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Influencer marketing - Dead or alive?

23rd Jul 2018
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Although the waning power of celebrity product endorsements – a recent study by Collective Bias found that just 3% of consumers surveyed were swayed into making a purchase based on an A-Lister’s recommendation – has prompted some to speculate that the efficacy of influencer marketing is on the decline, the continued exponential growth in users of apps like Instagram and accompanying explosive rise of the ‘social media influencer’ continue to prove that notion to be entirely outmoded.

It’s tempting to dismiss such an appraisal as overly hyperbolic, but the data underpinning these assertions confirms them to be an accurate reflection of the current marketing landscape. The same survey that warned against throwing your money at the household names adorning red carpets the world over found that an endorsement from a non-celebrity blogger was a deciding factor for 30% of respondents; a tenfold increase on the potential ROI offered by their Hollywood counterparts and clear evidence that positive word of mouth is just as effective as it ever was at getting people to open their wallets.

Indeed, providing those words are coming out of the right mouth, there is ample evidence to suggest that, far from being on the way out, influencer marketing could actually be in a stronger position than ever before. When considering brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to online shopping, the Collective Bias study found an incredible 60% of respondents had social media posts and blog reviews at the forefront of their minds. In online influencers, we are witnessing in near-real time the emergence of a new dominant force in the advertising world.

To truly illustrate this shift in the balance of power, we draw on the study referenced at the outset one final time. When asked about the established ‘old guard’ advertising techniques, respondents were scathing in their views on the influence held by digital ads (4.5%), print ads (4.7%), and TV ads (7.4%). Consumer focus is shifting, and these figures clearly show that businesses of all sizes should be paying attention.

One of the most interesting new developments to have emerged primarily through the growth of Instagram – and one which serves to aptly demonstrate that the benefits of proper influencer marketing are not limited to any one sector or industry – has been the rise of the “celebrity pet”. There are countless Instagram pages for critters of all kinds out there, and some of them have audiences that number in the hundreds of thousands. A recent study by Mars Petcare hammered home the potential power of these animal influencers, with 30% of respondents indicating that they follow and engage with some of these particularly popular accounts.

The upshot of this, of course, is that both long-established and new and upcoming petcare brands can take advantage of this innovative new opportunity to have their products cast in a positive light to a sizeable audience through social media. Whether it’s an animal or human making the endorsement, the fundamental psychological principles behind their continued success are the same: consumers flock to and heed the words of these non-celebrity individuals because of an appearance of relatability and the idea that these products are by and for people just like them. If your brand or business targets these kinds of influencers, the ROI on any campaign will be much greater.

Although Instagram is by many accounts the social media platform most suited to harnessing the power of influencer marketing – due in no small part to an image-centric focus allowing for concise and clear brand representation and a nigh-infinitely voluminous community of active users to cast their eyes upon it – it is far from the only one where advertisers can enjoy tremendous success. Twitter, too, presents an attractive proposition and there is ample data supporting its utilisation in influencer-led advertising campaigns.

Research that the site commissioned into the subject found that, even before the influencer element was introduced into the equation, the mere presence of a brand on the site made potential consumers 2.7 times more likely to make a purchase. If a given brand is then subsequently represented positively by a popular and relatable account acting in an ambassadorial capacity, the odds of a purchase being made jump to, on average, 5.2 times their original likelihood.

And as if that was not evidence enough, a further 20% of users on Twitter will go on to share an influencer-endorsed product recommendation amongst their own followers. Savvy advertisers can capitalise on this retweet functionality offered by Twitter to ensure that their product is seen even by people who do not follow the individual doing the initial promotion.

All of this is to say that influencer marketing in 2018 is alive and well, and when executed smartly across the right social media channels can drive sales to a level far unmatched by more traditional alternatives. All of that being said, however, are there any drawbacks to employing this approach on your latest campaign? For all its obvious benefits, the most – and, indeed, perhaps only – negative factor to be considered is the associated cost. Whilst smaller accounts may not charge a particularly high fee for an endorsement, it is not uncommon for those with much larger followings to leverage this into an asking price that is comparatively much larger.

With that in mind, it can often be prudent for smaller enterprises to consider taking out small business loans to cover the costs associated with such marketing campaigns, as such costs may prove inhibitive without outside financial assistance. Given the potential benefits of a well-planned influencer-led marketing campaign in terms of short-term sales and acquisition and long-term retention of both new customers and potential repeat partners for future advertising, it can certainly prove to be a sensible investment as part of the bigger picture for your business.

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