To Influence or Not to Influence?

Social mobile web cropRight now, influencer marketing is a huge topic of conversation; if you’re not already doing it as part of your marketing strategy, then it’s more than likely that your marketing team has it on their radar.

But what is it? Put simply, influencer marketing is a form of marketing that recruits a key individual or group of individuals to influence a large or specific market to promote your brand to their following. Influencer marketing is far more niche and focused than a broader advertising campaign.

Although you can pick and choose your publications, methods and media outlets carefully when opting for the more traditional form of advertising, influencer marketing allows your communications to be even more targeted and specific.

The internet has gone mad for it over the last couple of years and you only have to utter the words ‘influencer marketing’ and someone has a story or a favourite example to share.

There are some great examples out there, and when it’s done well it can really work wonders for your brand. Take the recent London Marathon and the campaign spearheaded by the young royals for charity Heads Together.

This campaign is a brilliant example of how influencers can not only deliver key messages and brand values, but also help your brand to go viral. From videos and news releases, through to guest appearances on BBC Radio 1 and Snapchat filters, the agency behind the charity’s initiative has excelled, and we’d defy you not to have heard about this or seen it on screen somewhere over the last few weeks.

In today’s challenging business climate, companies are not just looking to their marketers to be creative and interpret statistics; they are frequently looking at them to lead on initiatives and influence the way things are moving within the business.

In research conducted last year, Twitter identified that “nearly 40%” of its users say they’ve made a purchase “as a direct result of a tweet from an influencer”. We’ve known for a while that word-of-mouth recommendations are a powerful form of marketing, but this just shows the increased power of influencer marketing.

But despite the positives, there is also a big question mark over whether this method of marketing is entirely ethical. There’s a thin line between genuine influencer marketing and paid-for advertising, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to distinguish between genuine and paid-for content.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) takes a dim view on anything that doesn’t follow the advertising rules and reminds both businesses and influencers that adverts should always be truthful and responsible and avoid causing harm or offence – words we should all remember when embarking on an advertising campaign of any description!

So how do you get it right on a smaller scale? Businesses are now much more focused on long-term customer engagement and building their brand loyalty than product sales. Isn’t that what we all really strive for?

As an agency, we not only recommend but also aim to receive word-of-mouth referrals and positive recommendations to generate more business. However, there are several reasons why using influencer marketing works for many marketers, including its low cost, the ability to create specific and targeted original content and the fact that it can be easily analysed. Ultimately, it’s important to make sure you’re doing it well and for the right reasons.

You may wish to consider following these easy steps to create your own simple campaign.

1. Remember, you don’t have to ‘go big’ to make it work for your business. Keep your message focused and your audience as targeted as possible. (Creating specific groups or mailing lists is a great place to start.)
2. Use a combination of platforms to deliver your message. These days there’s an array of social media channels available to you; just don’t bombard your audience with the same content across each one – pick carefully what you share and where!
3. Track it. Not only do you want to see how well your message travels and translates, you also want to be able to prove, where possible, return on investment (ROI). This will mean you can continue to do things that work for your brand and discard anything that’s just not quite right.
4. Don’t forget to engage and say thanks; a simple thank you for someone sharing your content goes a long way. Especially if that person has a certain type of ‘influence’.

Good luck and if you have any successes, be sure to shout about them!

This article was originally published by Lincolnshire Business on 26th April 2017.