Does Influencer Marketing Really Work?

When was the last time you purchased a product because someone you follow online uses it? The post may have seemed like a subtle recommendation, but it was most likely influencer marketing working its magic. 

An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position or relationship with their audience. Although influencer marketing may seem like a new, unconventional form of marketing, it is a strategy that has been around for years. The only difference is that it was reserved for celebrities. But social media has given rise to influencers who have leveraged their following to generate money from brands looking to promote their products and services.

Now comes the big question. Does influencer marketing really work? The fact that brands continue to collaborate with influencers suggests that it does, but there are limitations.

Why does influencer marketing work? 

Influencer marketing works because people like to feel as if they’ve organically stumbled across something new. Why? Because people have a weird fascination with asserting their free will. Purchasing a product or service that you found while scrolling through your “curated” feed makes it feel like an autonomous decision. But the reality is that all of our decisions are influenced by others. 

Marketing expert and author of Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger, agrees. After conducting a series of tests, Berger came to the conclusion that people could see social influence affecting others’ behavior, but not their own. He maintains that “maybe people don’t think they’re influenced by others because being influenced is bad…If being influenced is bad, then maybe people don’t think they’re swayed because they don’t want to see themselves in a negative light.” This could possibly explain why people no longer trust advertisements, which directly promote products and services. 

Most traditional advertisements rely on proven strategies to encourage people to use their products. Some use humor, some use songs, some use celebrity endorsement. But what many promotional ads fail to include is a personal touch. Something that demonstrates that the product actually works and has an impact on its   users.

Influencers can provide their own experience with the product or service and explain any concerns they may have. This is what makes influencer marketing appear more authentic. It’s basically the revamped version of word-of-mouth. Where one ordinary person may have the power to share a product with around 100 or less people, an influencer can recommend a product to millions. 

While influencers do have a very strong impact on the buying decisions of their audiences, influencer marketing isn’t as simple as it may seem. A tutorial or social post won’t guarantee that an influencer’s followers buy a product or service. Making influencer marketing work is all about partnering with the right influencer who shares your target audience

You may be thinking the more influencers the merrier, but that isn’t always the case. A study performed by hubspot found that out of 10 influencers all asked to share the same blog post on their social channels, one influencer was responsible for 60% of the influencer generated traffic. That influencer alone had $1.7 million Facebook followers. Only 0.2% of their followers clicked the link (3,400 clicks), yet they generated the most traffic. Finding someone with a large audience is somewhat important. It is also important to partner with an influencer who understands how to engage their audience.

However, you can’t just go for the heavy hitters. The content needs to be relevant to the influencers audience because if it’s not, guess what, they don’t care.

What are the pros and cons of influencer marketing?

Companies spend a lot of money creating advertisements and campaigns to persuade people to purchase their products. Smart brands are realizing that they can spend a fraction of that cost partnering with an influencer who already has a loyal following. 

Another reason brands go the influencer route is that influencers can create a lot more content. Not to mention better content because influencers know what type of content performs best on their channels.

Influencer marketing makes brands more relatable. Think about the influencers you follow on social media: the Kardashians, Mr. Kate, marketing influencer Neil Patel. People follow them because they create, inspire and teach. An established connection with an influencer means you are more open to their suggestions. If you’re already welcoming the content, their message, even if it is a paid promotion, will most likely be well received. 

Influencer marketing has become increasingly popular, but with so many influencers promoting product on product, we may start to see it lose its appeal. Especially since influencer marketing has become less subtle as social platforms now require that influencers disclose paid promotions.

Another major con is that influencer marketing is dependent on social media. Social media platforms are constantly changing their algorithms and terms. What may work for an influencer today, might not work for them tomorrow. Also, let’s not forget about the recent Facebook/Instagram outage. During the blackout, influencers and businesses everywhere lost money on advertising, which stressed the importance of building a brand off social media.

How can you measure the success of an influencer marketing campaign?

There are a few methods you can use to track the success of your influencer marketing campaigns. But before you partner with an influencer, do your research. Many influencers build a collection of customer testimonials. Look through these testimonials to determine if the influencer aligns with what you are selling. 

The first tracking method is to create tracking URLS to get a good understanding of how much traffic an influencer is actually responsible for. This method is also really helpful if your business is working with multiple influencers. 

Another way to measure the success of a campaign is through discount codes. In addition to using tracking codes, companies can use promotional codes to determine how much attention a post has acquired based on how many people have used the discount code.

If the influencer is running a competition or giveaway that requires followers to share the post or create user generated content, you can use hashtags to measure engagement. Hashtags neatly store all related content in one place. Hashtags also help create more visibility for the campaign, especially if the campaign trends online. 

Should you try influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing happens online, which means your business must have some type of online presence if you want to try this strategy. At the very least, you should have a website. Social media platforms are highly recommended because influencers can then share your socials with their followers. 

Influencer marketing is a great idea for a few reasons; 

  1. It is a cost effective way of persuading target audiences.
  2. It makes your brand relatable to consumers. 
  3. It is a subtle, yet effective way to influence buying decisions.

Do you have questions or concerns about influencer marketing? Or have you given influencer marketing a try? We would love to hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below.

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