In the last five years, social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have increased in popularity on a global scale. Not only does this have implications for the consumer, but for the marketing industry too. Due to this, influencer marketing (IM) has become one of the leading techniques for online marketing. But how can you use it to increase sales?
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing focuses on targeting key social media leaders, or ‘influencers’, to help drive brand message and awareness to a specific market of consumers. In the UK, the big influencers include Zoe Sugg, Alfie Deyes and Stacey Solomon. But, influencers can come at a cost – the more followers they have, the more money they can charge for promoting your product -so is influencer marketing cost-effective for smaller businesses (SME’s)?
Here’s our guide to all of the pros and cons of influencer marketing to consider before making your decision on whether it’s the right strategy for you.
For a small – medium-sized business, it can be difficult to create a relationship with your audience that promotes you as trustworthy and credible. This is a struggle for many brands, but IM can solve this. Influencer marketing utilises the already-established audience of the influencer.
A good example of this is Mum and lifestyle influencer Louise Pentland. Louise often produces paid Instagram stories for Olay, who she is an ambassador for, and Disney, who often gift her trips to Florida Disneyland. Louise only does brand deals with companies she already loves or believes her audience will love. Therefore, her audience is likely to believe in her opinion and are more likely to buy a product/service if she is recommending it personally. This also means you are marketing to the relevant audience.
Influencers are brilliant at building a relationship with their viewers to the point where they become part of a family. So, giving the influencer creative control means the advert comes across as organically as possible. Not only does this save time for you, but also ensures engaging, appropriate content that is almost certain to be a hit with the audience whilst adding to engagement and sales. This also means your company doesn’t require a large marketing team, making it cost-effective for small businesses.
Although working with influencers can be expensive, there are ways around this. Working with micro-influencers, who are online influencers with a smaller following, such as Emma Tamsin-Hill and Demi Donnelly. These are both UK influencers with a following of 114 – 180, 000 subscribers on YouTube.
These influencers still have a substantial following and can be useful for SMEs as they are likely to work for a smaller fee or even a gifted product/ experience. So, if your budget is on the lower side, micro-influencers are for you!
A useful benefit of influencer marketing is that influencers can not only advertise to the consumer, but they can also advertise to businesses. The influencer becomes the middleman between the business (you) and the business owners that are being targeted.
An example of this is Theo Paphitis. Who? Paphitis is well known for his role as an entrepreneur on BBC Two’s ‘Dragon’s Den’. He uses his twitter account to promote small businesses in what he calls the ‘Small Business Sunday’s Award’. As an influential man, especially in the business world, Paphitis draws a large audience to these posts, allowing the small businesses to gain engagement and hopefully, followers.
As mentioned, working with influencers can be expensive and this is an issue if you’re not getting the desired results. It’s difficult to measure results from IM, so it’s risky to put thousands of pounds into a marketing technique that isn’t necessarily working for you.
One major problem with influencer marketing is a failed campaign. Working with the wrong influencers can do more harm than good to your brand. An example of this is the YouTube scandal between American makeup influencers, and good friends, James Charles and Tati Westbrook. In 2019, James posted an ad for UK company ‘SugarBearHair’ (SBH) vitamins on his Snapchat story. At the time, SugarBearHair was a direct competitor for Tati’s company, ‘Halo Beauty’.
There are two reasons why this caused a backlash, not just for James, but for SugarBearHair too. James was ridiculed for selling out his close friend. This reflected badly on SBH too. James and SBH were scorned together for the production and advertisement of ‘diet pills’. It was regarded as yet another toxic advert for diet culture, considered damaging to mental health, especially as it was directed at an audience made up mostly of teenage girls.
This marketing campaign was a huge flop for SugarBearHair and James, causing bad press for both brands. James lost over two million subscribers in two days! Not a marketing dream.
Ghost followers are fake social media accounts that are often created by bots and are a big hindrance to influencer marketing. Although ghost followers can effectively boost followers for a brand, they do mean that the influencer’s content isn’t really being seen/engaged with.
The issue of undeclared ads became prominent in 2019 when influencers became required by law to declare whether their branded content is paid for or gifted. This becomes a problem for influencer marketing as YouTuber’s have found that consumers are less prone to click on a post if they know it’s an ad. Hence, making a post as organic as possible is essential for successful influencer marketing.
Some of the most successful UK brands that use influencer marketing include Boohoo, McDonalds and Disney UK. These brands use similar techniques across their social media platforms and these seemingly small tactics can do the world of good.
Often, audiences do not like feeling as though the influencer is making an ad purely for the money, so ads are often berated. But, creating an organic ad can help combat this.
A brilliant example of this is influencer Emma Tamsin-Hill, a plus-size YouTuber, ‘Instagramer’ and clothing line CEO. She often creates brand deal videos with the likes of Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Fashion Nova. Because her brand identity is all about body positivity, these brand deals fit seamlessly into her online persona and brand. This allows the audience to feel less targeted and the ad feels more like a simple recommendation from a friend.
An effective tactic is when a brand forms a long-lasting relationship with an influencer, with multiple posts over a year or more. This builds up more trust with an audience as they begin to believe that the influencer truly does love the product or service. A great example of this is British comedy YouTuber, ‘Jack Maate’. For the past 3 years Jack has been working in collaboration with NCS (National Citizen Service) to promote the programme to teens. As this campaign has been going on so long, Jack’s audience knows that he believes in the service. NCS, therefore, have a credible and trusted marketing campaign.
Lastly, here are three quick fire ways to improve influencer marketing/brand engagement.
These are always a handy way of encouraging post engagement as audiences are often happy to comment/like a post if they believe they will get something for free.
If an influencer offers a promotion code to get discounts for a brand’s product or service, this often prompts a customer to buy as they believe they are getting a great deal, rather than being targeted.
Marketing, as you know, is all about improving engagement. So, using hashtags creates a wider audience for your posts, especially as ‘Instagramers’ can now follow a certain hashtag. Ideally, if your post begins to trend on Twitter, SO many people will see it that you won’t know where to start with all your new customers.
So, there you have it. All you need to know about the new and exciting world of influencer marketing. Is it right for your brand?