When you are scrolling through your newsfeed, do you ever see a post from a blogger or public figure drinking their favorite coffee, or calling out their favorite clothing brand? More companies are partnering with these “brand influencers” as part of advertising campaigns. The Gap, Naked Juice, and The Home Depot have brand influencer programs in place. In fact, approximately $250 million is spent on influencer marketing every month, according to Bloomberg. A brand influencer could be a well-known celebrity or athlete, or a blogger with a large social media following. One of the appeals of creating partnerships with influencers is that many of them have niche specialties such as health & wellness, food, fashion, or travel. Consider YouTube star Tyler Oakley, who has 7.9 million subscribers and over 600 million views, fashion blogger Kristina Bazan, with over 2.4 million Instagram followers, or food blogger Ruth Reichl, with over 1 million Twitter followers. The main social platforms that influencers utilize are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
There are many factors that a company must consider before executing an influencer program. It is important for a company to identify the goals of the campaign, whether it be to create brand awareness, increase sales, or gain new customers. It is more effective for an advertiser to integrate a brand influencer program into their overall media strategy rather than viewing it as a stand-alone program. Furthermore, brands have more success with incorporating a long-term partnership vs. a one-time post. By strategically creating partnerships with influencers who align with their brand, companies can deliver impactful results. Iceland, a grocery store in the UK, collaborated with a mom-focused vlogging social network called “Channel Mum” for a frozen food campaign over the course of a year, with a goal of changing perceptions regarding frozen food. The campaign was supported with digital, OOH, and print. The series of videos featured real-life mom vloggers trying Iceland’s food for the first time. Iceland’s quality perception score among British consumers has risen 5.3% over the last year. Their brand influencer program helped them to shift perceptions among their target.
Authenticity is crucial when choosing an influencer. A whopping 92% of consumers said that they would trust an influencer more than a traditional celebrity endorsement. Audiences are more receptive to someone who they feel they can relate to. Think about it, are you more likely to purchase a product if you hear a word-of-mouth recommendation, or if you see that Kim Kardashian endorsed the product? Most influencers regularly post content that is relevant to their followers, which leads followers to trust their opinions.
Regulations is an issue that comes up with influencer programs. Lines can be blurry since this is a new space for many advertisers and influencers themselves. The FTC has outlined regulations that apply to influencers. Transparency is key when it comes to creating trust with your audience. Influencers must disclose when they are getting paid or receiving free products to promote a brand. Warner Bros Home entertainment settled with the FTC over charges they deceived their customers by paying influencers to promote a video game without disclosing they were paid and instructed on how to review it. This type of situation can be easily avoided by following the proper disclosure regulations up front.
Among the brands that have implemented influencer programs are huge companies like Amazon and Nike, to small businesses that want to connect with their communities. A study by Tomoson found that 59% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months. Small clients can utilize micro influencers who typically have 1,000-100,000 followers and tend to engage more with their followers. These influencers could potentially be more effective because they have targeted fans and tend to have more of an authentic appeal to them. Micro influencers are more affordable for smaller clients and can deliver strong results.
Influencer campaigns are most successful when incorporated into an integrated media plan across multiple channels. Before jumping into an influencer program, a brand should take the time to research whether it will be a good fit for their company. Brands should develop a plan with measurable goals, and strategically select influencers to build long-term partnerships with to see impactful results.