At a fundamental level, influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that influencers have built up with their following, and recommendations from them serve as a form of social proof to your brand’s potential customers.
Influencer marketing is a form of online marketing that is essentially promoting a product or service using a person who is able to influence the choice of those that follow him/her. Sure, it’s a form of advertising, but in an era where we are surrounded by promotion and advertising that we tend to skip, influencer marketing is a way to overcome the natural barrier that we all have built up against pure publicity. The perception of a product promoted by an influencer is totally different from the feeling we get from traditional marketing.
Traditional marketing like ads in magazines or on billboards and trains usually features someone famous or a model together with the product that is advertised; this is so onlookers recognize the model or comedian, then associate that person to the product. This is definitely a good marketing strategy to drive brand awareness and target a large scale of people, including those who are “out of target”.
You might think that with the necessities of moving the advertising from offline to online, you can simply move your advertising image from offline to online by asking models or celebrities to post on their social account, but this is not influencer marketing. It’s simply online publicity with the same effect as traditional marketing. You have moved the location, but you won’t get the benefit of digital marketing.
Who is an influencer?
An influencer is someone not necessarily famous but who has earned the trust from his/her audience. That audience will follow his/her suggestion in the same way that they would follow a friend’s recommendation.
Worldwide, according to StarNgage, 71% of consumers stated that they have purchased a product based on a social media reference. In addition to that, 70% of teenagers said they trusted famous YouTubers’ opinions more than the opinions of traditional celebrities.
Other researchers have reported that 81% of customers have bought a product after hearing recommendations from friends. This is easily explained with the relationship’s foundation of trust, something that cannot be built with a celebrity. Influencers, however, are able to create trust through their strong connection to their community of followers.
Word of mouth is the biggest factor to consider when people make a decision, so that’s why the conversion rate of a good influencer is higher than the conversion rate that you might have using a model. Maybe by using a model can you reach a higher number of people to increase your brand awareness, but how many of those people really buy your product?
Benefit of Influencer Marketing
Let’s look at a scenario example: You see a model that you follow posting a photo of a restaurant and your first thought is that she’s doing a commercial for the place. She has posted on her social account to promote the restaurant as her job, so before having dinner in this restaurant, you’ll probably go check the reviews of other people. Only after this, if the reviews are positive, you’ll decide to go. You discover the restaurant thanks to the model and traditional media, but what influences the decision you make to go there are the reviews and opinions of other people.
If instead, you see a friend of yours or someone that you know who has knowledge about food and restaurant posts about the same restaurant, you’ll probably decide to have dinner there as soon as you have the chance. Because you trust their recommendation, you don’t need to investigate further (and meanwhile, be distracted by other restaurant options).
It’s all about perception: Models/famous people showing something that you think they’re doing solely as work and on the other hand, influencers that you trust.
Another important factor to consider is the cost: influencers usually cost less than models or celebrities. Even if their outreach is smaller, they can give you a higher ROI due to the trustability and the interest of their audience in the specific topic.
To keep their trustability, you have to consider the fact that good influencers will always share their real opinion. They know that betraying their audience by promoting bad products will be a boomerang to their career. Most models have less qualms in working for a brand because their career doesn’t depend on their audience’s opinion, but that of the brand they’re working with. Customers are aware of this and that’s why, once again, we reiterate how to maximize an influencer marketing campaign by choosing the right influencers.
In Japan, there are plenty of agencies that manage talents and so-called “influencers”. But in most cases, these talent agencies are focused on their own profit – they’re simply going to offer you their talents as a product and decide themselves which type of collaboration to accept, what to say and how to promote something. Since they’re not free to express their true opinion, how do you think this system will generate real influencers with an audience that trusts them?
We’re not saying this is a wrong way to advertise; indeed, it can be great for brand awareness, but it’s just not influencer marketing. Think about marketing like wine: in order to make it, you need to use grapes. If you want to obtain red wine, you’ll use red grapes, but if you want white wine, you’ll use white grapes. You can’t use the white grapes with the expectation to obtain red wine then after, say that red wine is not good! That’s the same with influencer marketing. That’s why it’s important to understand what influencer marketing is and how to do it properly before saying that it doesn’t work.