If your social media campaigns lack engagement, it may be time to inject a little personality into your brand and invest in influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing can be defined as a strategy primarily played out on social media channels. It typically involves brand mentions, endorsements and product placement from individuals who have an expert level of knowledge or wide sphere of influence across their field of interest.
It would be a mistake to dismiss the potential of influencer marketing as something that is only of interest to Gen Z consumers. The influencer marketing industry was worth a staggering $13.8 billion in 2021 and continues to grow.
While there are specific industries where influencers are more prominent (health and beauty, fashion, food, travel), you’ll find social influencers across all business verticals — including marketing. Here at emfluence, we regularly work with and refer to influencers to inform our in-house and clients’ marketing strategies.
Influencer Marketing Starts with You
The success of influencer marketing works on two elementary principles:
- People do business with people they like and trust.
- People are inspired to do business by people they identify with.
In the perfect world, a business will have an influencer at the very top of its business. This can be seen in the rise of “rock star” business leaders. The likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson (all literally reaching for the stars), easily fall into this category. But many other business leaders fall into this category while keeping their feet firmly on the ground.
Think of a brand you admire, and you’ll probably be able to visualize the individual at (or near) the top of the organization. You’ll also probably be able to identify influencers from industries you may have very little interest in — demonstrating the reach of social influence.
Love them or hate them, the Kardashians have built several multi-billion dollar brands on the back of their “personalities” and social influence. But this isn’t a new phenomenon.
The likes of Coco Channel and Henry Ford were rocking the role of high-profile business influencers long before the concept found a home on various social media channels.
Investing in a Public Face for Your Business
Even when a business doesn’t have an instantly recognizable leader, there will often be personalities that you immediately associate with a brand. There are many high-profile examples of organizations that employ influencers across both traditional and social media channels.
If you believe the influencer marketing trend has passed you by, consider how many celebrities you recognize have publicly endorsed the L’Oreal beauty brand with the slogan, “Because I’m Worth It.” These brand ambassadors aren’t Gen Z social media influencers who made their name in the last six months by dancing on TikTok or Instagram.
L’Oreal’s “dream team” of brand ambassadors of carefully selected artists, actors, and activists, including the model Cindy Bruna, the singer Céline Dion, and the actor Jane Fonda won’t come cheap. However, before you go cap-in-hand to your company accountant to see if you can afford to hire such high-profile ambassadors, influencer marketing doesn’t have to be so expensive. It may even be free.
Looking back to those “rock star” influencers we referenced earlier in this article, and the cash wasn’t always so free-flowing.
Amazon and Virgin both had very humble beginnings. Amazon famously sold its first books online from Bezos’s garage in Bellevue, Washington. A 15-year-old Branson founded the Virgin empire in his friend’s parent’s basement with a gift of £100 (less than $2,000 in today’s money). Bezos and Branson positioned themselves as the public face of their respective businesses because they had no other choice. These are just two examples of how access to limited budgets can prove advantageous.
Be The Expert
As a business owner, marketer, or senior manager, you are in the best possible position to be considered influential by your audience. Therefore, anything you can do to raise your profile and put yourself out there to promote your business should be encouraged.
This isn’t always easy.
Not everyone is comfortable positioning themselves on a pedestal. In such cases, they need to ask themselves the following questions:
- Is this just a case of self-doubt? If so, it may be time to re-examine the value you offer your organization and strive to overcome your fears. But, as with so many other things in life, when it comes to raising your profile as an influencer, there is little to fear than fear itself.
- Is there anyone else in the organization capable of doing this? Your colleagues are hired for their specific skills in your organization’s particular field of expertise. They may be interested in developing their personal profile. If you are not in a position or comfortable doing it yourself, you should encourage your colleagues to step up. You may be concerned that they will use this rise in profile as a stepping stone to work for another organization. However, when you invest in your colleagues, they are much more likely to stay with you.
Finding an Authentic Voice
Regardless of who positions themselves as the influencer in your organization, it’s your job as a business leader to steer the conversation but not stifle it.
Communications need to be authentic. This means speaking in your own voice and not being afraid to have a little fun. This also means giving those charged with speaking on behalf of your company the freedom to react to the conversation naturally. Having a “common sense” set of brand guidelines will help everyone keep on track without tying them up with the fear of saying something wrong. Remember, people do business with people they like. So be likeable.
Not every influencer has the power of a personal brand like “The Kardashians” to push their agenda. And not every brand has the budget to employ them. However, the scale of social media means there are millions of “micro-influencers” who, with a coordinated effort, can reach a sizable audience without the premium marketing costs associated with celebrities.
These micro-influencers will range from social media followers who occasionally promote your content with a “like” or “share”, through more prolific social media pundits who will comment and add value to your opinion, to “professional” influencers who will use a range of platforms, including social channels, blogs, email newsletters, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc. to amplify your voice.
Some of these influencers will promote your brand just because they like it. Others will be looking to hang their brand on your coattails and ride on the back of your sphere of influence. Alternatively, there will be brands that you wish to endorse. Finally, there will be influencers who seek to monetize their output with your support.
There are many different ways you can work with these influencers. These strategies might include:
- Supplying free products/access to services for review
- Offering access to affiliate programs which pay a commission on sales or registrations
- A direct payment in return for a social endorsement
When paying for social endorsement, there’s a balancing act between having control over the narrative and maintaining those all-important levels of authenticity.
In social media, any lack of authenticity will be seen as cynical and may prove damaging to both the brand and the influencer.
Where to Find Influencers
When you lead from the front, you’ll find it easier to recruit an army of micro-influencers keen to endorse your opinion and promote your brand.
There’s a good chance you already know several influencers in your field of expertise. You’ll already be connected with many of them on social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Building a profitable brand marketing relationship could be as easy as slipping into their DMs and starting a conversation.
Your marketing agency may also be able to connect you with individuals who have influence in your sphere of interest and negotiate any payment terms. Your agency will also work with you and your influencers to ensure your marketing objectives are reached while allowing your influencers to retain their integrity.
While working with social influencers sounds like fun, it should only ever be deployed as a serious marketing strategy. This means that analyzing and understanding the influence your campaigns have on our return on investment is just as important as in any other marketing strategy. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to work with an agency partner with a comprehensive view of your entire marketing strategy.
Do you need help planning, building and deploying an influencer marketing strategy as part of your wider social media activities? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.