Influencer Marketing: Effective Strategy or Overrated Hype?
Influencers are a force to be reckoned with — and so is the industry they’ve created.
In 2022, the influencer market generated $16.4 billion. Yes, with a B. While these influencers are hauling in major money, so are the brands that leverage them. 1 in 4 marketers report that they leverage influencer marketing, and 92% of those believe that it’s providing ROI for their companies.
And it’s not just a marketer’s hunch. 50% of Millennials trust influencers with product recommendations and 33% of Gen Z-ers have purchased something from an influencer-sponsored ad in the last three months.
The demographics with the largest buying power are paying attention (and taking action).
With sponsored posts seen across feeds and TikTok influencers invited to award shows as “special guests,” we’re only going to see more of this type of marketing. But is it right for your brand? Is influencer marketing really going to help you grow?
The benefits of influencer marketing
I’ve already shared the stats. We could talk about the historical data around influencer marketing ‘til we’re blue in the face.
But there are less tangible benefits to influencer marketing, and outcomes that are brand- and industry-specific. Before you can decide to “hop on the influencer bandwagon,” it’s important to know why you might want to consider it.
Influencers increase engagement
Influencer marketing is rooted in the idea that trust = sales. People want to buy from someone they know, like, and trust. This is especially true as markets become over-saturated and brands are vying for consumers’ attention.
But by collaborating with influencers, brands increase access to their audience and can tap into the potential of these connections.
In fact, Harvard Business Review found that brands that upped their influencer marketing spend could increase their engagement by over 16%.
An alternative to paid ads
Engagement isn’t the only thing that improves with influencer marketing.
One of the key strengths of influencer marketing is its ability to create authentic and relatable content. Because unlike traditional ads, influencer-driven content often feels more organic and less intrusive.
It’s not as polished or produced, either, which circumvents the “ad blindness” so many of us have. (Let’s be real. When’s the last time you watched an ad on your Instagram Stories? You probably just swiped right past…)
The stats back this up: Last year, Meta reported a 24% drop in their ad prices across both Facebook and Instagram.
While this likely has a lot to do with the economy and iOS changes, we can’t help but note that broken trust has a huge part to play in this decline.
The potential cons of influencer marketing
Yes, influencer marketing has gained significant traction, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect or every brand’s golden ticket to social success. If you want to make it work for your brand, you need to consider all angles — and beware of a few potential pitfalls.
I like to think of influencers like a targeted ad: You need to have the right offer, the right words, and the right targeting. Or else your ad is going to fall short (and cost a shit ton of money).
We’ve all seen what happens when an influencer “partnership” isn’t the right offer, words, or targeting. Influencers take on projects that don’t really align with their audience all the time (like a divorce lawyer who usually shares marriage tips talking about a power washer).
Misaligned sponsored content feels forced or disingenuous, and your audience is paying attention. That’s why you need to be careful about who you choose to partner with.
Overriding your existing strategy
Another thing I’ve seen brands fall prey to? Influencers who have a very strict scope and only provide a certain type of content — one that doesn’t align with a brand’s content pillars or existing strategy.
Let’s say you’re a snowboard brand, and you’re sharing content about your boards, the snowbunny lifestyle, and how to keep your board clean when you travel between resorts. Your influencer partner comes in and only wants to create content about their ski trip, with your product barely featured.
That’s furthering their brand, not yours. While larger influencers do have a lot of clout and could impact your brand’s reach, it’s not worth it if the influencer is the only one benefiting.
More resources are needed now
Influencer marketing has exploded in popularity over the last decade. And while this growth is great for brands that want to diversify their advertising, it’s also led to a saturated market.
Finding an influencer to help boost your numbers isn’t as simple as reaching out via DM anymore. You often need to pitch your brand, have an influencer budget, and be ready to negotiate.
Measuring ROI can get tricky
Influencer marketing does offer measurable ROI, if you know what metrics indicate ROI. It’s not always as simple as “Influencer A talked about Product C, and now we have $10,000 in revenue.”
Often, influencers are helping with top-of-funnel brand awareness — but what are you measuring after you get in front of their audience?
First, understand how your reach, engagement, CTR, and conversion rates are going before you sign anyone on. You won’t be able to accurately track an increase if you don’t understand where you’re starting from.
Then, find metrics that are going to matter to you. An increased number of followers isn’t going to mean much if they aren’t buying. Instead, focus on the things that will help increase profit over time.
How to do influencer marketing well
We’ve covered the pros and cons, but if you’ve decided to give it the green light… what’s next? How do you “do” influencer marketing well?
#1: Define your goals
Start by clearly outlining your objectives for influencer and content marketing. Figure out what you want to achieve through collaborations and how it aligns with the broader scope of your content marketing goals.
Are you focused on increasing brand awareness? Driving website traffic? Generating leads? Be explicit.
Once you know your goals, define the type of content you want an influencer to create: sponsored blog posts, social media campaigns, or video content? Choose the medium that best aligns with your goals and their audience’s preferred means of consumption.
#2: Find aligned influencers
Again, if you want to tap into the power of influencer marketing, you need to look for influencers whose content and values align with your brand's.
Consider their past partnerships, engagement levels, and the authenticity of their content. Influencers with a large following often have a broader scope and less “niche” audiences. If you’re a small brand with a close-knit following, that will feel misaligned from the start.
Also connect with micro-influencers who have a much smaller (but highly engaged) audience, and who produce content that aligns with your values and content pillars.
This will make it easier to integrate them as a regular part of your marketing strategy. With micro-influencers, you may also have more leverage in partnership terms and payment.
#3: Leverage user-generated content
The reason influencer marketing still works? It doesn’t feel like we’re being sold to. It feels like a friend is talking about this cool thing they just got — and that’s what hits home.
Rather than working with influencers in a produced studio environment, encourage influencers to create user-generated content that aligns with your overall content strategy. User-generated content adds authenticity, builds trust, and creates a sense of community around your brand.
Plus, it opens up your capacity to work with more micro-influencers on a lower budget.
#4: Foster long-term relationships
The key to healthy influencer partnerships is community. Don’t churn and burn influencers. Instead, cultivate relationships based on trust and collaboration.
Engage in ongoing conversations with influencers, seek their input on content strategies, and co-create with them. As advocates for your brand and as someone who is deeply tied to your audience, they’re a wealth of knowledge. Treat them as such.
#5: Have a system for managing influencers
Last but not least, create a system that makes it easy to “onboard” influencers and help them be successful. You’ll want to have a standard contract and payment terms, as well as a system for their content.
Likely, you’ll need to have a creative review, but you may also need a legal team review. You’ll also want to have a process for payment, whether it’s approving invoices, checking payments based on final stats, etc.
Have all this in place before you start working with an influencer because having a clunky system that makes them work too hard (or doesn’t get them paid quickly) isn’t going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
You need a solid social strategy before you graduate to influencer marketing
Did you just realize you don’t really know what an influencer would create for you? Or how their content would work with your own?
You need to start with a solid social strategy and get that down before you bring anyone else into the mix. Because you won’t be able to build stronger influencer relationships without knowing where and how you want their help.
In the F*** the Algorithm Workshop, you’ll learn how to simplify the chaos of social media and create a plan that works for you — one that can easily begin integrating influencer partnerships alongside strong content pillars for an effective strategy.
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