What Does Influencer Marketing Mean? A Complete Guide

Influencer marketing is a relatively new form of marketing. On the other hand, it’s a relatively old form of marketing. Sounds strange, right?

Well, let me explain.

Influence (marketing) has existed essentially as long as humans have existed. You may recognize yourself in this since you’re influenced by what other people say and do, consciously, or unconsciously. Often times, the people who you look up to the most are the people who influence you the most. Now, this isn’t influence marketing, this is what would be called influence, but as marketers started understanding this phenomenon, they, of course, started using this to their advantage to sell things.

Think about celebrities, movie stars, characters etc. Growing up, children want to be action heroes, and as they get older, they may look up to their favorite artist. As mentioned, while most people wouldn’t call this influence marketing, it is certainly a form of influence. And frankly, you wouldn’t exactly call the influencers either (according to today’s definition) since they weren’t communicating through social media, and they were known for their specific thing, for example, singing, dancing, etc.

The marketing part came when brands like Coca-Cola paid people like Elvis Presley to promote their product, or to have James Bond Drink Bollinger champagne.

Elvis Coca Cola
Source: Coca-Cola

The modern version of influence marketing – influencer marketing, circulates around social media and the opportunities that it has opened up for humans. Some people influence us more than others, and these tend to be the people we look up to – whether we know them or not. This is often why celebrities tend to have a huge impact on the trends in fashion.

But back in the days, if we’re talking about people who had influence over people who weren’t in their inner circle, it was (and is) because they look up to them. Back in the days, this type of influence was limited to a selected few. Some may have looked up to the president, some may have looked up to Elvis Presley, Other may have looked up to Spiderman.

But what social media has allowed is for anyone to become what is today known as an “influencer” and an industry leader who, through their communication, whether through the written word, audio, or video, influences other people when communicating with them. On social media, these people are often viewed as thought leaders in their respective fields.

These are people who have gone all in on an industry they are passionate about, and shared content around it. It may have been to share guides about how you do your makeup or giving fashion inspiration and advice, but the reason why they’re called influence is that people look up to them, and they are influenced by them.

This is what an influencer is.

Social media has given everyone a voice

The modern form of influencer marketing is communicated through social media. Social media allows you to communicate with, and reach, people from all over the world at the speed of light. Everyone has gotten a voice, and those who take the opportunity to share their passion and do it consistently are able to build audiences of like-minded people who share the same interest who come to that person for advice, tips, and inspiration.

Now, this is where the marketing part comes in.

Influencers have their audience’s trust. They’re respected and trusted, and they normally have a large following of devoted fans. This is things that brands usually don’t have, and even though they may have a large following, having a respected industry expert recommend them has proven to be far more effective and impactful than simply recommending yourself.

Frankly, who would you trust more for advice about a pair of jeans? A fashion influencer who you look up to or the brand which makes them?

The answer is obvious.

This has become the start of modern influencer marketing as we know it today.

Influencer marketing focuses on using so-called influencers who are leaders and go-to persons within a particular niche and industry on social media platforms. These social media platforms can communicate on every social media platform that they see fit. The most common social media platforms for influencers are Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube or blogs. The point is that influencers are influencing people’s lives in one way or another – thus the name influencer.

For the influencer to be an influencer, they must have some form of an audience that they can connect with and have an impact on, and social media is the ultimate tool for them to do just that.

As more and more brands have realized that the most effective way to convince people to buy things, and to spread awareness about the brand is not by going out and promoting it themselves, they have realized that it is far more effective to have influencers spread these messages for them since they both have large audiences and can reach a ton of people, as well as are far more trusted.

As mentioned, influencers have also attracted likeminded people who are passionate about the same industry and niche that the influencer is in. This means that if brands partner with the correct influencers, they can reach their target audience very effectively.

What does influencer marketing mean? How it works.

Okay, so we’ve gone through the basics of what influencer marketing is. Let’s dig into how influencer marketing works, and how brands create influencer marketing campaigns together with influencers.

The idea with influencer marketing is that the influencer markets a brand’s product to their followers by writing a review or any other form of endorsement about the product to get their followers to engage in the brand or buy the product etc.

Social media influencer marketing

Influencer marketing focuses on generating a very targeted marketing campaign with the help of carefully chosen influencers instead of marketing to the big mass that often generates a very low ROI.

The traditional form of marketing is to target to the large mass, either not targeted at all, or slightly targeted. For example, a makeup business may advertise in a fashion magazine, but that does not mean that everyone who sees the ad will be interested in makeup.

Instead of marketing with display ads and showing your ad to tens of thousands where the reality is that only a few individuals will be genuinely interested in what you have to offer because the ad isn’t targeted, with influencer marketing, you can instead target an audience that suits your brand’s niche and thereby drive a better result and a higher ROI.

Instagram influencer marketing

Influencer campaigns can be done in a few different ways. The things that can decide how an influencer marketing campaign is done can depend on the size of the influencer’s followings, niche, overall influence and a lineup of other things. But explained in a very basic way, with the most fundamental elements, this is often how an influencer marketing campaign plays out:

The company approaches an influencer

The company looks for influencers in their industry who people look up to, and which impacts their target audience. When they have found an appropriate influencer that they think align with their brand, they reach out to them asking if they would be interested in a partnership.

It is not uncommon that influencers reach out to brands that they like asking if they would want to collaborate, so it goes both ways.

Payment

Most of the time, the influencers want some kind of payment for promoting a brands’ products to their audience. The payment can vary a lot between campaigns, both between influencers, but also depending on the size of the influencers’ audience.

Instagram paid advertisement

In most cases when we’re talking about influencers with a large following, they are often paid in cash. It is more common for influencers with a smaller following to satisfy with a product sample as payment which they can use to create content around and then post on their social media.

Forms of payment can also be that businesses invite influencers to different events, pay trips for them, etc, and in return, the influencer is expected to promote the business.

Content creating

The most common way that an influencer campaign plays out is that the influencer gets a product sample/gets to test the product, create content around that product, and then share the content with their audience.

If you don’t provide the influencer with a product of yours that they can photograph/test/experience, and share with their audience, then you have to create the content that you want them to post. This is not that common, and there’s a good reason for it.

If you as a business is the one creating the content, you have to think about whether or not it is suitable that the photo is taken by you and not the influencer and if the photo you’ve arranged fits in their overall feed and image.

If yes, awesome!

If not, then the endorsement might inauthentic and untrustworthy. The result?

The results won’t be that great because the audience doesn’t trust the message.

Brands partnering up with influencers in their marketing strategy is becoming more and more popular- and it’s quite obvious why.

The influencers are personalities that have a deep engagement with their followers and therefore have a bigger impact than if a brand would try to market their own product. The power of affecting someone to the point that they buy something is increased dramatically if the who followers look up to the person since if this is the case, they want to be just like them, wear the same clothes and use the same products. And this is one of the reasons that influencer marketing is so effective.

Instagram influencer marketing

It’s hard to compare that to billboard marketing, right? Because who looks up to a wooden board with an ad on it? Well, people are of course looking up at the billboard but not looking up to it.. (Pun intended).

The caveat:

If you are to begin a collaboration with an influencer, have in mind that not all influencers fit all brands since the followers have different interests. It is very important to study the influencer’s page, content, and personality, very carefully before a partnership is introduced. This is to be sure that you will get the best results possible.

Another reason that influencer marketing has grown to be so incredibly popular in just a few years is that it’s a cheap way of reaching a bigger audience. Influencers with a few thousand followers can be a perfect marketing tool for businesses with a small marketing budget but also good for larger companies that can partner up with a lot of them at once.

If the influencer agrees on just receiving a product, then it can be an even more affordable way of getting the word out about your products if the products you sell have a low cost to produce. This is especially true if they have a high perceived market value.

Have you yourself ever used influencer marketing? Share your experience with us! Was it beneficial for you?

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