What is influencer marketing?

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The old model of advertising is broken. Why? Because it’s too crowded out there. As Tony explains at Business Mastery:

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Ten years ago, on average, it took a person four exposures to an ad before they took action – meaning if they had an interest within four exposures, the average person would follow through. Today it takes 16 exposures before the average person takes some form of action.

Why the shift? Marketing today is everywhere: It’s on apps, television, radio, billboards, vehicles and it’s even on people. As a result, you ignore it. When you’re online and see those banner ads, do you even see them? No. That’s why influencer marketing strategy has become such an integral part of any marketing plan. But what is influencer marketing? And how can you leverage it for your business?

Marketing expert Jay Abraham states that one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is thinking they can do everything on their own. They begin to think of themselves as an island – and make it much more difficult to grow their business and get their name out to potential customers. But if you can leverage other, more established businesses’ or individuals’ audiences, relationships or markets, the world is your oyster. As long as you know how to make the proposition to that influential business or individual, you can experience explosive growth – even as a new business. So how can you become one of the successful influencer marketing examples? This comprehensive guide to influencer marketing can help.

What is influencer marketing?

With influencer marketing, companies turn to well-known celebrities or cultural icons – known as influencers – to promote their product or messaging instead of selling themselves in the traditional manner. Influencer marketing typically leverages personalities with large followings on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube or TikTok. Those personalities will make videos or live streams that promote your product – videos that reach their thousands and even millions of followers.

This type of marketing immediately changed the advertising landscape. It demonstrates the power of Tony’s own business innovation: creating raving fan customers who will support your brand and share the message with their followers. These individuals with enormous audiences can make you stand out from that crowded advertising space and bring massive value to your brand.

Before the internet, there was something similar to influencer marketing: word-of-mouth marketing. But there is a difference between word of mouth marketing and influencer marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing depends solely on client referrals to keep business running – the business then waits for the customers to come to them. Influencer marketing is a more ambitious strategy that contracts directly with a person or entity to actively market on your behalf.

What is an example of influencer marketing?

From product placement and promotion to paid videos, influencer marketing is everywhere in today’s landscape. Many businesses use it to reach a younger audience that they cannot reach through traditional advertising. Adidas has worked with everyone from Selena Gomez to Lionel Messy. Apple partnered with YouTube influencers to create “unboxing” videos. And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been sponsored by Under Armour, Apple and bottled water brand Voss.

Why is influencer marketing important?

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is influencer marketing?,” let’s look at why it’s so impactful.

It’s more authentic

Authenticity is a rare commodity – especially in advertising. Think about it: When you see a commercial touting the “easiest weight-loss solution in the world,” is there a single bone in your body that believes it? Or what about an ad for a shampoo that makes your hair thick and shiny; how likely are you to buy into it? The use of hyperbole and photoshopping has made us increasingly wary about where to spend our time and money as consumers, and with good reason. And this is precisely why influencer marketing has become so effective.

Jay says that the best way to get raving fans is to get someone else to tell everyone how great you are. Though you can tell everyone yourself, it typically comes across as boastful and inauthentic. If someone else says it, though – especially someone with thousands or millions of fans and followers – it is much more believable. That influencer’s fans may not know your name or anything about your company, but they trust the influencer – if the influencer is a fan, they can be, too.

Influencer marketing strategy is inherently more organic than the more traditional advertisements, primarily because influencers are seen as thought leaders and role models. By investing time and energy into cultivating their audience and forming instant connections with their followers, these influencers have become trusted sources of information.

In short, people listen when an influencer promotes your product. So when an influencer highlights a product or service, it comes across as a genuine recommendation. This level of sincerity is key for digital and mobile-minded marketers, especially when it comes to appealing to younger generations who don’t like to feel like they are being marketed to. Customers crave authenticity, and that’s what they get with influencer marketing.

It’s usually cost effective

There’s not one single standard pricing model when it comes to influencer marketing. Some influencers will collaborate with your brand because it helps them build their brand. Influencer marketing examples often include a vanity URL and some free product or experiences that can be offered in lieu of a monetary payment.

Other influencers will agree to a performance-based pricing model, where the amount you pay is based on the number of clicks and amount of engagement (likes, shares, retweets) your brand earns from their posts. And still others will opt for a “flat rate” pricing, where you pay per post or per video.

This wide variety of pricing is nothing a little research can’t help you better understand. Plus, this range allows you to find what you are most comfortable with, and what you think will be the best model for your brand.

While it’s constantly evolving, influencer marketing strategies are quickly proving to be one of the most effective (cost- and conversion-wise) social strategies for businesses of all shapes and sizes. They’re affordable, and they’re on the rise: Influencer marketing statistics indicate that 57% of marketers increased their influencer marketing budgets in 2020.

When you realize how powerful influencer marketing is, you’ll realize that any costs you might incur are a bargain. As Jay explains, influencer marketing and partnerships make any business owner’s start-up more productive, effective and efficient instantly. With the right influencer, you can build a business and a clientele without going through the normal stages of growth.

It helps your brand image

You already know the importance of social media marketing. Social media can help drive massive traffic to your site, create a stronger connection between you and your customers and generate earned media coverage.

But even more than that, there is a certain kinetic energy that builds around your brand when you are buzzing through the veins of social media. Whatever platform it is – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat – when you are relevant in social media, you become relevant to the customer.

Influencers can help create this electricity around your brand. They can give you access to a more targeted demographic, grow your social media following, drive SEO value and add content that ultimately gives your brand a wider reach.

What is influencer marketing? At its core, it’s harnessing the power of thought leaders who, when they tout your product or service, people listen to and engage with, bringing a sense of community to your brand. This can be difficult to do if you don’t have a strong regional, offline presence (e.g., brick-and-mortar stores and industry events), so engaging with influencers can be extremely worth it if you’re lacking physical storefronts. That feeling of community then allows everyone to collectively experience the vision you are putting forth, and in some cases, adopt it as their own so it becomes a shared vision.

How to find an influencer for your brand

So just why is influencer marketing strategy rising to the top? And how do you go about aligning yourself with an effective influencer? This is where you need to define: What is influencer marketing to me?

1. Understand the laws around influencer marketing

Influencer marketing may be all the hype right now, but it’s still a little like the Wild West. It’s changing all the time. Here’s a cautionary tale to explain that: Remember the popular YouTube creator PewDiePie? He was one of the biggest influencers in the video world (he had over 111 million subscribers), and he also found himself at the center of a major controversy when Disney’s Maker Studios and Google’s Preferred advertising program cut ties after he posted videos people felt were anti-Semitic.

This is a good example of how, ultimately, you don’t have any real control over influencers. Granted, brands who worked with him were not aware of this hateful messaging when they started running ads on his page. Influencers are people, meaning they can still post whatever content they deem appropriate, even if that definition of what is appropriate baffles you. They aren’t bound to any behavioral guidelines other than the ones set up by the social media platform, and unless you put certain stipulations in your contract with them, it’s difficult to have any control over their content.

Be sure to take the necessary steps to ensure the influencer campaign complies with FTC guidelines for full disclosure. Transparency is key. As influencer marketing strategies become more prevalent, the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on paid promotions and endorsements that fail to be clear with the audience that these are sponsored ads.

2. Find the right audience

When it comes to determining whether an influencer is a good fit to represent your company, there are a few ways to find the person who’s right for your brand. First, scope out their audience. The goal is to reach a more targeted demographic. But if you are an organic baby clothing company working with an influencer whose audience consists of teens and millennials, you’re missing the mark. That is why it’s key to develop your user personas, then go out and hunt down an influencer that speaks to that audience, so you can tap into a wealth of customers that will actually be interested in what you have to offer.

Next, check out their number of followers. If they only have a few thousand, that doesn’t exactly make them a thought leader. You also have to make sure those followers are engaged by commenting, sharing or retweeting the influencer’s posts. When it comes down to it, it’s about quality, not quantity. Factor in the influencer’s reach when deciding on how much you’ll pay them and scale accordingly. Then it’s on to the quality of content.

Conduct an exhaustive evaluation of the posts or videos they put up. What messages do they convey and do they fit the company values you embrace? What’s their voice? Are they consistently putting out high-quality content? And would they make a good spokesperson for your brand? For example, if you are a vegetarian restaurant, you probably don’t want someone who is wearing fur in their Instagram videos. Make sure your values are aligned and that you would feel proud to have this person represent your brand.

3. Consider partnerships

When people ask “What is influencer marketing?” they are usually focused on individuals with large followings on social media. However, as Jay explains, influential individuals or businesses – what he refers to as maximizer candidates – do not have to match this criteria. He states there are different kinds of maximizer candidates and some of the most powerful are large corporations you can form mega partnerships with to expose your brand to a much larger audience.

These candidates for partnerships include national or international companies as well as smaller, limited companies who you can form a win-win relationship with. Perhaps they can add your product to their line-up and you can give them a cut of the profits or you can offer to promote their complementary business in your region while they promote your business in theirs. The point is, when you form a partnership with a company that already has an audience and loyal customer base established, your business instantly gets maximum exposure.

4. Utilize the right tools

There are also a number of tools and providers whose sole mission is to help brands navigate the influencer marketing sphere. Klout, for instance, is a website that grades people’s social reach on a scale from 1 to 100. GroupHigh is another platform that gives brands the software to identify influential blogs, automate research and measure engagement.

Of course, if you have the capacity, there are also a number of influencer marketing agencies that offer a comprehensive zero-to-one experience. That is, the agency will assess your brand, then will identify and utilize the best influencers for your campaign. They can also guide the influencers to create content about your product or service, and, ideally, go beyond impressions and clicks and help you make the connection between the campaign and your long-term business objectives.

Whether you locate and negotiate with influencers or mega partners yourself, or work with an agency, you can trust that using influencer marketing strategies will help your brand reach its goals.

a purple paper boat is leading a row of white paper boats .

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