The people reading this blog will remember their earliest days in school having moments like this:
“On my birthday, I wore a new shirt, one chosen by my mom, a shirt I did not dig, but I had to wear it anyway grumbling all the way to school. Hesitatingly I go around with my box of toffees in my class and the class monitor and the class bully say, “Hey man, cool shirt,” and most guys in the class approve! Suddenly I love my mom!”
There were influencers in the class and in the sections and among seniors. The class bully for one. The richest kid in the class for another. The one that travelled the world the most and waxed eloquent about the wonders of foreign countries. Well these kids would influence our choices, our thinking, our desires, our fantasies, etc. Add to this movie stars, popular ads and taglines, popular models and fashionistas — all influenced our choices, our thoughts, our mindset, etc. We had our choices for schools, colleges, careers, professions, workplaces, etc., all influenced by someone or the other from within and without our circles.
With the advent of mobile telephony and the proliferation of social media, this trend of influencers has given rise to a category called a “social media influencer.”
Social media influencers now play a pivotal role in marketing for a wide range of brands. Whether it is endorsing a skincare product, a luxurious handbag, a new model SUV, or even the latest knitting accessory, there is a social media influencer for them. Increasingly, more businesses are joining the influencer marketing bandwagon as a means to improve their marketing and outreach strategies.
What is influencer marketing?
At its most basic, influencer marketing is the classic celebrity endorsement, but placed into a contemporary, content-driven marketing campaign.
What makes an influencer an influencer?
An influencer’s true power stems from two qualities that people desire: trust and credibility. The influencer has built a foundation of truth between themselves and their specific audience.
It is not all about the number of followers, but about the right followers
Followers do not equal fans. The masses might be watching a celebrity’s every move, but that does not mean they trust or like or respect that person. An influencer is someone who has the power to genuinely change the perception of others.
But how do influencers actually ‘influence’, and subsequently guide people’s purchase behaviour? Broadly in three specific ways:
1. Build Brand Awareness
A key benefit of social media influencers is that they have a solid understanding of the platforms they are using and how to create impactful and engaging content which can build more awareness for your brand. They have often spent years developing their audiences and maximizing that sense of affiliation and inclusion within their groups. With their refined presentation and narration skills, they know how to connect with their audiences and tell your brand story seamlessly.
2. Strengthen Customer Relationships
According to research a whopping 77% of consumers have had relationships with brands for a decade or more. Moreover 61% of loyal customers would make an extra effort to shop from their favorite brands. Consumers are more likely to trust peer recommendations as they are generally considered more trustworthy than claims in brand ads. Here the social media influencers can be very powerful in this respect. A product that is accepted within their circle immediately boosts its reputation and affiliated connection.
3. Improve Buying Decision with Unbiased Opinions
Influencers are great storytellers. These people have learned how to effectively communicate with their audiences without sounding too ‘salesy’. Influencers talk about the products in detail: how to use them, if they are value for money, what to expect, etc. Basically, influencers cover the most asked questions.
Do not mistake celebrities for influencers
This distinction — followers versus genuine fans, awareness versus respect — is the difference between a celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing. The influencer marketing centers around a specialist with a smaller circle of trust based on honest and genuine experiences. With celebrity endorsements, the price tag is on the fame. With influencers, it is on the relationship.
How does an influencer become reliable enough to influence others?
In most cases, influencers wield their power within specific networks and communities with a foundation of trust built over a long period of time. The LinkedIn VIP power user is one whose career trajectory has earned them accolades. The YouTube Stars have had to build their platform and establish trust. The Instagram Model, a fashionista, distinct and genuine, who the people are more likely to trust rather than someone who seems too perfect to be real. The Candid Snapchatter influencer is known for being candid and real. They gain influence by being ordinary rather than by positioning themselves as celebrities.
People trust the people they trust, and when people they trust tell them to go, do, see, check out, or buy something, often they will. For brands, getting that kind of response is much more difficult than it is for influencers.
5 SURPRISING INFLUENCER MARKETING STATISTICS
1. 70% of teens trust Influencers more than traditional celebrities. Four in 10 millennial subscribers say their favourite influencer understands them better than their friends. 60% of teens follow advice from influencers over celebrities.
2. 86% of women use social media for purchasing advice. More than 45% of women claim to be more active on social media than they were just two years ago.
4. Influencer marketing campaigns earn Rs. 6.50 for every Rupee spent.
5. 40% of customers use ad-blocking technology. In the US ad-blocking usage is 40% on laptops and 15% on mobile. But Influencers are not being blocked. Advertising power is shifting to real people and Influencers.
Some Interesting Case Studies
Driving Traffic the Ford Way
Ford decided to go the Influencer way. Ford realised that these power users were more influential and visible than celebrities and that people trusted the voice of regular people like themselves. So Ford engaged with 100 social media influencers and created The Fiesta Movement campaign: The Influencers first test-drove the cars and then posted reviews online. This generated over 7 million views on YouTube and 4 million mentions on Twitter. It drove 130000 consumers to its website and 83% were previously non-Ford owners.
Raising Brand Awareness
Pepsi was one of the first few brands to use social media to raise brand awareness. When the company decided to overhaul its entire brand, including the logo, PepsiCo adopted a slightly non-traditional approach. PepsiCo roped in some ‘select bloggers’ and delivered a bunch of cans showing the way its design had evolved since its launch. These influencers then blogged about the new design increasing brand awareness in the process. The real-time nature of social media and the fact that these brand advocates in turn influenced their followers to be more receptive to the change worked brilliantly for the beverage company.
Brands believe that engaging with Influencers is an effective way of maximising the value of their investment in social media. The benefits include:
- Increasing sales
- Spreading marketing messages
- Influencers can greatly contribute to controlling a PR crisis because they have a loyal group of fans and followers who immensely value what they have to say.