Influencer marketing has become a big part of content marketing strategies as brands use social media stars with a large following to endorse their products and services.

An influencer is someone who commands a significant following on social media, with the ability to sway their audience. Unlike celebrity endorsements, they can be anyone with a large followership and they are well known in their niche. The followers in question are the target audience for brands who want to utilize an influencer.

Choosing the right influencer

Influencers spend time building their brand reputation and they are likely to be passionate about a specific niche, e.g. fashion, sport, and entertainment. Businesses must make a careful consideration in choosing the right person. Selecting the right person means they will resonate with the target audience. All this needs to be well researched because investing in the wrong influencer will not bring the desired outcome.

The ethics around influencer marketing

There is a debate around influencer marketing, as to whether the consumer should be made aware if a particular post is a paid advert or sponsored content.  In the USA,  consumer protection bodies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) call for transparency when it comes to advertising. This is done to protect the consumer to arrive at an informed buying decision without being unknowingly manipulated by both the business and the influencer.

According to The Guardian newspaper, “Legally, influencers are meant to declare that this is a business transaction – either by including the hashtag #ad in a prominent position, or by using a tag specially created by Instagram which labels the post as paid partnership, and mentions the brand below the influencer’s username.”

The pros and cons

Traditional marketers used to rely on in-depth research to gain insight into the latest consumer trends. However, in the digital era, influencers have become the bridge between the marketers and culture.

For the younger generation who have grown with unlimited access to social media, influencer content may appeal to them compared to mainstream media content.  Since there is a huge market for these digital natives, influencers should be seen as intermediaries between brands and consumers. One of the biggest advantages of influencer marketing is that influencers have aligned themselves to a specific niche, and this allows marketers to zero in on the relevant target audience.

One of the pitfalls that corporations should guard against when dealing with these content creators is while they can control the content they post in collaboration, they cannot do that when the campaign is over. A brand reputation may suffer if they have associated with an influencer whose conduct has come to the public’s spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

The purpose of working with influencers is to increase brand awareness and drive engagement that will ultimately boost sales for the business. In the wake of social media users buying fake followers, this presents a challenge for brands looking to collaborate with influencers. If the influencer has fake followers, the marketing campaign won’t bring the desired results. Social networks such as Instagram are on a drive to weed out fake followers on their platforms. Fake followers can be misleading and brand marketers need to do thorough research before bringing someone on board.

Statistics and numbers

Numbers show that influencer marketing  is proving to be successful  and a place to be for brands with one survey claiming that 70% millennials say they trust products that are endorsed by non-celebrity bloggers. This highlights that influencers have built a close relationship with their followers as they document their life stories through the prism of social media. It is a sincere friendship that leads to trust between the followers and the influencer, hence the ability to trust their recommendations.  Instagram and YouTube are the biggest platforms that are facilitating the rise of influencer marketing.

According to MarTech Series, the influencer ecosystem is expected to reach upwards of $10 billion by 2020. Corporations will continue to put faith in influencers to grow their businesses, as the Financial Mail reports that 70% of brands are now using influencers  as part of marketing campaigns in this billion dollar industry.

Final thoughts

The competition for gaining consumer attention is fierce and it is no easy feat to create a brand that will keep the audience coming back for more.  With younger generations heavily consuming content from new media, this propels brands to find inventive ways such as influencer marketing to reach them. However, brands must approach this type of marketing with caution in order to work with the right influencer and get their projected return on investment.

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