I should start off by saying don't miss Douglas Karr's presentation on influencer marketing at Social Media Marketing World!
What is Influencer Marketing?
Basically, it means convincing influential people, bloggers or celebrities with big followings to promote your brand on their personal online accounts. Ideally they would do it for free, but the reality is you pay to play. This is a growing market and the returns can yield your brand big success when activated correctly.
I know this may sound a little digital back-alley but there is nothing new or shady about this form of advertising, or as we in the industry like to call outreach. In the past you would just hear, Nike endorses Michael Jordan or Roger Federer makes 71 million a year from sponsors. As time went on companies got more aggressive, Nadal paid $525,000 to wear a watch at the french open or Tiffany & Co. paying Anne Hathaway $750,000 to the Oscars. Today, these companies are in flat out bidding wars to pay people to promote their products (let's call it what it is) with stars like Jennifer Lawrence.
But what about the rest of the world? Are there other influential people that brands can pay money to promote their products? Do people that blog or have popular social media accounts have enough market reach to cause a social media buzz?
Yes. And an entire industry is being formed around this form of advertising, code named influencer marketing. Fortune 500 companies call it native advertising, Content marketing companies call it advertorials and most famously Blogger or Influencer Outreach. This is not to be confused with sponsored videos or “sponsored tweets” or promoted Facebook posts. These are tools built directly in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
See, these social media powerhouses are not what they used to be. Once a place for family and friends to share pictures and stay in touch, has now become a well-greased advertising behemoth ready to target audiences with unbelievable accuracy. These same platforms are used to channel information from all sorts of bloggers, personalities, and people promoting products around the globe. But not all content is created equal. With influencers out there reaching millions of people within niche demographics, the game has changed for advertisers.
Call it what you will, the gray line between brands creating content and brands creating ads designed to look like content has been crossed a long time ago. Today, it is so mainstream that the FTC updated their guidelines on endorsements in 2009 and guidelines on digital advertising in 2013. Love it or hate it, it is legal, brands are doing it, and content creators are gaining from it, big time.
So, how can your brand benefit from influencer marketing? Do you know if it is right for business? Lets review some examples, software and strategies that can get you started at the speed of digital marketing!
Influencer Marketing Examples
Depending on your budget you may be able to influence a celebrity, media outlet, blog or just a popular person on Facebook. Lets review some examples of these to better understand how influencer marketing works.
- Youtubers – Take Pixiwoo, They are sisters that have 1.7 million followers interested in make-up. The run a free digital make-up magazine and have positioned themselves through their blog, Youtube channel, and social media handles as experts in make-up. Note the WORK WITH US: Business enquiries… on the about me section of the page.
- Pinterest – Pinterest of one of the most influential markets on the web. Many PinPro's as I like to call them, have millions of followers and a strong influence over the purchasing practices within there communities. Enter Kate Arends, a PinPro with 2.6 million followers and great influence in the beauty and fashion category. Kate runs a Products board on her Pinterest each with a link on where to buy the item.
- Twitter – Twitter is the land of the 140-character restriction, but this hasn’t stopped thousands of influential social powerhouses from reaching millions of consumers for their brands. Take for example @MrScottEddy – the Global Brand Ambassador for @Zipkick – a travel-booking app. With over a half million followers, you can see why it is great PR for Zipkick!
- Facebook – Nearly any influencer on any network has a Facebook. Facebook is not the primary source of consumer influence, but it is definitely a strong addition to an influencer’s arsenal. If you are going to pay for an influencer they will be posting content across all channels, including Facebook. With the wide range of content type, this platform is a great messaging tool. One example of this can be seen with Sydney Leroux, an Olympic gold medalist soccer player.
- Vine – Popular Viner (306K) Megan Cignoli does work for quite a few brands on Vine, including developing this one Vine video for Warner's Bras. According to AdAge, they started their #getcomfortable campaign with zero followers and ended with close to 5,000. The total social actions neared 500,000 likes, comments and revines, reaching a possible 9.8 million.
- Blogs – Have you asked Douglas Karr about the Martech Zone's influence? It's become a central destination on the web for marketers who are researching or deciding their next marketing platform purchase decision. Martech Zone has a thriving agency behind it, DK New Media, who assist large brands and marketing technology companies to grow their market share. They also consult investors on investment opportunities, competitive research, etc. On the advertise page, Doug details his website and social traffic and offers an easy way for brands to get in touch.
- Instagram: @Swopes is far from a top influencer on Instagram, but she still touts a very impressive 250K following. With those kinds of numbers your brand could be recognized and benefit from a very successful impressions campaign. @Swopes has a younger, more vibrant party crowd following so this advertisement by Moet & Chandon was well placed and received nearly 7.5K likes.
Where do you find Influencers?
You now know the influencers are out there and brands are utilizing them, but do you know how? Let’s just say there’s an easy way and a hard way. The hard way is the first method used in the industry, research. This usually meant long hours finding, contacting, convincing, negotiating, content curating, implementing, tracking and measuring. This can become overwhelming and usually takes several people working fulltime to accomplish. Ask any PR, SEO, social or other digital marketing agency and they will tell you just how time consuming this type of marketing can be.
Back 5 years ago the SEO firm I managed would dedicate 1 employee to find & contact bloggers and another to negotiate, manage and track a campaign…for just one client! Jeff Foster, CEO of Tomoson.
Out of the frustration to find & contact influencers affordably and in a timely manner, influencer marketplaces have started to form. Companies built platforms that allowed:
- Influencers to register and show off their social followers and website traffic.
- Brands to buy sponsored advertising with a click of a button.
The most popular platforms influencer marketplaces are:
Tomoson allows for brands to post content the need created and have relevant bloggers apply for the article. This saves days of work and helps the brand narrow down the perfect writer. Influential bloggers are literally at the fingertips of brands on Tomoson.com Each with profiles showing off their impressive follower counts and market niches
Influencer Marketing Software
There is also software out there that allows marketers to specifically find influential people on social media. Unlike the above marketplaces, the bloggers you find through these software tools are not opt-in. These influential people did not sign themselves up and say yes I am willing to do a sponsored post”for $500. Instead the software crawls through the web, looking for high followings and high web traffic. Once aggregated, this allows brands to easily find & reach out to these influencers.
On Tomoson its super easy to find not only influential bloggers but relevant bloggers, ready to write exciting and sharable content for your product.
Influencer Marketing Strategy
When you think strategy, you need to first think of your brand. Who is your target demographic, and what are their hobbies? Who are you trying to reach? The Mommy blogger who loves to craft and spends her days pinning away on Pinterest? The big budget traveler who jet sets in search of a great Instagram picture? Or maybe the teenage girl who is learning what make-up works best with her complexion on Youtube. It is all about the brand and the target. Influencers can be a powerful choice in digital marketing when used correctly and good, inspiring, funny, or useful content is delivered to the correct target demographic.
Take Marriott for example, They found 8 super influential bloggers with the help of Diamond PR, gave them hotel credits in Florida and let them enjoy what they wanted to according to their own interests. After they enjoyed the free digs they went on their respective channels and told the world about their amazing experiences at each of their Florida Marriott locations.
When you sell an experience (rather than a product) like Marriott, they found it best to let the influencers have it for free and tell the world about it. This was a great tactic and a very tasteful execution. TheOutReachMarketer reports the results of this campaign as such:
- Earned 39 blog posts
- Combined the 8 bloggers reached 1,043,400 unique monthly visitors
- The #BloggingFL hashtag reached almost 8 million Twitter timeline deliveries
- Through Facebook and Instagram, the bloggers reached almost 30,000 people through their own followers
Another good example is when Wendy’s threw it way back, contacting mommy and fashion/style bloggers giving them each a free frosty coupon. The goal was to promote that frosty’s are now available in waffle cones. Each of the bloggers were asked to post content that included enticing visuals accompanied with good memories brought back by enjoying a Wendy’s frosty. Wendy’s scored big on this one with great content shared all over social media channels.
The key to success when utilizing influencer marketing is knowing your brand and your target market inside out. You need to know their likes/dislikes, hobbies and interests. Digital influencers are simply ad amplifiers. What matters the most in terms of ROI and message reach is the quality of the content, and the direction of the promotion. If you provide GREAT content and aim it at the bullseye you are sure to knock it out of the park.