfect for your brand, even if their niche matches your product.
Consider the personality of the influencer and what they do on their platform.
This may come as a shock, but not everyone on the internet is nice. Unfortunately, influencers don’t escape this. Before you reach out to an influencer, take time to look at their content and examine their social media. Make sure they’re not putting out messages that you don’t want to be associated with, that they’re respecting their audiences and that they aren’t making reckless choices that can tarnish your reputation.
Be willing to part with a product and offer early access.
Most brands that sponsor an influencer will offer them products in addition to monetary compensation. This is a benefit for the influencer, sure. They’re getting free stuff. It is a bigger boost for you. Because of the nature of the parasocial relationship—that sense of something like a friendship that followers feel for influencers—it’s more powerful if followers see your product in an influencer’s hands. They’ll be more interested in buying it.
Don’t forget to give their followers an incentive to use your product beyond just the influencer. Companies like Skillshare regularly sponsor content creators on YouTube and provide them with unique links or discount codes for their followers to use for discounts. If your company uses e-commerce, that simple addition to your sponsorship can convert curiosity and interest that you gain through the influencer into sales for your brand.
Make sure the influencer knows marketing rules.
Often companies and influencers get into trouble because the influencer doesn’t properly disclose when they’re presenting sponsored content. Ensure that the influencers you work with know what they need to disclose in their videos and posts. As a best practice, ensure that your contract includes a provision that allows you to review posts and videos before they go live. This gives you the ability to approve content and ensure it matches your brand.
Are influencers better than celebrity endorsements?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you need to build brand awareness or expand your brand beyond its niche audience, a celebrity might be what you’re looking for. Their broad recognition and appeal mean that your brand could reach a wider audience of consumers. However, if you’re a small business, getting a celebrity endorsement is next to impossible.
If you’re looking to move from brand awareness to solid sales and build customer loyalty, an influencer is better positioned for that. Because they work in a niche, an influencer whose platform matches your brand will be worth every product and penny you pay them. Their loyal followers will translate to brand loyalty far faster than any celebrity following. A good portion of your market research is done by finding the right influencer for your brand to match your target demographic.
Overall, in my opinion, influencers are better than celebrity endorsements. Influencers are the future of marketing. They have built their platforms and loyal followers organically. Most of them are still untapped or underutilized resources for businesses to reach the consumers who will want their product. Now that you know what an influencer can do for you, consider making influencer marketing a part of your 2022 marketing campaign.
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Author: Denis Sinelnikov, Forbes Councils Member