Why social media (of any kind) works comes down to two things: authenticity and reach. Let’s examine what each means exactly.
Authenticity — The quality of being genuine, reliable, and/or original.
Reach — A measurement of how far a conversation can go, such as the potential audience size.
Personal brands, in particular, are often able to really evoke an authentic approach to how they communicate with their audience. Why? Because personal brands are authentic almost by definition. They tend to present themselves as real and natural. They promote conversation with their audience. What they don’t do is push for a sale or appear to want anything from their audience.
As for big brands — many are benefiting from influencers without us even noticing. Hot Topic, for example, puts more budget into brand influencers than its own marketing. And Starbucks, as we’ve already seen, is making a huge effort. Big brands are so much a part of our life that they’ve mastered subliminal marketing.
In other words, big brands are trying to emulate the natural and authentic feel of small brands. As for the small brands themselves, they can grow by taking advantage of the reach offered by social media influencers.
What Are Social Media Influencers?
Social media influencers are users on social media who are able to persuade others to buy from the brands they work with. Their influence stems from a good relationship with their followers, a sense of authority, and often a knowledge about a particular industry.
There are two types of social media influencers:
Celebrity influencers, who typically have an access to a very large audience.
Micro–influencers, who have access to a niche audience.
Social media influencers are the online equivalent of those all-but-subtle moments when a talk show host like Jimmy Fallon works a Taco Bell logo into his nightly routine. Ya — that!
Subliminal marketing messages often go unnoticed. Starbucks, for example, became great at strategically placing high-quality photos of cozy café environments. It became “a thing” for writers, thinkers, students, and entrepreneurs to casually have a Starbucks coffee somewhere in the photo. Plus, Starbucks is solely responsible for the hundreds of stock photos you see of creative desks with coffee cups artfully displayed in the corner. True story!
Why Social Media Influencers Work
Consumers’ trust in brands has steadily been decreasing over the past few years. This is one of the reasons why brands struggle to be seen in Facebook newsfeeds. The people have revolted!
The biggest challenge for social media is to compete with new “dark social” activities. This is the only way that they’ll remain popular with the next generation. Platforms like Facebook have to respond to the reasons why users claim to stop using the site or delete their accounts entirely — and the number one complaint is advertisements. As Facebook can’t exist without advertisements, what they’ve done is reduce ads and increase posts from friends and family.
The solution for this conundrum for brands is… hire a social influencer. This allows you to stay in front of your target audience and, at the same time, develop stronger connections with consumers.
Social Media Influencers Are the New Word of Mouth
Naturally, word-of-mouth referrals fit the ticket. Even back in 2015, word-of-mouth recommendations were outperforming all other advertising types, as shown in research by . One finding was that 83 percent of Americans completely trust endorsements and recommendations from people they know… or from those think they know. Additionally, 66 percent of Americans strongly believe in customers’ opinions posted online.
Word of mouth has always been one of the most effective forms of marketing, but it can be limited in its reach. One satisfied customer telling a few friends does little for the overall success of a business. Social media influencers, however, are able to reach a huge number of followers. All they need is to develop a sense of trust. Then, they can strategically release sponsored posts as “suggestions” for their audience.
Many social media influencers maintain a level of trust with their audience by being upfront. They say something along the lines of “This is a sponsored post, but I do really want to tell you about why I personally love X…”
Even though the content is sponsored, followers believe that they are following someone who is genuinely excited about the brand or product. They believe that the influencer would never promote something just to be paid — they feel sure that the influencer is choosing great products. Social media influencers who inspire that kind of trust are exactly the types of users you want to find and work with!
Have I Ever Interacted with a Social Media Influencer?
Social media influencers are users with an established credibility in a specific industry. If you’ve ever read a mom blog, browsed someone’s personal photography site, watched a how-to video on YouTube, or seen an “Unboxing” video for a new product, you’ve been watching a social media influencer at play.
The world is full of fitness buffs, creative cooks, and makeup aficionados — and we don’t always see them as influencers.
How Do I Find My Own Social Media Influencers?
Before you start asking others to promote your business, you need to understand what you’re looking for!
- Identify what influential topics speak to your target buyers. This is similar to identifying your buyer’s persona. What are your buyers interested in — related your business or otherwise? Are they typically highly-educated golfers? Avid watchers of The Bachelor? Think outside of the box and get to know your buyers.
- Act as if you are one of your customers. Find people you would follow online (via a blog or social media). Consider content quality, reach, engagement, and whether the influencer’s values align with those of your brand.
- Decide, after a bit of research, if you want to partner with an influencer on content collaboration. Also decide if you want to run a single campaign or create a longer-term relationship, which may involve co-creating content.
- Reach out to potential influencers via email or social media. Ask them if they would be interested in partnering with your brand for compensation.
- Measure campaigns as best as you can. With social media influencers, you need to use tracked links strategically. In some cases, like Snapchat or Instagram stories, linking is inappropriate. Instead, come up with a hashtag can monitor. Set a specific time parameter around your campaign. You can then monitor the number of social media and organic search terms that use your hashtag to receive an accurate view of how many people have been “influenced” by these posts. Also monitor any changes in sales, clicks, and visits. If you have the capabilities, create an entirely different website around your campaign to monitor traffic. (Keep in mind that you’ll still receive untraceable traffic to your main website and social media channels.)
For more on how to find influencers for your brand, check out this article.
Case In Point
The best way to understand how a social media influencer can help your brand is to look at a case study. Here’s what digital marketing manager Steven Macdonald had to say about the experience:
“No payment was made to any of the influencers. In order to get the influencers to take part in the campaign, we gave them an exclusive look at a new customer service study that was not published online. Using influencers as part of our campaign launch lead to increasing website traffic by 77% and leads by 100% compared to the same period last year. This doesn’t include the long-lasting impact it will have on our SEO traffic given the global press coverage we’ve received. The biggest advantage is the number of business leads we’ve been able to generate at zero cost. The ROI on this influencer campaign is priceless.“
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should I pay a social media influencer?
Before you bid, calculate both your brand’s and the influencer’s typical conversion rates. This will allow you to determine the potential ROI for a collaboration. Bear in mind that each influencer will provide you with a different value. Your compensation should be relative to the probable outcomes. Focus on potential reach to determine fair compensation.
To determine your budget, think about what you would pay for content through a different medium — such as social PPC or to create a professional video. You should be willing to pay the same to receive similar results from an influencer.
Will social media influencers work for me?
To determine if a social media influencer strategy would work for you, get to know some social media influencers. A good place to start is with users you follow online. Check out what influencers are doing and think about how something similar could work for your brand.
Should I use celebrity influencers or micro-influencers?
Determine if what you are looking for (and what your budget allows for) is more of a celebrity social media influencer or a micro-influencer.
Although micro-influencers have a significantly smaller social media following (as in tens of thousands), they do have the ability to influence purchases and product promotion. Whereas celebrity influencers may have 250,000 followers and boast high impressions, they may not be able to say the same. As you should already know from your own social media accounts, followers are not everything. What truly matters is engagement — comments, likes, shares, etc.
There are a few reasons why a micro-influencer is often the better option. Firstly, even a one-time collaboration with a micro-influencer may lead to better results than a long-term collaboration contract with a super-influencer. Plus, celebrity influencers have much higher rates, due to your access to a large follower base. Finally, such influencers typically use an agent or agency representative for influencer agreements.
How much does an influencer cost?
- The average price was $271 per post,
- The average price for micro-influencers (those with fewer than 1,000 followers) was $83 per post,
- And the average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $763 per post.
- $175 per collaboration for blogs with 10,000 monthly impressions
- $500 per collaboration for blogs with 100,000 to 500,000 monthly impressions
- $1,000 to $5,000 per collaboration for blogs that receive 500,000+ monthly impressions
You should bear in mind that as influencer marketing gains in popularity, price margins will likely increase.
Does using social media influencers work?
Can I create my own social media influencers?
Absolutely — and you should! Brand advocates and social media influencers can happen naturally. Before investing in a large social media influence campaign, try implementing an employee advocacy program.
What is an employee advocacy program?
An employee advocacy program utilizes employees to promote new ideas or products. An employee advocate is someone who generates positive exposure and raises awareness for a brand through digital media or offline channels. Employees can do this by recommending the company’s products or services to friends or family members as well as through their own social media influence. For more about the benefits of and how to create an employee advocacy program, check out this article. And for help creating your own internal program, I .
Social media influencers take word-of-mouth marketing to the next level. If you want to present your brand, products, or services in an authentic way to a larger audience (and you should), a social media influencer is for you. Make sure you choose the right influencer for your brand by considering factors like budget, target audience, and how long you want the relationship to last. Finally, develop a plan to measure the impact of the influencer to be sure your strategy is working.