Influencer Marketing: What is it and why is it important?

Nov 16, 2020

When you hear the term “influencer marketing,” you probably think of a Kardashian. Which Kardashian is up to you – it doesn’t really matter, and you may not even be sure. All you know is that the Kardashians have something to do with influencer marketing.

So, what exactly is influencer marketing? Even if the Kardashians didn’t immediately come to mind, that’s OK – we’re still going to use them as one of the top examples of what an influencer is. Their names are well known, although if you had to pin down the reason why, you might not be sure. That’s because they were among the first in a new category of people who were, for the most part, famous for being famous – people who became known as influencers. They developed huge social media followings and a lot of cachet among those followers, and if they talk about a product they like, those followers will become interested in that product. So if a brand pays one of them to promote their product to their followers – not in a TV spokesperson kind of way, but in the way you might casually talk to your friends on social media – those followers are very likely to go buy it. And that, in a nutshell, is influencer marketing.

Let’s go beyond the nutshell version and apply an actual definition. Influencer marketing is “a form of social media marketing involving endorsements and product placement from influencers, people and organizations who have a purported expert level of knowledge or social influence in their field” according to a Wikipedia entry.

So, in that definition lies the good news about influencer marketing – it doesn’t have to involve a Kardashian, and is accessible to smaller organizations without Fortune 500 budgets. In fact, there are different types of influencer marketing – earned and paid, and they are just what they sound like. Earned influencer marketing is unpaid – it typically involves a brand sending a product to someone with the right kind of social media following (more on that in a bit) and having that person post their experiences with the product. This can be a good angle for smaller companies without big advertising and marketing budgets, or that are trying to supplement their ad spend with other avenues. Unpaid influencer marketing also has the benefit of seeming more authentic – if the user isn’t being paid to promote the product, their opinion must be more legitimate. However, this can be less dependable since the influencer may not be under any obligations for post frequency or quality.

Paid influencer marketing, of course, involves paying the influencer for posting specific types of content. This has the benefit of being more within the company’s control – usually the comments and images will be pre-planned and approved by the company and its marketing agency. However, it does have the downside of viewers feeling the influencer is being paid to say something – which, of course, they are.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to do influencer marketing? Either tactic can be effective, taking into account the pros and cons above. The real determining factor in an influencer marketing campaign is whether the influencer and their sphere of influence is the right fit for the company and brand they are representing. It is obviously a trickier area of marketing than, for example, email marketing or direct social media posts, and needs experienced oversight to ensure it’s done well and doesn’t backfire.

A good marketing agency with a lot of experience in brand influencer marketing can be an invaluable asset in designing an influencer marketing strategy. The agency you choose to work with should handle every aspect of influencer marketing, starting with vetting and contracting the influencers. Remember earlier when we mentioned the “right” kind of social media following? It’s important that the influencer has a following that will be interested in the product they’re endorsing. Having an influencer with a following that skews heavily young and female, for example, likely isn’t a good candidate for a product targeted toward 30-something males. It’s more complicated than that though – what type of products has the influencer endorsed in the past? How were the posts received?

A marketing agency will do all the legwork; ensuring the influencer is a good match and managing post approval. And perhaps most importantly, the agency will follow up with analytics – determining which posts got the best tractions, what the conversion rate was and whether the audience responded in a positive manner.

MACLYN, a full-service marketing firm serving the Des Moines, Naperville and Chicago area has years of experience working with influencers, and a staff that knows all the tricks and secrets to getting the most out of an influencer marketing campaign. As a relatively new area of marketing, we know most firms want a partner to help guide them through an exciting, if tricky, area of marketing. Give us a call and learn how to get started today.

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