Slated to be one of the biggest marketing trends in 2017, influencer marketing is increasingly being used by brands to help them reach a wider audience.
For the uninitiated, influencer marketing is defined as the use of an ambassador to help champion or endorse a brand or campaign to a targeted audience, says Atiyya Karodia, social media manager at Native VML, a digital marketing and advertising agency.
The trend comes as consumers become increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising and marketing campaigns and are turning to their peers and influencers they follow online to help them make purchasing decisions on everything from baby strollers, to diet supplements and even cars.
While typically word-of-mouth recommendations reach a limited range of people, because of social media, influencers are able to reach hundreds of thousands of their followers, thereby multiplying the power of word-of-mouth.
And while it may not seem like it, this trend is one that smaller businesses can also take advantage of, however because most influencers who enjoy a big following also command big fees, SMEs should rather identify and make use of what are often referred to as micro influencers, writes Jane Buswell in an article for Business Fulcrum. These are individuals with a smaller number of followers, but “who have a genuine lifestyle connection with your brand so that their endorsements feel authentic.”
SME South Africa speaks to Karodia about why influencer marketing resonates with consumers, and the need for brands to focus on authenticity and collaboration.
Influencer marketing differs from paid advertising
Paid advertising is when a message is promoted from a brand (directly) and is generally quite broadly targeted. Influencer marketing differs from standard paid advertising in that it leverages the popularity and follower loyalty that an individual commands on social media.
Influencer marketing is more targeted, and often plays on being a more authentic way to convey a message and focuses on the depth of the influencer’s audience.
What the rise of influencer marketing says about today’s consumer
Consumers are more discerning, and in many cases, see brands as a means to an end. In order for brands to build a relationship with consumers, they need enthusiastic but more importantly AUTHENTIC ambassadors for the brand which their target audience resonates with, relates to and looks up to.
In what I’d like to call The Age of the Consumer, we know that the user is served a ridiculous quantity of ‘sell’ messages, and with this wide variety of choice, consumers are relying more and more on word-of-mouth. People trust the opinions of their peers, and the people they follow on social media.
Heavily branded content also appears inauthentic to users, and can sometimes become ‘white noise’ on social media. Curated content from an individual that a user follows, trusts and enjoys consuming can prove to be more effective for a brand.
With close to a million followers on Instagram DJ Zinhle has become an established voice online. Here she is in collaboration with the bread brand, Albany.
This is what we can expect from influencer marketing going into 2017
In 2017, with users becoming more savvy and (dare I say it) more skeptical of sponsored content, even from influencers (especially when the sponsored content looks like a brand paid an influencer and then sent them the copy and creative to post without their input), I’d say that we’re entering a space of collaboration and co-creation.
Influencer marketing as we currently know it will continue to grow, but effective influencer marketing in my opinion, will need to be authentic, co-created and feel collaborative and rewarding for the influencer and consumer alike. I think that we’re also going to start seeing more influencer campaigns that provide actual value to users, not just a message or promo code.
A photo posted by Sam Elkins (@samuelelkins) on
A photo posted by Sam Elkins (@samuelelkins) on
Car brands are also taking advantage of the influencer marketing trend.
Influencer marketing will continue to grow in popularity
I believe that influencer marketing will continue to be effective so long as influencers are not treated as just being a ‘channel’, and we’ll see great campaigns separated from the mediocre ones based on how brands choose to work with influencers. The key here is collaboration, not exploitation.
But it will not replace traditional paid advertising
Definitely not, I think that paid advertising will always have a place in any marketing strategy, although I do believe that we’ll start spending less on broadly targeted paid advertising and instead craft more diverse media strategies that include a focus on influence marketing.