Influencers Are Now Everywhere. But Are They Really Necessary?

Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

Influencer marketing and content strategy
Does Instagram-famous translate to marketing gold? Here’s what you need to know.

Hiking the Alps while delicately sipping their Aperol spritz. Sailing the Thames in head-to-toe Burberry. Caressing silky elephant’s ears at the local zoo. You know who they are because they’re, well, everywhere.

Who do I mean? Influencers, of course. And not everyone is thrilled by their explosion into seemingly all markets. In my work as a marketing consultant, I’ve witnessed scores of marketers unabashedly groan, sigh, and roll their eyes at the mere mention of the term “influencer.” And with good reason: influencers are not business savvy. Some are a bit rude.

Still, few would deny that influencers influence. When they do their jobs well, influencers can turn an underwhelming or little-known brand into a hot commodity, nearly overnight. So…are influencers necessary? Yes. Let’s look at the facts.

The Undeniable Influence of Influencers

In 2012, Nielsen reported that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33% trust ads. Two years earlier, Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere Report showed that consumers trusted traditional media 46% less than they did in 2005.

Fast forward to a recent TapInfluence study, and we see how this trend maps out in dollars. Influencers drive more incremental sales than any other form of digital advertising, with influencer-led campaigns generating $23 for every dollar spent, said the study. That’s a whopping five times the number produced by banner ads.

Big brands have taken note and are using bloggers and social media stars to build connections to consumers. Two case studies are worth reviewing:

  1. In 2017, Gap’s ‘Styld.by’ campaign put the classic brand’s Spring catalog in the hands of fashion influencers from around the web. These bloggers promoted and shared their Gap Styld.by stories on their social channels, growing brand awareness among shoppers who might not have noticed the brand’s Spring collection.
  2. Truth.com, a non-profit aimed at smoking prevention among teens and young adults, employed a similar strategy with its ‘LeftSwipeDat’ campaign. In it, YouTube stars Megan Nicole and Frankie Grande perform in anti-smoking music videos whose 1980’s throwback themes and kitschy pop culture-laden lyrics mock smokers as unattractive and uncool. Nicole and Grande have combined Instagram and Twitter followings of nearly 3 million, and the latter is the half-brother of megastar Ariana Grande.

Metrics showing a direct correlation between these campaigns and sales–did a teen considering smoking decide not to after seeing a LeftSwipeDat video, for example–aren’t available. What is available are discoverable metrics that offer clear evidence of success.

  • The #styldby hashtag has been used more than 15.1k times on Instagram and 141,157 people follow Gap’s Styld.by You board on Pinterest.
  • Truth.com’s official LeftSwipeDat videos garnered more than 900k views. (Covers of official videos exceeded 1.5 million.)

Not only did these campaigns meet success, they continue to generate results today. (Banner ads disappear when a brand stops putting money behind them. In contrast, influencer content is evergreen.) Why? Three words: relevance, engagement, and authenticity.

  • Relevance is when an influencer is closely connected to the product or brand s/he’s endorsing. You can tell if an influencer is right for your brand by looking at their past content and measuring engagement. Brands must choose an influencer that aligns with its message.
  • Engagement measures how the influencer’s audience responds to their content. Do they like, comment, and share? When they do, does the influencer reply? Is the audience composed of loyal followers—or are they new and perhaps (crucially) inactive? Don’t be fooled by large followings. Engagement trumps reach.
  • Authenticity is as it suggests: Consumers want “real” interactions and are turned off by obvious advertising. Choose influencers that aren’t purely pay to play (i.e. posting 100% sponsored content). Their authentic voice should be present in every piece of content they produce.

I can’t overstate the benefits of influencer marketing. You might generate up to 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising. This is likely why, according to a February 2018 Social Media Today post, 94% of marketers who use influencer marketing find it an effective practice. It’s cost-effective, attracts qualified consumers for things like email databases, and reaches younger audiences that don’t trust traditional advertising.

When your influencer of choice drives consumers to your site, you want those consumers to find something exceptional waiting for them. By tying your influencer strategy to a relevant and equally compelling content marketing campaign, you’re connecting the dots (and the shopping cart) between “I want that” and “I bought that!” Web copy that’s aligned with your influencer campaign and your brand’s authentic voice will feel less like you’re selling something and more like you’re giving consumers the products they desire.

MarketSmiths’ world-class team of writers might not be Instagram famous, but when it comes to crafting compelling copy, we’re certainly influential. We can help you polish up your website and marketing copy to wow your new influencer-driven traffic and win over audiences of any age. To find out more, contact us today.

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Amanda Cargill

Amanda Cargill is a Brooklyn-based writer, video producer, and marketing communications strategist specializing in food, travel, culture and lifestyle content in domestic, multicultural, and international markets.

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