“Should I be using influencer marketing to build awareness of my brand?” It’s a question I get asked time and time again by my clients.
As a PR consultant to young, entrepreneurial brands I have a duty to tell them the truth. I will always respond with the following: yes and no. Hear me out because there is logic to this illogical answer.
There is a reason why bloggers and YouTube vloggers are coined “influencers” – they have loyal followings in their hundreds and thousands. They are the new breed of celebrity. Even my mum’s heard of Zoella, the YouTuber whose currency of 11 million followers has turned her into a millionaire entrepreneur.
And brands want in.
Influencer marketing is a form of relationship building with the people who can create visibility for a product or service. It is on the up and shows no signs of abating. An eMarketer report highlighted that 84 per cent of marketers said they would launch at least one influencer campaign within the next twelve months.
Influencers can help generate reach – broad consumer awareness – or create interesting content. The discipline (if I can call it that) is now firmly rooted within the PR and marketing industries, where many major companies are investing in building specific influencer marketing divisions.
A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” Influencers become influencers because people trust them. It presents an opportunity to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire. These partnerships convey trust.
So why is it a yes and no answer?
This is a relatively new industry. And with that come quite a few caveats. The media have always been the PR industry’s lifeline, and continues to be. But as editorial space shrinks, influencers have become a new outlet for brands to reach wider audiences. Unlike the media, these dynamos command significant fees from brands to partner with them. Some can typically charge £2,000 to £5,000 just for an Instagram post. Despite the high fees, clarity of results and effectiveness is still too vague. They themselves can’t truly quantify and qualify the value they bring to partners. They’re not fully accountable for their own profession. Yet. So it’s largely up to the guys paying the money to track results.
And I am certainly not saying it doesn’t work or can’t be proven. Matchesfashion.com launched Shop With, an initiative for influencer to make their own edits of merchandise and style it on models. It reports that on average customers spend twice the amount of time on the site after visiting Shop With and customers are spending more money. It’s also shown to shift stock that doesn’t sell well, due to the influencer endorsing it.
Influencer engagement will only bring value if the influencers are the right fit for the brand, as well as their followers. Otherwise authenticity is lost. The majority of brand conversations occur offline and influence stretches beyond reach and content. Influence will create natural word-of-mouth. Their followers will be a loyal demographic with the right spending power that matches the brand’s target audience.
Search engine ranking can be greatly improved through influencers because the more mentions about a brand on social media, the more relevant it becomes on Google. According to The Social Media Revolution, user generated social posts account for 25 per cent of search results for the world’s top 20 brands.
For young companies that don’t have the weight in cash to spend on such influencers, it’s about honing in on the “micro-influencers” – those with smaller follower volumes but loyal followers all the same. A brand, in return, gains authenticity, deeper storytelling and the potential of reaching a more tailored audience. There are ways to leverage their influence by being creative in ways of working with them. It certainly helps if brands can find those that are already fans of the products to broaden the possibilities. Also, being part of the early stages of their journey of growing their followers puts brands in a powerful position further down the line.
Yes, use influencers but use them carefully. It will only work if they’re carefully hand picked and are actively passionate about the brand that they’re partnering with. Influencer partnerships need to be considered a long-term commitment and the longer a brand spends on getting it right, the better.
Claudia Moselhi is the director of CLO PR.