When it comes to brands, consumers have serious trust issues. You’ll have experienced this first-hand as your relationships with brands you once loved become tarnished in one way or another. Or conversely, you might grow to love a brand that you weren’t keen on in the beginning. Loyalty is a delicate thing and marketers know this. So their mission is to help build a brand and product that people will trust for a long time, and ideally indefinitely.

These days, it simply isn’t enough for a brand to tell you that their message and product are great through advertisement or inbound marketing. According to sjinsights.com, the average adult human is exposed to 362 brands per day, so how can you cut through the noise and gain that die-hard following of customers that everyone is fighting for? Enter influencer marketing.

What is Influencer Marketing?

In a nutshell, brands utilise people with online influence – mostly through social media channels – to promote their product or service for free, on a one-off basis, or contractually.

How has it Evolved?

Famous faces have been putting their names to brands and products since the economy began. Fast forward to pre-social media days where Michael Jordan, considered one of the basketball greats, became affiliated with Nike leading Air Jordans to become the most purchased shoes of all time. Nike used Jordan’s sporting prowess to centre themselves within the same audience that Michael Jordan had captivated. Fast forward 15 years or so, and the advent of social media gave rise to the online influencer. But brands were still stuck in the pre-social media mindset that the most valuable influencers had the widest reach. WRONG!

How is Influencer Marketing used Today?

According to Sarah Gordon, Brand and Creative Director for Bloom & Wild, brands should adopt an ‘ecosystem approach’ to acquiring their social media influencers. This means they have a variety of influencers with different specialities and qualities. Because of this, a large part of influencer marketing today is focused on the micro-influencer. This is someone with between around five and ten thousand followers and who fits the brand guidelines perfectly. Yes, they might not have the same reach as a model with one million followers, but their audience will have a greater level of trust in them. According to Florencia Lujani, Influencer Manager at We are Social, the correlation looks something like this:

Why are Mirco-influencers more trusted?

Micro-influencers often have a specific topic of interest and are less generic than their far-reaching counterparts. They also tend to display a greater sense of passion in the content they produce. In fact, once a micro-influencer gains popularity and followers pushing them into the macro-influencer sphere, they get approached by larger brands they might not otherwise have worked with. This can result in their message becoming muddied and they risk losing their loyal audience.

‘Follower loyalty’ of micro-influencers can be attributed to the ‘I discovered this’ effect. But also to the fact that influencers are in a better position to interact with their followers, simply because they have a smaller fan-base. Micro-influencers show around six times more interaction with their fans compared to far-reaching influencers according to Lauren Spearman, Digital Manager for Benefit Cosmetics.

How to Choose an Influencer for your Brand

If you’re a startup, don’t take the first influencer that comes along. ‘Treat it like you’re dating’ says Lauren. Even if someone approaches you with 10,000 followers, the content they produce might be completely irrelevant to you. Even if they were to post about your brand, the influencer’s users won’t recognise the content as theirs and scroll right past it. Ensure your brand and your influencer share the same message.

Finding an Influencer

There are three main ways that brands can search for the perfect influencer:

  • Track down people who are talking about your brand organically

Do a quick search to see who has been talking about your brand on the internet. This is a good way of quickly finding who’s interested, then you can check their profiles and decipher who might be a good ambassador for your brand and contact them directly.

  • Through social media using the hashtag

The hashtag has made it very easy for brands to see who is mentioning them on social media, particularly on Twitter and Instagram. Just type #yourbrandsname into the search bar. For startups, don’t be afraid to individually search through potential influencers on social media if people aren’t yet talking about your brand.

  • Host an event

Lauren of Benefit Cosmetics champions holding events for potential influencers because it gives them something they ‘can take away from your brand’. Invite a selection if influencers (or an ‘ecosystem’, if you will) and introduce them to your brand and the products to help you determine who might be the right fit.

Overall

Influencer marketing is a fantastic way of centering your brand within your target audience. For start-ups, it’s an excellent way of showing off your new products and gleaning an initial interest in the brand. For more established businesses, influencer marketing can be a way of accessing a completely new audience that you’re wanting to engage with. Once you’ve gathered your infleuncers, ensure that you maintain a good relationship with these people because often they remain loyal to the brands that discovered them. But most importantly, remember that it’s not about which influencer has the furthest reach, it’s about finding someone who demonstrates your brand’s values, and who has a trusting and loyal audience.

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