Influencer marketing (also influence marketing) is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the target market as a whole on social media. It identifies the individuals who have influence over potential customers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.
Influencer content may be framed as testimonial advertising where they play the role of a potential buyer themselves, or they may be third parties. These third parties exist either in the supply chain (retailers, manufacturers, etc.) or may be so-called value-added influencers (such as journalists, academics, industry analysts, and professional advisers).
Most discussion on the generic topic of social influence centres on compliance and persuasion in a social environment. In the context of influencer marketing, influence is less about argument and coercion to a particular point of view and more about loose interactions between various parties in a community. Influence is often equated to advocacy, but may also be negative, and is thus related to concepts of promoters and detractors.
Influencer marketing tends to be broken into two sub-practices: earned influencer marketing and paid influencer marketing. Earned marketing stems from unpaid or preexisting relationships with influencers or third party content that is promoted by the influencer to further their own personal social growth. Paid influencer marketing campaigns can take the form of sponsorship, pre-roll advertising or testimonial messaging and can appear at any point in the content. Budgets vary widely and are usually based on audience reach. Most influencers are paid upfront before a marketing campaign while others are paid after the execution of the marketing campaign.
Methods of marketing
Influencer marketing, in a commercial context, comprises four main activities:
- Identifying influencers, and ranking them in order of importance
- Marketing to influencers, to increase awareness of the firm within the influencer community
- Marketing through influencers, using them to increase market awareness of the firm among target markets
- Marketing with influencers, turning them into advocates of the firm
Influencer marketing is continuously improved by constant evaluation done simultaneously with the four main activities.
In order to achieve the purpose of the business clients, influencers should deliver a change in attitude towards the client’s brand or product. The change of the attitude from the viewer takes places from the contents that influencer produces. The change itself is believed as a psychological process in human mind. The psychological process can be explained under the RACE model (reach, act, convert and engage). These four steps are designed to help brands engage with their customers throughout the customer lifecycle.
- Reach: This step is about finding the available influencer and accessing the information distribution channel. An influencer has his or her own expertise, which their followers value. These followers trust recommendations from a third party more often than a brand itself. Endorsements from a related influencer function as a review of the product rather than a simple advertisement, which most followers regard as having little or no credibility. In general, people who follow the influencer share their field of interest. Therefore, they are more likely to purchase the product. Landing on a proper influencer will allow the brand to lock in their target customer group.
- Act: This means encouraging participation by creating a secondary marketing campaign to generate greater awareness to reach a larger scale of target consumers. It involves encouraging target customers to share their opinions on social media in order to participate in the subject. Taking this idea into practice, influencers usually share their honest review of the product or demonstrate the function of the product in real-life cases in terms of solving a problem or improving a current condition. The influencer should start a discussion that leads target customers’ attention onto the subject and present the solution with the product. Target customers engage in the discussion so that they can develop their own understanding of the product’s value.
- Convert: In this step, influencers should convert their followers into customers of the product. After forming the understanding of the product, it is time to make a purchase decision. Influencer marketing is believed to be a powerful tool to generate sales since a study by McKinsey showed that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” Those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37% higher retention rate. The trigger is often in the form of a coupon, which is only valid for a short period of time. This pushes the target customer to buy the product right now rather than later. This way, the consumer will not forget about the product, nor lose the desire for it.
- Engage: At this stage, building customer relationship is the key point. Influencers should turn the first-time customer into a loyal customer of the product. A foundational element to unwavering loyalty that is often overlooked is a consumer’s loyalty to themselves. Brands seek people that naturally fit their desired persona and let their authentic passion shine through. In this way, customer loyalty is built through the engagement made by the influencers.
The first step in influencer marketing is to identify influencers. They are specific to discrete market segments, and are used as conduits to the entire target segment. While there are lists of generic influencers (such as the Time 100), they have limited use in marketing programmes targeted at specific segments.
Market research techniques can be used to identify influencers, using pre-defined criteria to determine the extent and type of influence.