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Using influencer’s influence in marketing

Influencers have become one of the greatest digital assets for digital and social media marketing in the past decade. The Influencer Marketing Hub estimates that the industry itself grew to a whopping $14billion in 2021 (read more here). The industry continues to grow and with the advent of new social media apps and platforms like TikTok (read more about TikTok is and its rapid success here), the influence that influencers hold also continues to sky rocket as people find new ways to become influential – making influencing far more profitable across platforms, industries, demographics and areas than previously anticipated. The most important aspect when using influencing as a tactic in your marketing communications plan is definitely to play the long game. In the early stages of influencer marketing, mega-influencers were considered more valuable (read more about the different kinds of influencers here), but in recent years, the value of influencers no longer resides with how many followers they have. Rather, using ‘influencer’s influence’ has become a lot more specialised and niche than before.

influencer’s influence in marketing

How to utilise the influencer’s influence and why

Brands are only as accessible to consumers as they choose to be. Media Kix reports that brand loyalty and awareness for both small and large scale businesses has proven to grow with the help of influencer marketing strategies. But why do marketers use influencers?

a) Influencers have tapped into a market, notably first through fashion and lifestyle, where they provide their audiences with an ‘honest’ and ‘objective’ review of products and services. YouTube and Instagram have been notorious for early-day influencing, providing platforms to people globally to review and market products to a largely organic grown-audience that trusts their opinions and expertise on specific market-related topics and subject matter. Hence, the idea of beauty moguls that have far surpassed big brand names and titles that have been crowned to beauty influencers such as Nikkie Tutorials and Jackie Aina, for example. Leading the way in beauty, lifestyle and fashion, both of these names have become major influences in the everyday buying experience for young people who often look to Nikkie and Jackie’s videos for stamps of approval before purchasing beauty products.

How to utilise the influencer’s influence and why

b) Influencers are called influencers because they hold influence. What they say, do and how they act has by all accounts, influence over the consumer. With influencers being more tangible and “normal” to their audiences (unlike super stars and celebrities who many consumers feel are out of touch and live unrealistic lives), consumers are more inclined to be influenced by marketing campaigns that influencers participate in rather than buying products that have been traditionally marketed as it was in the past – read more about that here.

And how should marketers utilise influencers?

If you wish to leverage the influence influencers hold, be sure to follow these three tips:

  1. Tap into their niche
  2. Use influencers whose audiences fit your target audience
  3. Demographics matter – including when it comes to the diversity of your influencer pool

marketers utilise influencers

In these ways we can come to understand that influencers can exist across all industries as stated before. However, using influencers whose content doesn’t align or resonate with your products or consumer-target might not end well for your investment. Marketers know this, but many also undermine the value in tapping into the niche of the niche – going to micro influencers and even nano influencers (read more about the different kinds of influencers here). Weighing out your variables, if your goal is to achieve awareness, engagement and reach (which are two different things), matter.

Conclusion

In conclusion, influencers hold serious buying-power with consumers. With more and more influencers boasting “successful” and “luxurious” lives, more niche influencers have been introduced, especially on TikTok, giving scope for a whole new different kind of influencing. The industry is always evolving and is starting to look quite diverse in the types of influences who exist and the audiences they hold. Tapping into the influencer marketing industry at a nano and micro level is definitely something for all marketers to consider. Lastly, leaving behind the glitz and glam part of expensive production, giving “normal” people with platforms the opportunity to take your brand to the next level, might just be the best thing for you. Case in point, The Scrub Daddy thanks to #Cleantok.

influencers hold serious buying-power with consumers

The influencer equation: LIP = Lust + Investment + Proximity

One book every marketer should have on their bookshelf is Influence by Robert Cialdini. The author writes extensively on the six principles he believes underpin ‘influence’ –reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. And in 2016, he added a seventh: unity. The unity principle posits that the more we identity with others, the more we are influenced by them. Authority figures have the power to sway us.

We’re seduced by powerful stats from experts. According to a 2015 Schlesinger Associates study for Augure (now LaunchMetricscom), 81% of marketers believe influencer engagement is effective. It begs the question of what “effective” really means because with enough money, brands can pay influencers to get their message out to the masses and create ‘talk-ability’. This can be disastrously effective.

It’s a fact social media influencers have changed the marketing game and given brands access to people in ways businesses could have never imagined.

The Influencer Marketing 2018 research report[1] by Business Insider Intelligence reckons ad spend generated by influencers will reach between $5 billion and $10 billion by 2022. This represents a five-year compound annual growth rate of 38%.

With numbers like that in play, it’s no wonder influencers are a vital part of any marketing plan. But like everything else, there are good, bad and ugly sides to the influencer story which is why cutting through the clutter of influencer jargon and fluffy research stats is important to understanding a proven model of success that’s worked for banks, handsets, cellular providers and alcohol brands.

While there’s a lot of hype, there is in fact a science behind crafting a successful influencer campaign. We call it the LIP influencer model: LIP = Lust + Investment + Proximity.

 

  • Lust

Influencers must have a strong desire of affinity for what they are endorsing. It’s that simple. Find influencers passionate about your brand, let them fight to be on your team, and watch the magic unfold. While many marketers will hunt for influencers with large followings and approach them for endorsement, we recommend reversing the process by getting influencers to fight for why they should be chosen by you. It’s a bit like the dating game, except the influencer has to make the first move.

A brand that got influencers to make the first move was Vodacom, which tapped into the power of South Africa’s hottest young student influencers to drive their youth package, NXTLVL. Thousands of students applied to be an influencer for Vodacom and go through rigorous interviews on campus to qualify. Passion for the brand was the primary metric for fit.

Tip: Don’t get lulled into followers as a primary metric. Spend the time discovering if your influencers have a connection to your brand before taking the conversation further.

 

  • Investment

Investment wears three hats – Time. Training. Financial.

The Vodacom brand team knew that investing in influencers wasn’t a once-off exercise and committed to a year-long influencer programme. A longer timeframe meant that service provider could take a constant barometer of the team’s progress and make adjustments as the campaign grew. And the results speak for themselves: Vodacom exceeded its original target of NXT LVL customers.

Training was another crucial element and Vodacom understood that they were investing in influencers as if they were extensions of their own marketing team. The time spent training influencers on the brand’s vision, objectives, and products were crucial. This meant bringing influencers into its inner circle.

Tip: Brands taking influencer marketing seriously know that investing for the longer term must be a consideration in the annual budgeting process.

 

  • Proximity

A 2015 Schlesinger Associates report into influencer marketing alludes to the power of proximity, stating that 92% of consumers trust earned media such as word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family. In other words, the closer the proximity of a trusted group, the higher the sphere of influence. Having a favourite celebrity or supermodel recommend switching cellular networks doesn’t have the same credit as a best friend’s recommendation.

Looking specifically at university students (Fig 1), we see that peer groups have more influence on each other. Not only that, but as the sphere of influence expands outwards, the degree of trust drops and scrutiny rises. We have discovered that Afrillennials (African Millennials) are natural-born sceptics about celebrities endorsing multiple brands.

Authenticity is a big factor, and the youth have their eyes trained like a hawk for the inauthentic and will make sure to let everyone know when it’s absent. Just look at the global outrage over the Pepsi commercial in which celebrity Kendall Jenner brought a political march to a standstill. It was slap-in-the-face inauthentic.  She’s a supermodel and a reality TV celebrity, not an activist or social change maker. But it went viral. It got engagement.

In contrast, Vodacom won the authenticity race by infiltrating and activating at every touch point of a student’s world, thanks to influencers taking the brand to social events, showcasing it on campus, and boosting the offering on their social media platforms. The tight proximity of their influencers to the student market meant more authentic engagement.

Tip: Choose Influencers from a market that is closer to the sphere of influence in your target market. If you’re targeting youth then seek out young people with influence.

 

Final point

Influencer marketing is here to stay. Effectiveness takes time and effort and a process of steady accretion. Brands who succeed in bringing influencers into their circle of trust do so by walking the journey together as opposed to seeing them as just another billboard.