Influencer marketing is a social media marketing strategy in which a brand collaborates with one or more influencers to increase the visibility of its products or services. Influencers are people who, for various reasons, have the power to influence buying decisions of other consumers.
In our article “Selling on Instagram: a beginner’s guide”, we explained how influencer marketing takes the referral marketing mechanism and applies it to the world of social media. In other words, a brand can ask one or more influencers to publish posts or stories in which they talk about its products or services in exchange for payment or freebies.
This strategy is particularly effective because it enables a brand to talk to a target audience whose tastes and interests are already known, or to reach specific niche markets. What’s more, it leverages the trust that influencers enjoy with their fans. Through sponsored content, this trust can be easily “transferred” to the product advertised, improving brand awareness and boosting sales.
What type of people are influencers?
One of the most common motivations that drives people to become influencers is fame, just as it is for film and pop stars. In other cases, their authority stems from their profession or knowledge: for example, industry experts and opinion leaders. As well as influence over other people, they need to have a significant amount number of followers on social media and have built a relationship of trust with them. Of course, how many followers they have will depend on the space they are active in and the subjects they address.
Categories of influencer
Influencers can be divided into different categories based on their breadth of audience andengagement rate (the ratio between the number of followers and the interactions that followers have with content provided: views, comments, likes, shares, clicks etc.) HypeAuditor gives a handy overview of these categories in its “State of Influencer Marketing 2021” report:
- Nano-influencers: have a small number of followers (between 1,000 and 5,000) but enjoy a higher average engagement rate than every other category at 5%. They tend to be trusted because they are seen as more sincere and genuine than other influencers.
- Micro-influencers: have an audience between 5,000 and 20,000 followers and an average engagement rate of 1.7%. They are considered experts in their market niche.
- Mid-tier influencers: their audience is broad and loyal (from 20,000 to 100,000 followers) but well defined in terms of tastes and interests. The average engagement rate is around 1.4%.
- Macro-influencers: with a following between 100,000 and 1 million users, they have various collaborations with brands to promote their products. Their engagement level is similar to that of mid-tier influencers.
- Mega-influencers and celebrities: this category includes famous people with over 1 million followers and an average engagement rate of 1.6%.
As you can see, there’s a hugely diverse pool of influencers out there, from seasoned industry professionals to millennials creating viral videos on TikTok, from models and footballers to CEOs, pensioners and housewives. Naturally, remuneration varies depending on the platform used and the category of influencer: while a celebrity might command a fee of 60,000 euro for an Instagram post, a nano-influencer might charge something in the region of 50-250 euro for a single post.
The influencer marketing market
Data published by Statista show how the size of the global market for influencer marketing has more than doubled since 2019, reaching a value of 16.4 billion dollars in 2022. Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub in 2022, over 80% of professionals interviewed believed that this strategy is highly effective and planned to allocate part of their budget to it in 2023. So it’s hardly surprising that Google searches for the term “influencer marketing” have jumped by 465% since 2016.
How to create an influencer marketing strategy
When you start putting together an influencer strategy, it’s important to follow these steps:
- Set out your campaign objectives: these could be anything from increasing sales to gaining new customers. The graph below (taken from Advertiser Perceptions’ Branded Content and Influencer Marketing report) shows the main goals pursued by businesses that invest in sponsored content.
- Identify the target audience that you want to reach: to help with this, you could create buyer personas for your different customer archetypes.
- Determine the budget available for the campaign, taking into account costs associated with influencer fees and all other planned activities, such as creating and distributing content, advertising on social platforms or in other media, and freebies.
- Depending on buyer personas and the space you do business in, decide how many and which channels you want to use: Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube are platforms whose user bases are very different from one another.
- Draw up a list of influencers who match the different buyer personas, keeping three things in mind: relevance (as we discussed earlier, their audience must match one or more of your brand’s ideal customers), their number of followers and their engagement rate. Depending on the budget available and the campaign goals, you should know which category of influencer is most suitable.
- Once you’ve picked the best candidates, get in touch with them and see if they would be interested in collaboration. If they accept your offer, with the help of a lawyer, draw up a contract that clearly sets out how the sponsorship arrangement will work, the payment agreed and the obligations of each party. Remember laws governing sponsored content differ from country to country.
- Once the contract has been signed, prepare a detailed brief, complete with images and videos, as well as the hashtag to be used in the campaign and all the relevant details about the brand and the product being promoted. Remember to give your influencer a bit of creative freedom: after all, creating compelling content for their audience is what they do!
- Establish metrics for monitoring campaign performance. As well as media coverage (total number of people reached by a piece of content), impressions and interactions, you should calculate actual return on investment. You can use UTM parameters to analyse where traffic to your website is coming from and create a discount code for followers considering a purchase.
As we’ve seen, influencer marketing is a useful strategy for a business that wants to strengthen its presence on different social media, improve public trust in its brand, grow its customer base and increase online conversions.
An authoritative and trusted influencer can help by producing content that, although promotional, is not perceived as just advertising and therefore generates less scepticism than traditional advertising. Finally, because of the different categories of influencers out there, influencer marketing is a strategy that can also suit the smaller budgets of SMEs that want to improve the visibility and credibility of their brand.