Everyone wants in. 59% of marketers are throwing money at it, even more plan on throwing money at it, and 60% of all fashion brands are already utilizing it. So what is this new tactic that an overwhelmingly large segment of businesses is fixated on? It’s influencer marketing, and its success turns on the ability of social media personalities to reach a target audience. Its appeal can be summed up in one attractive acronym: ROI. The facts on the ground say that brands that invest in an influencer marketing strategy see an average $6.85 return on investment for every dollar spent. And as long as social media remains the dominant form of modern communication, the potential for grand returns will always be there.
But what makes it possible? Where, exactly, does influencer marketing derive its power, and what drives its success? The answers to these and many more questions are outlined below.
First and foremost, influencer marketing works because it’s authentic. According to other statistics, modern teens trust YouTube personalities more than celebrities. This is part of a larger generational trend that sees a great majority of people (92%) trusting word-of-mouth advertising over traditional “push” marketing. It’s this pushiness that has turned off a modern consumer base with its own voice. They no longer want to be “talked at” by brands—they want to have a conversation with peers in the form of product reviews, social media shares, and “likes.”
And that’s what the typical person sees when they follow an influencer on social media—a peer, a regular person who, like them, wants practical info and an honest recommendation. Businesses who adhere to an earned-media influencer strategy can leverage this authenticity to greater returns.
To buttress the introductory statement that social media is today’s dominant form of communication, you only have to look at the numbers. Over two billion people from around the world are active social-media users. Facebook alone has 1.44 billion visitors, and YouTube runs a close second with a billion. And with nearly two billion of the global populous accessing social media from their mobile devices, influencers have a direct conduit to a target audience any time of day or night via two major touch points. As far as reach is concerned, print advertising and commercials simply can’t compete.
It delivers the information an audience is already looking for
This notion has been wrapped up in a new marketing term called “Me2B” consumerism. The gist is that today the customer reaches out to the business—or in this case the influencer on their social-media channel. It’s why traditional advertising has little use in today’s world. Sure, display ads have managed to keep up (and will likely be a part of any brand’s strategy for the foreseeable future), but the statistics aren’t encouraging. Click-through rates across all platforms are an anemic 0.06%. Ad blocking grew by 41% over 2015, and that number will only continue to rise. The problem is that it’s a B2C tactic in a Me2B world. Influencer marketing is the strategy of today.
It blurs the line between advertising and content
Another reason influencer marketing drives traffic is because oftentimes folks don’t even know they’re looking at sponsored or branded content. Even with disclosure hashtags, such as #ad and #sponsored, it’s still possible to craft an influencer campaign that creates an authentic viewing experience. And businesses don’t need to focus merely on individuals. A successful example of this is when Friskies partnered with digital publisher Buzzfeed to create their “Deer Kitten,” campaign. Many found the video entertaining, but, more than that, most folks didn’t even know they were viewing what is essentially a commercial until halfway through. It proves that successful brand positioning can be a product of stealth.
It turns individuals into brand ambassadors
Even before the digital revolution, positive word-of-mouth was the ideal endgame for marketers. Indeed, according to McKinsey, word-of-mouth is responsible for twice the sales of paid advertising. And those folks who listen to recommendations by their favorite online influencers not only convert to customers, but if the product quality is as advertised they then carry the torch and tell their peers. This effectively exceeds positive word mouth, and turns the customer into a loyal brand advocate.
It’s time for businesses to stop doing all the heavy lifting themselves. By partnering with an influencer it’s possible to reach an individual target directly, eliminating the need for market segmentation and other superfluous noise. And if brands can deliver on their promises, they have the potential to convert millions of viewers in a single campaign.