What is influencer marketing?
That’s a question that an ungodly amount of people are asking, so let’s sort things out.
Let’s sort out the most common question that is being asked about influencer marketing. That is the most fundamental question “what is influencer marketing?”.
Influencer marketing has exploded in popularity in just the last couple of years, and if you’ve been on the internet and social media, or even read a newspaper in recent times, chances are, you’ve come across the term “influencer” and “influencer marketing”.
The terms themselves are quite revealing, but as someone who has never heard the term before, you’re obviously left there with plenty of question marks.
I see the question “what is influencer marketing?” being asked more and more across the web, but despite this, there are surprisingly few answers that thoroughly answer that question.
This is why I thought I’d accept the challenge of defining what influencer marketing is, what an influencer is, and explain how influencer marketing works.
And I am glad you’re here because I’d love to have you on this little journey.
Let’s dig in!
What is influencer marketing
Influencer marketing in the form we’re seeing today is a very new form of marketing, but the fact is that influence marketing is a psychological type of marketing that has existed for a long time.
As the name reveals, influencer marketing has a lot to do with influence. And since the word is followed by marketing, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that it is a type of marketing that has to do with influencing people, and that’s exactly what it does. But how?
At its core, influencer marketing is the art of leveraging individuals with an audience
And the reason why influencer marketing has grown so big in recent times is that of the simple reason that the infrastructure for it to do so has been in place, but because it hasn’t been like that forever, it hasn’t been able to evolve and expand to the sheer size that it is today until now. In other words, the preconditions for influencer marketing to expand and evolve into what it is today is called the internet and social media.
What is influencer marketing? – What is influence marketing?
There’s actually a slight difference between the two, but influencer marketing is a form of influence marketing.
Influence marketing just means that it is a type of marketing where customers are influenced to purchase from the brand, which, in a way, is all form of marketing. However, influencer marketing is solely the leveraging of influential individuals and having them promote the brands and spread the messages of the brands for them as opposed to spreading the message yourself as you normally would in all other forms of marketing.
More easily explained, influencer marketing focuses on using so-called influencers who are industry leaders and go-to individuals within a particular niche and industry on social media platforms and/or their blog.
What I mean by saying that influence marketing has always existed is that we humans have always looked up to people. Back in the days, we looked up to world-leaders such as presidents, and in more recent times, we started looking up to celebrities such as movie stars, actors, and musicians, such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. And if you look at these individuals, brands approached them and asked them to promote their products and brand. Marilyn Monroe, for example, endorsed Coca-Cola in one of their ads, and Coca-Cola had her do so for two reasons:
First, they acknowledged that she had a huge audience. Secondly, they acknowledged that people looked up to her. In other words, by leveraging the influence of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola could impact people at a much greater scale compared to if they would just use anyone in their commercial which people wouldn’t know who it was. In other words, their ad would have a much greater impact on people as a result of the psychology of influence.
Naturally, because people looked up to Marilyn Monroe, having her promote Coca-Cola now meant glamorizing the Coca-Cola brand because people now looked up to Coca-Cola. People started to associate Coca-Cola with her, and because people’s greatest idol drank Coke, shouldn’t they do as well?
The answer is, that’s exactly what people started doing.
The fact is that the same principle of influencer marketing still remains today with what we today know as influencers, but the difference is that influencer marketing has now, with the birth of the internet and social media become a commodity, because what influencer marketing has done is it has enabled virtually anyone to start building their audience on social media and thus build their influence by establishing themselves as go-to individuals within their very own niche.
Compare this to back in the days when only a selected few celebrities were the people who influenced people in the society and brands’ selection of individuals they could have promoted their brand was limited, to say the least. This, of course, also meant that having celebrities promote a brand was quite expensive and something that only a few brands could afford, such as Coca-Cola.
Today, having celebrities promote your brand is still very expensive, but the difference is that with social media influencer marketing, brands now have a much bigger selection of people they can partner with, and can now partner up with individuals who are social media “celebrities” and influencers, as opposed to people who are only celebrities.
Influencer marketing has, as a result, become a commodity that is attainable to all brands as opposed to just a selected few because social media has enabled the selection to grow much larger.
The bottom line is that we humans have always looked up to people in one way or another. Influencer marketing just means that the way this inspiration and influence takes place on a relatively new platform called social media.
What is influencer marketing: How it works
Okay, so we’ve now sorted out the basics of influencer marketing and what it means, but how does it work exactly?
Well, the idea of influencer marketing is that brands partner with an influencer on social media and have them market and promote a brand’s product to their audience by writing a review or doing any other form of endorsement about the product to get their followers to engage in the brand and ultimately buy the product.
With social media, influencers have been able to build an audience, but there’s no exact number of followers that decide when you become an influencer, because as per definition, an influencer is just a person that influences other people’s thoughts, ideas, and decisions, so in theory, an influencer can be an individual which has an audience of only a few hundred people. After all, 92 percent of people trust peer recommendations. But you should remember, though, that the followers of influencers see the influencers as peers. This is why this principle can be applied here as well.
Normally, however, the influencers that brands partner with have a larger audience than that, because the time it takes to reach out to individuals, and the payment, etc is just not worth the effort of having someone promote products to their 5 friends. Influencers are therefore normally divided into two categories which are micro-influencers and influencers.
These categories are only focusing on the follower count of influencers, but it is important to know that for successful influencer marketing campaigns, there are other factors that go into the equation as well.
Generally speaking, though, micro-influencers are individuals who have less than 10oK followers on any given social media platform, down to at least a few thousand followers. Some define micro-influencers as individuals who have less than 10K followers, so this definition varies a little. Regular, influencers, however, are individuals who have 100K followers or more.
Then, we also have celebrity influencers, and these are regular celebrities such as Justin Timberlake or Leonardo Dicaprio.
Note, that influencer marketing campaigns always take place on social media (or the blog of influencers). This is why influencer marketing’s real name is social media influencer marketing, but saying that is a mouthful so most people stick to influencer marketing.
The reason why brands partner with influencers on social media today is that of the very same reasons why brands partnered with celebrities back in the day, but the difference is that the form of which it happens varies slightly. First off, influencers have an audience of followers which they can reach. This means that by having influencers promote your brand, you can reach a new audience of people which you otherwise wouldn’t reach.
This is done as opposed to using other forms of marketing to reach these individuals. Secondly, since the followers of the influencers look up to them to a much larger degree, brands can get a much greater impact with their promotional messages as opposed to if they themselves would spread them, because people are a bit cautious with trusting brands, because everyone knows that brands only have one agenda and that is to sell more, so naturally, you’d expect that everything the brands say and do is done in an effort to support that goal. Influencers, on the other hand, aren’t considered to have the same agenda.
Lastly, today, social media influencers are industry influencers, which means they are focused and specialized in one industry and niche. This is also the reason why they are considered to be leaders in that industry and thus go-to leaders for advice and tips. Obviously, if an expert in the makeup industry recommends a specific product, then obviously that product is good because an expert who knows their craft recommended it. In other words, the words of the influencers are far more trusted than the words of the brands.
Since influencers are focused on a specific industry, it also means that they attract like-minded people to their following base.
This means that influencer marketing is quite a targeted form of marketing because the people who follow the influencer are interested and passionate about the same niche as the influencer. And so if a makeup brand teams up with a beauty influencer, they can expect to reach a lot of people who are the target audience of the brand, resulting in a targeted marketing campaign which generates a high ROI. So by using influencer marketing, you, as opposed to throwing your net wide, make it smaller, but despite this reach more relevant individuals.
What is influencer marketing: different types of campaigns
Influencer campaigns can be run in a number of different ways.
The things that can decide how an influencer marketing campaign is done depend on factors such as the size of the influencer’s audience, niche, overall influence and much more.
When influencers promote your brand, they bring you immense value. When someone brings value, normally, they want something in return. You can’t just expect that influencers are going to promote your brand for free, even if they’re huge fans of your brand because doing so demands both time and effort. They have to create content, write about your brand, and then engage with their audience.
An important reason why influencer marketing has become such a huge marketing tactic that more and more brands are leveraging is that it has proven to generate a tremendous ROI. Just look at the statistics of influencer marketing.
And for a good ROI from your marketing efforts to be generated, two variables play their part: setup cost and generated results. Either, the campaign generates average results and is super cheap to run, or, costs a bit but still generates a return that is higher than the cost. Or, of course, the marketing campaign can be cheap and the results can be amazing.
And this is where successful influencer marketing campaigns are at.
A commonly asked question is how much influencer marketing costs, but there is no real universal answer to that. For the most part, though, the thing that costs the most in influencer marketing is the influencer. Some influencers, normally micro-influencers satisfy with just a product sample from you, but most influencers charge money for endorsements. The cost of this is normally based on the size of the influencer’s audience
But don’t get mislead into believing that follower count is the only thing that matters for a successful campaign because if those people aren’t targeted or relevant, it won’t matter even if the influencer has millions of followers.
What is influencer marketing: Content creating
Normally, an influencer marketing campaign goes down in the following way:
The brand sends the influencer a product for them to try it out, experience it, and form their opinions and thoughts about it. For some influencers, this may be the only payment, but for the most part, influencers want both a product sample and monetary compensation.
When they’ve done so, they photograph it or create some type of content about it, for example, create a video about it.
If you don’t provide the influencer with a product that they can photograph and share with their audience, then you have to create the content that you want them to post. This isn’t the most effective way to run an influencer campaign because if you as a brand create the content for the influencer, there’s a risk that it will come off as inauthentic because the content isn’t aligned with the influencer’s own visual theme and style-
NOTE: If you are to begin a collaboration with an influencer, have in mind that not all influencers suit all brands. This has to do with what I said earlier about different influencers attracting different audiences.
It is very important to study the influencers page very carefully before a partnership is introduced. This is to be sure that you will get the best results possible by targeting with the help of the right influencers.
This is why, as you can imagine, the influencer you partner with is of the greatest importance.
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 multiple of them at once to get a greater effect. Postfity has collected 11 best marketing tools to make your work easier in this article. Postfity helps you save time on social media by letting you schedule posts in advance.
What is influencer marketing: the benefits?
Okay so by now, you’ve probably realized that influencer marketing is a very cost-effective marketing tactic which can generate amazing results. Frankly, if it wouldn’t generate amazing marketing results for brands, they wouldn’t be using it.
The benefits of influencer marketing are many, and the statistics of influencer marketing speak very loudly.
- An extremely targeted way of marketing
- Influencers are more trusted than companies
- Improves your Search engine rank (only if you’re using blogging influencers)
- YOU decide who you are going to work with to ensure that you reach your target audience
- Increase brand awareness
- Increase credibility
- Save time
On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing. That itself is incredibly powerful.
These social media platforms can be Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube or blogs. The point is that influencers are influencing people’s lives in some way. Therefore, the name influencer. Influencer marketing is becoming a larger part of brands marketing strategy due to the great results it can generate.
What is a social media influencer?
I’ve already revealed a lot of answers to the question “what is influencer marketing?”, and this means that I’ve also revealed a lot of what a social media influencer is, but let’s see if we can find a definition for it.
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 followers are looking up to the person recommending the product and this is the case for most influencers. The followers of the influencers are often fans that want to be just like them, or at least are inspired by them, and want to wear the same clothes and use the same products, etc.
It’s hard to compare that to billboard marketing, right? Because who looks up to a billboard with an ad on it? Well, people are of course looking up at the billboard but not looking up to it.. (Pun intended).
And this is one of the reasons that influencer marketing is so effective when you can get the influencer to use your product.
As you’ve probably been able to guess, influencers come in many shapes of forms, and so this makes a definition even harder, but the definition above is one that can be used and is used for influencers as a whole.
There’s a difference between celebrities/endorsers and influencers.
When celebrities and endorsers promote a product, they are leveraged because of their celebrityhood. Influencers, on the other hand, are powerful and effective in marketing because of their expertise within a particular niche.
As such, this is why influencer marketing campaigns tend to be much more trustworthy and thus impactful than celebrity campaigns, because, while celebrity marketing campaigns focus on building the reputation of a brand and giving it a better image, influencers actually help establish the product as leading and a top product within that space that is approved by experts.
The problem with celebrity endorsements in many cases is that the celebrity just doesn’t resonate with the product they are promoting. For example, let’s say that Beyonce would promote perfume. What is it that would make you trust her when it comes to perfume? Is she an expert in the perfume industry? Probably not, right? Is she educated within the space? Probably not, right?
This is why it can create a disconnect in celebrity promotions because celebrities most often promote and endorse products that aren’t really within their space of expertise.
Influencers, on the other hand, have established themselves as leaders within their niche, and then, they only endorse and recommend products that are relevant to that industry. Plus, if an influencer doesn’t believe in a product, most of them will say no to the endorsement deal, and further, many will even tell their real opinion when doing a review.
What is influencer marketing – how many followers do you need?
Well, as mentioned earlier, there is no exact amount of followers you need in order to be classified as an influencer because really, it’s not about how many followers you have. After all, you can have millions of followers, but if all of them are bots and fake accounts, it’s all just an illusion, and you have no real influence over people, nor an audience, which means that per definition, you can’t call yourself an influencer.
What you should know, however, is that there are influencers of all audience sizes. There are individuals who have successfully built a loyal audience end engaged community with just a few hundred followers, and there are people who have successfully done the same thing with several million followers.
What is good to know, however, is the definitions of the two words that make up the term influencer marketing, which is influencer and marketing.
“the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.”
“the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”.
If you combine this, you have the answer to what is influencer marketing, as well as what an influencer is.
Why has influencer marketing skyrocketed in popularity?
Today, it is almost impossible to miss the term influencer marketing and its rise within social media and the marketing space.
Taking a look at the Google search history for the term “influencers” tells us quite a lot about the increased interest in it. Equally so when searching for the term “influencer marketing”.