What is the current landscape like?
As time has gone on people have grown more cynical toward traditional advertising and now advertising online. The feeling of untrustworthiness, of making ridiculous claims and playing to our most basic instincts. In a world which is saturated by advertising, it is hard for us to trust any of the claims marketeers make with traditional adverts.
And although we have all come to know and embrace the idea of online reviews on social media such as Facebook, Yell and Google most of us are also aware of real examples which exist proving even a ‘review’ may mean nothing. Remember for example the London restaurant which made it to the top of TripAdvisor rankings and was booked out months in advance despite not even existing?
We have all probably been to places which have come with rave online reviews from the general public only to walk away after a very average experience wondering what we have missed that everyone else saw – or whether we just have higher/different standards to everyone else?
As consumers, our cynicism is often eroded when recommendations for products come from friends or family members. This trusted recommendation comes with more credibility than an advertisement featuring actors or unspecified / misleading data and we are also given the added assurance these connections means they are more likely to share our tastes, values and even aspirations.
What is influencer marketing?
Enter “Influencer Marketing” the online version of word of mouth. An influencer is a real person, with pockets of followers / subscribers that have given permission to be shown content, thus the opportunity to place products and services in front of these audiences has arisen. Along with the ability to target certain demographics, industry sectors and geographies; influencer marketing is the new channel on the block but also, currently, the most controversial.
What many influencers have is a loyal following of people who not only trust and respect their opinion but also look to emulate their lifestyle, which can make for a highly engaged market who not only know what they want but how they want to live.
Who are these influencers and what makes them special?
Influencers are everyday people who have a passion and aren’t afraid to tell the world about it. Whether that be cooking, fashion, sport or shopping, in fact the possibilities are endless and in theory anyone with dedication and determination and a certain X-factor could become an influencer.
And by posting about their passion on social media, influencers have gained popularity, allowing them to shape and influence opinions on matters through blog posts, videos, pictures, tweets.
Unlike celebrities they may not always be instantly recognisable or categorised in terms of their fame but to their loyal followers they are very much a celebrity and hold massive sway.
How does it differ from celebrity endorsement?
Unlike celebrity endorsement where there is usually a formal agreement in place between both parties, influencers tend to be more selective about their affiliations, choosing to partner only with brands that reflect their unique personal brands and won’t alienate their specific followers.
Celebrities are also more likely to be endorsing a product simply for money where the relationship between a brand and an influencer may be more complicated or organic and money may not even change hands.
Examples of successful campaigns
For example, the most recent influencer marketing campaign we ran at Ceek Marketing was the for Peter Street Kitchen in Manchester owned by Radisson Edwardian Hotels which resulted in a 6,624% increase in traffic to their website.
We worked with a variety of influencers, national and local, that had various styles including food, fashion and lifestyle shots.
CEEK used our IRM methodology (Influencer Relationship Management) building relationships with influencers in the city on an ongoing basis and ensuring they were taken care of when they dined at Peter Street, for example making sure they are sat at tables with enough light and were recommended dishes which were the most photogenic.
Prior to the launch we selected 10 specific influencers to become “ambassadors” for the restaurant where they received credit to use in the restaurant in exchange for content being released on their feeds and an ongoing 25% discount. Ambassadors ranged from local foodies to premiership footballers.
We also managed several activation events almost exclusively for influencers in the city including a Day of the Dead Halloween party which resulted in a spike in bookings for the subsequent months.
When working with such a superior product there is a snowball effect where the ambassadors and influencers used in the early stages of the campaign, typically end up being some of our most loyal paying customers, also enticing other influencers to book naturally. After running a series of events with huge influencer coverage, when tickets were released for New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s events, they sold out with zero advertising spend.
What are the risks of influencer marketing?
The risks of Influencer marketing, especially with “Macro-influencers” (people of 100,000 plus followers on Instagram), need to be explored prior to considering any influencer marketing campaign. Aligning a brand with an ambassador with a large online following could prove catastrophic if the individual in question was to be involved in a scandal of any kind which in 2019, would be magnified / shared faster than ever before.
And there is often even debate as to how we measure or are accurate about how we measure the influence of these people, with numerous social media sites such as Instagram leaving follower numbers greatly reduced after they claim to have deleted fake accounts.
But when these risks are considered and managed, the return on investment on an effective influencer marketing strategy can outweigh all traditional marketing channels and elevate brand awareness quickly and cost effectively.
Influencer marketing can also save time and help brands reach the audience they want to engage with. Through relevant influencers, content is placed in front of social users who are already interested in a certain niche. Brands do not have to spend additional funds on testing and finding their audience – the influencer has already fostered this audience on their social media channels.
The first VidCon was held in the UK this year and I caught up with influencers CEEK work with regularly from the UK, US and across the world. Most of these meetings occurred at lunches, lounges and parties hosted by the likes of Adobe, YouTube and Instagram. These huge technology companies are heavily dependent and invested in influencers to keep eyeballs on their platforms, products and services. For the social media platforms themselves, to neglect managing the relationships with these influencers / creators would be detrimental to their share price in the long term. Without creators, the platforms cannot retain the traffic and hence the data needed to run advertising though the platforms which drives most of their profits.
How big is influencer marketing?
Last year searches for ‘Instagram influencer’ increased three-fold as companies seized the opportunities the newly defined ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing presents. These figures are only set to rise with 39% of marketers confirmed that they will raise their influencer marketing budget in 2019, whilst many more brands who never attempted to reach out to creators before will be joining the trend.
With that in mind, here are four things you need to keep in mind when launching an influencer marketing campaign:
Expertise: Would the content of your campaign be appropriate coming from this influencer, given what he or she is famous for? Are they serious or light hearted enough as appropriate?
Reach: Can this influencer engage your audience? Do they specifically have reach on the social media channels where your audience spends its time?
Demographic: Is this person’s following like your company’s buyer persona? Do they affect the same people and share the same values? Are they promoting rival brands or is there any conflict of interest?
Notoriety: Is this influencer well liked? Is their fame split between admiration and condemnation, or are they a person of mass appeal? You may need to consider this person’s past and review their whole history to make sure there are no surprises or controversial opinions which could potentially damage your brand as well as reviewing in future if something comes up.
What sorts of costs and time commitment are involved?
A good digital marketing agency can help to ensure that costs and time commitments are kept to a minimum and it is important to remember that sometimes influencers may happily get on board for special access to a product or desirable place, so upfront costs may be low but this varies enormously.
What about return on investment?
In terms of return on investment most marketeers agree that for every $1 spent on say an Instagram influencer will earn the brand a further $7.65 in earned media value returned, while a study by TapInfluence found influencer marketing generated as much as 11x banner ad return on investment (ROI).
Influencer marketing may not be right for every business but if you have a brand you want to market to consumers in the age of social media you have to ask yourself – is influencer marketing something your business can afford to ignore?
About the author
Entrepreneur Charlie Terry is the CEO of digital agency Ceek Marketing which is based in London and Brighton and has established and start-up clients throughout the UK and Internationally. He is also a co-founder of subscription sweet brand Diet Starts Tomorrow.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.