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The way brands interact with consumers has changed tremendously over the last several years. As market competition continues to grow across industries, and customers have more buying options to chose from, relationship marketing – particularly influencer marketing – is taking a lead role in how businesses advertise their products and services.

And influencer marketing isn’t just a fad. Brands continue to develop and increase their use of influencer marketing because it works! the chart below demonstrates that companies earned an average of $6.85 for every $1 they spent on blogger influencer marketing. Meanwhile, a survey by Variety discovered that teens are more likely to buy products endorsed by YouTube stars than they would from Hollywood celebrities.

source: Burst Media, *2014 influencer marketing Benchmarks Report*

In short, those who use influencer marketing effectively are reaping substantial financial rewards. This article will help you better understand the why, who, and how of influencer marketing in 2016 – ensuring that you are prepared to make the most of this trend across your own marketing strategies.

Let’s get started!

In this article…

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is the act of identifying trusted individuals with an engaged audience and directing marketing activities towards these influencers to receive publicly visible endorsements of a brand, service, or product.

[Tweet ““ When these influencers speak, people listen “”]

Influencer marketing strategies target key individuals rather than the market as a whole. These key people are trusted by their communities and have a highly engaged and active audience. When these influencers speak, people listen.

By placing a brand, service, or product in front of these individual’s audiences, with their direct endorsement, a business can substantially increase brand awareness, credibility, and sales.

Most influencer marketing campaigns include a combination of social media marketing and content marketing strategies – establishing brand credibility through a series of mentions, praises, and reviews by influencers. By receiving word of mouth marketing from respected thought leaders, companies gain a level of recognition that is much harder to come by independently.

word of mouth

Source: BetaBait

Brands create influencer marketing campaigns to help with a wide range of objectives, including: launching a new product, making a message viral, increasing brand awareness, and communicating important milestones.

Anytime a message needs substantial amounts of exposure, tapping into an influencer’s network can be tremendously beneficial.

What is an influencer?

The Oxford Dictionary defines influence as “The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself”. An influencer then, is someone who can affect the character, development or behavior of others. They are the people shaping the future of their communities.

An influencer is someone who is active, well connected, and highly respected within a community. They are people whose opinions and actions help shape the direction of an industry or community.

Historically, the most common influencers included politicians, prominent authors, movie stars, and other entertainers. Today, influencers also include bloggers, forums and website owners, YouTube stars, and social media experts. Some of these non-traditional celebrities can be even more influential than established “real” celebrities from Hollywood or Broadway.

How do you determine if someone is an influencer?

In one sense of the word, everyone’s an influencer. Most individuals know people at home, work, or in their neighborhoods who value their opinion on at least a few topics. But obviously, we wouldn’t consider these people to be influencers. So how do you determine if someone is an influencer?

In the world of online influencer marketing, the most common way to determine someone’s realm of influence is to look at a variety of KPIs such as reach, views, and engagement rates.

For a blogger influencer, someone with over 250,000 monthly visitors is considered in the top 5% of influencers, 25,000+ monthly visits is in the top 10%, and 2,500-25,000 is considered a power-middle influencer. Depending on your niche, this traffic level could be higher or lower.

Regardless of what KPI you evaluate, there are a few attributes/qualities that are consistent across all influencers:

  • Influencers are experts in personal branding

If a blogger, YouTuber, or social media expert has the above attributes, you can safely assume that they are a thought leader and influencer within their industry.

How influencer marketing benefits both B2B and B2C marketing strategies

Influencer marketing works across a diverse range of markets – both in the business-to-consumer (B2C) and in the business-to-business (B2B) arenas.

In the B2B world, most purchases are based off of the reviews and opinions of peers. In fact, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey, 72% of respondents stated that they look to industry peers while researching relevant content for B2B purchasing decisions. Considering most B2B purchases involve substantial amounts of research, reviews and recommendations from credible sources can play an integral role in the final buying decision.

Meanwhile, B2C Influencer marketing is a great tool for consumer engagement, brand awareness, and sales. While B2B influencer marketing can be a bit broader in nature (as customers may come from a wide range of interests) it’s still wise to find where your key audience spends their time, and focus on those niches. For example, mommy bloggers, teen bloggers, and sport bloggers are all exceptional marketing opportunities in their respective industries.

Why is influencer marketing so popular?

It does not take long to discover that influencer marketing is quickly growing in popularity. Everyone from travel brands, to department stores, to startups are replacing traditional forms of advertising with influencer marketing.

But why is this?

Well, it’s because influencer marketing has become a more effective way to spend advertising dollars, for a number of reasons:

Consumers don’t trust brands, and display advertising has lost its effectiveness

Consumers are losing confidence in brands – particularly those that rely on traditional forms of marketing.

[Tweet ““ Content that doesn’t provide value quickly diminishes a brand’s credibility to readers ””]

Considering that the average consumer is exposed to 4,000-10,000 advertising messages every day, ads have largely lost their impact. For example, traditional online advertising’s CTR has been divided by 10 every year for the last 10 years – people just don’t click on sponsored links anymore.

Meanwhile, when emails, twitter handles, or television stations become inundated with ads, we are quick to skip, unfollow, unsubscribe, and ignore. Content that doesn’t provide value quickly diminishes a brand’s credibility to readers.

Brands are discovering that they receive greater value with inbound marketing than traditional outbound marketing. And influencers are one of the most effective ways to attract potential customers organically. This extract from Mashable’s infographic demonstrates the value of inbound marketing. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.14.13

Source: Mashable

The social media market is mature, but still evolving

Currently, the world of social media is perfectly aligned for creative brand marketers. While the market is mature, there are still new apps and networks continually emerging. Meanwhile, new bloggers and thought leaders enter nearly every industry on a daily basis.

While there are 2.3 billion active social media users in the world and this number continues to grow, the usage of Facebook and Twitter has remained flat since 2014.

What does this mean for businesses? It suggests that there are always new platforms where a brand or individual can become a thought leader. Consumers no longer focus exclusively on a few TV channels and radio stations for information – they now search Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Vimeo, Periscope, Vine, and the many new platforms and networks that arise.

This combination of maturity and innovation allows brands to effectively and inexpensively grow their marketing strategy through social media influencers – without breaking the bank.

Bloggers and online influencers are the new thought leaders

Particularly among Millennials, bloggers and other online influencers are taking on new roles as thought leaders and decision makers.

[Tweet ““ Anyone with a community, big or small, is an influencer “”]

With highly engaged communities that trust their opinions, influencers have the ability to influence sales and decisions as a friend, rather than a marketer.

But social media influencers aren’t only bloggers with large followings, often times they actually are our friends. Anyone with a community, big or small, is an influencer. And, while paying for a mention by a leading television station or magazine may cost a fortune, hiring a local celebrity or community leader to mention a brand can be fall less expensive.

Meanwhile, bloggers and other online influencers are actually becoming more influential than traditional celebrities! A joint study between Twitter and Annalect discovered that 40 percent of respondents purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine or YouTube.

When a brand’s message is mentioned by influencers, it resonates better with consumers – and encourages a purchase without sounding overly promotional or spammy.

7 Reasons why you need to use influencer marketing as part of your strategy

Influencer marketing isn’t just a trend, it’s here to stay – and it’s an incredibly powerful addition to any brand’s marketing strategy. From Adweek, to Act-On, to ConvinceAndConvert, many industry leaders agree that influencer marketing is key to future success in the world of online marketing.

Here are seven reasons why we at Upfluence believe you should use influencer marketing…

1. Influencer marketing effectively fills an industry need

Brands benefit from targeting the right people with their advertising – and influencer marketing makes it easy to know exactly who you’re ads are reaching. While paid advertising often goes to uninterested viewers, influencer marketing is seen by people who are actively interested and engaged with your specific niche.

Here is a bubble chart to give you an idea of click-though rates (CTR) and costs per click (CPC) per industry we observed for our own campaigns over the last 6 months. CTRs are substantially higher than other channels.

Click Through Rate (CTR) and Cost Per Click (CPC) per industry 

source: Upfluence campaign data over the last 6 months 

Furthermore, because influencers often have a highly rated website, receiving links from these sources can help boost your SEO.

Meanwhile, consumers benefit from influencer marketing because the product or service has already been vetted by a trusted source – allowing them to do a more serious evaluation of the product rather than trying to determine its credibility themselves.

2. Influencer marketing offers huge ROI

Influencer content creates 4 times the ROI of traditional ads. That means that your brand can access 1000 customers for every 250 that other forms of advertising bring in.

On average, marketers who implement an influencer marketing program in 2014 received $6.85 in earned media value for every $1 of paid media.

3. Influencer marketing is becoming very popular

75% of marketing professionals consider influencer engagement effective in lead generation. And that’s because it works. In 2015, 59 percent of respondents to a business study said they were planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets in the following 12 months. The trend is continuing to grow – and brands that jump on earlier, rather than later, will likely benefit the most.

4. Influencer marketing is a healthy mix between word-of-mouth marketing and native advertising

One of the most effective sales strategies is word-of-mouth marketing (WoM). And while a happy customer is an obvious way to make this happen, receiving mentions online is also effective.

Meanwhile with native ads viewed 53% more than banner ads, finding ways to increase your “organic” online visibility is critical. Sponsored posts shared on the blogs of popular influencers is an excellent way to achieve this.

As influencer marketing is often in the form of a recommendation, it’s an authentic way to receive positive visibility – even if it’s through a sponsored blog post.

5. Influencer marketing is more effective than banner ads

Influencer Marketing delivers 11x banner ads ROI. It is one of the most powerful marketing tool available today. And considering the blog post will stay up permanently, unlike the banner ad – it offers long-term benefit as well.

6. People love influencer marketing content

The most appreciated forms of marketing (from a consumer’s perspective) is valuable and engaging content through articles, videos, social media posts, and other useful resources.

These are the main tools that influencers use to discuss your brand! This allows viewers to interact with your brand in a far more meaningful way than they would through a banner ad or paid search placement.

7. Influencer marketing can be used for multiple purposes

As this graph illustrates, influencer marketing can benefit a wide range of marketing activities – from product launches to general SEO. Therefore, well established relationships with blogger influencers can have long-term benefits across multiple marketing campaigns.

 

Who’s currently using influencer marketing and what are their results?

While a study from Burst Media shares that food and fashion brands earn the most from paid media, it can benefit a wide range of companies in other industries as well. Here are a few brands that are benefiting from using influencer marketing for a variety of reasons – from brand awareness, to sponsorship, to sampling, to new product launches and rebranding.

Ralph Lauren

  • What they did: They needed to promote their new Ralph Lauren RL Automotive Watch in several countries. To do this, they collaborated with the blog The Fashionisto.. Read more…
  • Takeaway: Influencers sometimes have better PR reach than renowned magazines and you can easily track campaign results through clicks, views, and time on site.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 17.28.36

Example of Ralph Lauren’s sponsored post

Ricola

  • What they did: Used influencers to promote their 75th anniversary and generate storytelling toward their brand. Read more…
  • Takeaway: Letting influencers talk for you can create some of the best stories around your brand.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 17.24.55

Example of Ricola’s social post 

Why do brands need to invest in influencer marketing?

As the above three campaigns reveal, there are a plethora of benefits that come with using influencer marketing.

Specifically, they include:

      • Brands can directly address their target audience via the influencer – as they are already aware of who their community consists of.
      • Most influencers are able to deliver a lot of impressions and engagement. Articles or posts also remain on the web for an extended period of time.
      • Brand mentions on established websites benefit both SEO and brand awareness.
      • Content shared by influencers often results in high conversions – including leads, reads, website visits, and ultimately, sales.
      • Although bloggers used to intimidate brands because of their content quality, businesses are now realizing that bloggers can provide incredibly high levels of quality – for a far better price. Meanwhile most bloggers are willing to work closely with brands to ensure that the image meets their needs. For example, consider Alpina, a Swiss watch manufacturer and their article and Facebook post in a lesser-known publication.

How to run a successful influencer marketing campaign: 5 steps

Running a successful influencer marketing campaign means more than simply paying a few bloggers to write an article about your brand. Although a single blog post can have a substantial impact, the key to success is to ensure high visibility and consistency across multiple outlets.

As our case study on the Victorinox campaign illustrates, there are five steps to creating an effective influencer marketing strategy.

The five steps are as follows.

1. Establish your marketing goals

The first step to running an influencer marketing campaign is to understand your goals. Create and establish a clear outline of what you want to achieve with the campaign – is it to raise awareness, drive sales, increase your social media following, or achieve some other objective?

Furthermore, define what your campaign KPIs are and how you will measure success. Will it be based on the number of views, shares, clicks, etc.? By clearly defining your objective, it becomes possible to determine which activities to pursue.

2. Identify and select the right influencers

Finding the right influencers – and the ones that are willing to support your message – can be a bit tricky at times. Most brands resort to Google, Twitter, or Followerwonk searches to find influencers. While this helps find influencers, it can still be difficult to find influencers willing to promote your brand.

Another, and often more effective alternative, is to use an influencer search engine such as Facade by Upfluence. These types of platforms help you search for influencers who may actually be willing to develop a relationship and promote your content on a regular basis.

Facade overview

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 16.41.16

The goal with influencer marketing is to find bloggers or other influencers who are willing to become advocates for your brand. When these bloggers are genuinely excited about what you have to offer, they will be highly enthusiastic and authentic with their promotions.

Finally, you’ll want to determine the type of influencer that will be most effective at promoting your brand, within budget. The four categories of influencer blogger are:

      • Celebrity: The traditional movie star or athlete who is recognizable across industries.
      • Top 5% blogger: High-ranking influencers with an Alexa rank lower than 100 000 whose website usually benefits from +250K monthly visits
      • Top 10%: Influencers with between 250,000 and 25,001 recurring monthly visitors and having an Alexa rank between 100 001 and 200 000.
      • Power Middle: The power middle is an influencer of “average” influence.  They have between 2,500 and 25,000 recurring monthly visitors and their Alexa rank is above 200 001. Their audience is highly targeted and highly engaged. They create a lot of value for brands.

The further you work your way down this list, the less expensive the price will be per influencer, but the lower the reach would be of each blogger’s network. Depending on the diversity of your audience, some brands prefer to hire several top 5% bloggers, while others prefer to activate dozens, or hundreds of power middle influencers.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your desired KPI outcomes. But regardless of your objectives, the more separate influencers mention your brand within a customer’s network, the more likely that customer will be to make a purchase.

3. Supervise the content creation

When working with influencers, there are two things that you absolutely do not want to do. First, don’t just send them an article to publish under their name – as it’s important for the article to be written in their own voice to remain credible. Second, you don’t want to simply have the influencer write whatever comes to mind – as that can result in mediocre value for your brand.

The key is to find a healthy middle ground. Give the influencer a positive experience with your brand, and enough supporting content to create a healthy article – and then let them create it in their own voice. Once the article is completed, request that the influencer allows you to review the article before its publication.

And, while you want the review to be honest, if it doesn’t meet your needs you may wish to further discuss how to move forward with the influencers – finding a win-win outcome for both of you.

4. Help the content to resonate and spread

Simply having influencers share your message isn’t enough – you want it to go viral.

While you should have an agreement with the influencer that states they will share the content across their own networks, it’s also important to amplify the content yourself. Invest in native advertising to further promote the published articles and promote them across your own social media accounts.

5. Track results

Finally, as the campaign continues, and ultimately concludes, track your results.

Measure the ROI based on your original KPI objectives. Did you achieve your desired goals? Don’t just look at the obvious shares and pageviews, but also consider bounce rates and reactions to social media posts.

Compare your final results with what would you have paid to achieve those same results through another marketing strategy. This is the ultimate measure of the success of your influencer marketing campaign.

Finally, use the campaign results to improve the way that you digitally communicate with your audience in the future. This will ensure that your brand continues to build off the momentum developed through your influencer campaign.

Things to remember: Key elements to a successful influencer marketing campaign

To recap, as you develop your influencer marketing campaign, remember to:

      • Set your goals clearly. Know the main KPIs and the purpose of your campaign.
      • Define your target audience(s). Understand who you need to target and where to find them.
      • Find the right influencers. Depending on your goals and desired audience, find influencers to work with that will most effectively help you reach your objectives.
      • Deliver the right value, to the right audience, at the right time. Fulfill the audience’s needs by offering them something of value that can solve an immediate need.
      • Maintain long-term relationship with influencers. Don’t let the relationship stop just because the campaign ended.

Follow this advice and you’ll have a highly successful influencer marketing campaign, every time.

Closing thoughts…

Influencer marketing is one of the leading promotional strategies of 2016 – and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. A plethora of brands from around the world use influencer marketing to raise awareness, increase engagement, and boost their bottom line.

Whether you’re already using influencer marketing or just getting started, we hope that this article can give you a solid understanding of what influencer marketing is, and how you can enhance your current marketing strategy through the effective use of bloggers, YouTubers, and other influencers.

If you’re interested in learning more, or launching your own influencer marketing campaign, feel free to reach out to the Upfluence team – we’re more than happy to help answer your influencer marketing questions.

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