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  • Paul Jankowski

Influencers And How To Use Them: Part 1

You have seen the pivot in brands moving from solely aligning with celebrities with massive awareness and following to multiple levels of influencers that are now wielding significant power.


The influencer landscape is constantly changing and relatively new. It wasn’t until 2016 that the term “influencer” became mainstream. This was the first year the word was searched on Google in any meaningful capacity. Between then and now, it became one of the most highly searched terms on the internet.


Whether defined by what they do (fitness influencers), who they are (reality T.V.), or where they go (travel influencers), those who have amassed a following are now serving as direct pipelines between brands and their customers.


Various SaaS companies such as IZEA and GRIN have popped up to help brands not only discover and connect with influencers, but also manage the content they produce and determine the ROI of their campaigns.


The very existence of these companies reveal a truth that is pervasive in marketing departments everywhere: many marketers don’t know how to effectively partner with an influencer that would be right for their brand. Or where to find them.


It’s About Trust

In May 2020, Matter Communications conducted a survey of 1,000 customers about how Covid-19 changed their perception of influencers, as well as their purchasing habits.


As brands were getting lambasted for tone-deaf messaging, influencers were rising to the top of the trust charts. According to the survey, nearly twice as many customers trust product and service recommendations from friends, family, and influencers.


This is especially true with the 60% of U.S. customers who call the New Heartland (Midwest, Southwest, Southeast) home.


Yet, research published just last week out of the University of Amsterdam found that when influencers were upfront about a post being an ad, brand recall and engagement were enhanced. Both the influencer and brand maintained, if not increased, their trustworthiness with the customer, and this echoed across accounts of all sizes.


It’s About Engagement

Gone are the days of solely evaluating an influencer on their number of followers, as many influencers have found ways to game the system by artificially enhancing their numbers. While the number of followers is an important metric, the real rubber meets the road when engagement rates are factored in.


Engagement is the number of people who interacted with a particular post through likes, shares, comments and video views.


For example, with it’s base of photo/carousel content, influencer engagement rates on Instagram are close to 2.0% and outpace Facebook.


Size Doesn’t Always Matter

A study done by RivalIQ found that the engagement rates varied greatly with the number of followers. Those with less than 2,000 followers got about 10.7% engagement. This figure drops to 3.6% for those with 10,000-25,000 followers. Those with more than 1 million followers got only about 1.5% engagement rate.


What Defines An Influencer?

Influencers wield a massive amount of power over brands, whether they’re working together or not. We’ve all seen it...like the a fitness influencer who sparked a social media rage campaign among her 238,000 Instagram followers when a particular cruise line wouldn’t refund her for a trip she could no longer go on when she became pregnant.


4 Influencer Tiers

Iconosquare has a great breakdown of the four tiers of influencers based on the size of their following:


  • Mega: 1 million + followers

  • Macro: 100,000 – 1 million followers

  • Micro: 10,000 – 100,000 followers

  • Nano: 10,000 followers or less


Influencers with larger followings tend to have weaker relationships with their followers, cost more money to partner with, and are more selective in who they promote. Influencers with smaller followings are limited in who they can reach, but are typically more cost effective, creative with their content, and representative of a specific niche.


3 Key Characteristics

Research published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services last July identified three characteristics of influencers. On the whole, people follow influencers who are:


  1. Inspirational

  2. Enjoyable

  3. Relatable/similar to the viewer


Expertise

The final element that distinguishes an influencer is their proven knowledge and expertise. According to the Matter survey mentioned earlier, expertise is second to relatability as far as customer preferences regarding influencers are concerned.


Leveraging Influencer Equity

Every brand is playing the content game and trying to find the right mix that connects with their customers. Influencers are the solution to the problem of “too much content, too little time” for a majority of customers. Their endorsements are a mental shortcut in the brand awareness/consideration process.


It’s common for marketers to get caught up in impressions as a metric for success. But, influencers offer so much more. Their most powerful (and measurable) deliverables are engagement and trust; crucial elements all brands strive to build.

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