Despite seismic shifts in the landscape of advertising over the last century, the goal has remained unchanged since the beginnings of commerce: get people to talk. Yes, for all the fancy, flash-in-the-pan marketing strategies in existence, nothing beats good ol’ word of mouth. And that’s what influencer marketing is: priming a target audience to speak enthusiastically about a product or service. Here’s what brands need to know right now about a trend that is only ascending.
The future is wide open
In 2016 few advertising tactics are as effective as influencer marketing. According to a statistics from Burst Media, influencer campaigns are earning almost $7 for every $1 they spend. So if money is changing hands, how is this not negatively impacting brand perception or the credibility of the influencer? It’s because successful marketers and opinion leaders have found a way to turn paid media into earned media.
YouTube is much more than a repository for funny cat videos. Influencers have found their home on YouTube, and they’re racking up subscribers by the millions. These stars of new media have become such a force in marketing that Ogilvy & Mather have put out a list of the top influencers on YouTube. These are often regular people who have created channels that cover everything from health & fitness to sports and gaming. In a way, you could say that the diversity of these YouTube influencers makes sense, since they represent the demographics that they’re talking to. And speaking of audiences…
It’s an efficient way to reach a target audience
You could draw a direct line from the rise of influencer marketing and earned media to the coming into their own of the Millennial generation. This group is defined as those born after 1980, and they represent hundreds of billions in annual buying power. To tap into this robust market requires a conduit. Magazine ads and billboards are relics of the Mad Men era; the hard sell turns Millennials off. They value authenticity above all else, which is why they turn to social media to see the products their peers are buying and sharing. Influencers have tapped this vein, thus becoming the conduit to which the new generation receives their marketing messages. Align yourself with the right influencer speaking to the right audience, and loyalty will follow.
To pay or not to pay
That is the question. The conundrum has to do with the fact that much of earned media is actually paid media. And many marketers are all too happy to promote this canard. Even so, the lines can easily be blurred because each influencer is different. Some, like Felix Kjellberg, whose gaming site Pew DiePie channel boasts some 42 million subscribers, are content to receive free products they can sample and review. Others, like Kelli and Daniel Segars of the YouTube hit Fitness Blender operate under the philosophy that their work is their livelihood, and they utilize the exposure the platform provides to launch their own commercial endeavors. The trick is navigating the ethics that varies from influencer to influencer and thought leader to thought leader. To go from paid media to earned media is to first and foremost ensure that the partnership doesn’t lessen the credibility of the influencer. Such tactics are transparent to today’s highly engaged consumers. Brands need to ensure that their product or service fits in the wheelhouse of the opinion leader.
These facts on the ground should act as a springboard for every marketers looking to round out his or her social-media strategy. Influencer marketing should be a major component (if not the component) of this endeavor, because doing it successfully is all but guaranteed to increase ROI and brand loyalty.