What is Influencer Marketing? – The Definitive Guide for 2022
By: Dileep Thekkethil
August 30, 2022
Table of Contents
Are you a digital marketing professional who uses innovative tools for building brand awareness and bringing sales for your clients?
Have you deployed Influencer Marketing as one of your strategies? If not, you are leaving huge money on the table.
If you are new to the term Influencer Marketing, let me give you a simple, real-life example, where I inadvertently became an influencer for a bike brand (even though I’m not a Tour de France champion.)
I decided to buy a bike from a popular brand. During the initial days after purchasing, a few of my colleagues asked about its price, the maintenance cost, etc. Interestingly, a few months after, two of my colleagues who had inquired, bought the same bike.
Here, I involuntarily became their influencer by taking a purchase decision and probably, they will become one in the future too.
In this blog, I will specifically be speaking about how Influencer Marketing is helping online brands survive in an ecosystem where the target audience doesn’t care so much about online ads anymore.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Why did you decide on your last purchase? Maybe you got to know from your friends and family that the product is good or you may have seen your favorite blogger mention the brand, or product, on Twitter or Facebook.
When somebody who has earned respect in a particular niche decides to influence the buying decision of his online followers, the person becomes an influencer marketer.
His decision to influence people could be either due to personal interest or due to his paid commitments. In both ways, he or she becomes an influencer.
So, let’s take this example of SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk, who is an avid social media user. Assume that SpaceX bought a new CRM software and Elon is impressed by it.
If he tweets the name of the product he purchased out of sheer instinct, it becomes an organic Influencer Marketing.
On the other hand, consider a scenario wherein Elon decides to keep the name of the CRM secret, and the tweet become viral with his followers requesting the name of the CRM.
Later, Elon gets a call from the makers of the CRM seeking for a mention in his tweet, and he decides to do it for monetary benefit. This becomes a paid Influencer Marketing.
However, in the real world, influencers need not be people like Elon. It can be anyone with huge followers on social media or any other online platform, usually called as micro influencers.
A YouTuber with millions of followers, or a cancer survivor with humongous targeted traffic to his website, can pass as a micro influencer.
According to Google trends data, the search volume for the keyword “influencer marketing’ is one an upward motion ever since 2015.
This is the direct reflection of how influencer marketing has become one of the trusted marketing tactics for digital marketers across the world.
- Influencers directly impact the buying decision of people who follow him/her online
- Influencer Marketing is done either because of personal interest or due to paid commitments
- Influencers need not be celebrities
- Marketers should concentrate on finding influencers in a particular niche
Why is Influencer Marketing the buzzword in the World Wide Web?
If you dive into the history of digital advertising and online marketing, marketers have enjoyed a honeymoon period during the initial days. This was the time when an ad placed on a popular website received thousands of clicks per day.
According to a recent analysis, a banner ad that was placed on popular websites back in 1997 received 45% CTR.
Fast forward to 2018, the CTR of a banner ad is less than 0.04%, which means the trust that people had placed on internet ads have undergone a sea-change.
How does Influencer Marketing help online businesses to sail through a world where trust is hard to earn?
If you have implemented PPC, or any other forms of online advertisement you already know how broad and scattered your target market is going to be.
You may have optimized your ads to match the dynamic circumstances, the latest being the mobile and video ads. However, are you sure that people who click these ads are the ones who are interested in your service?
The conversion rate is based on averages. I will share with you an overwhelming experience of mine where the CTR of my ads took me for a ride.
After failing to get enough traction through Desktop ads alone, I decided to adopt, what was in vogue then, responsive display ads for selling tickets for an event that we held in DC.
During the first few days after launching the responsive ad, the CTR which was below 1% suddenly started to increase and touched 4%.
My spirits naturally went high, and I put in a little more money into the campaign hoping for better results. After the end of the first week, the level of my adrenaline had gone back to level 1 or even lower.
I failed to match the conversion rate and the money that was put in for advertising, despite the CTR still showing 4-5%.
After a little bit of research, I was disillusioned to know that a majority of clicks that come from mobile devices are accidental.
People with a solid thumb ended up clicking the ads, and each time a bad thumb hit my ad I lost precious dollars. This was a real wakeup call for me, and I decided to go with Influencer Marketing, which was a less explored marketing term back then.
The result was astonishing because I sold all the tickets within two days of starting the influencer campaign. It does work.
- PPC and CPC campaigns are deployed in a broad and scattered market
- People who click ads may or may not be interested in your service
- Click Through Rate and conversion rate may never match
- The cost involved is higher for PPC and CPC as compared to ROI
How is Influencer Marketing different from celebrity endorsement?
As I mentioned earlier, the days when people bought products that were endorsed or advertised by celebrities is slowly fading away; one reason for this is the loss of trust in brand adverts.
Even though Influencer Marketing is a form of endorsement, the idea is presented to the target audience in a subtle and more interactive way.
In a way Influencer Marketing takes the shape of word-of-the-mouth, as it is using people who are in trusted circles aka micro influencers, not essentially celebrities, to build brand awareness using their followers.
Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey don’t require to be a Windows user to advertise for the brand. Maybe she favors Mac, but it doesn’t matter as the product is in no way related to her field of expertise.
This is a pure example of celebrity endorsement. All that the brand wants here is to make people associate Oprah to their brand.
Till now, this tactic was successful, but in the changed circumstances the question that digital marketers ask is, “Brand endorsements will influence how many people in the future?”
Micro Influencers are not necessarily celebrities, but they are specialists in a particular niche with humongous fans and followers.
They build a relationship with their audience through constant interaction, and awareness is created naturally.
The brand or product knowledge is weaved together along with the other conversations that the influencer has with a high niche audience. Above all, the platform used by the influencer existed long before the brand decided to make use of it.
- People have lost faith in brand endorsements
- Influencer Marketing uses word-of-mouth technique through trusted influencers
- Influencers build brand awareness by using their followers
- Endorsement doesn’t mean that the celebrity is actually using the product or service
Influencer Marketing vs. Traditional Online Advertising
The term Influencer Marketing has been gaining search volume since 2014. This was the time when people started hating online ads more than ever.
Internet users began using ad blockers in their browsers, and some users even stopped visiting websites due to being ad heavy.
Traditional online advertising involved a lot of chest thumping and hype that was created by pumping in thousands of dollars. Despite this, they got just 4% of the visitors to convert. As a result of this, businesses felt the need for a more reliable method.
This was the time when thought leaders decided to try out Influencer Marketing. The successful results tempted competitors and other industries to follow their practice. This transformed Influencer Marketing into a billion-dollar industry.
According to Inc500 report, the Influencer Marketing industry has grown into a $10 billion industry in the U.S. Over the last one-decade Influencer Marketing has evolved and is currently dominating all other forms of digital marketing strategies when it comes to ROI.
Influencer Marketing vs. Content Marketing:
Chances of surviving this competitive digital world without Content Marketing is almost impossible. Content Marketing is without a doubt, a highly rewarding marketing strategy that helps with boosting brand awareness.
According to a recent study conducted by PQ Media, U.S. consumer Content Marketing has grown to a more than $7 billion industry.
Adding to this, the report says the global Content Marketing revenue continues to increase ever since the first half of 2015, and by the year 2019, it will transform into a US$313 billion industry.
If you are confused with choosing between Content Marketing and Influencer Marketing, let me clear the air for you. Both these marketing strategies cannot live without each other as they are so closely related.
I want to call Influencer Marketing as a subvariant of your Content Marketing strategy. You might be familiar with Content Marketing strategies such as blogs, e-books, white papers, or webinars.
These are all ways of reaching out to your target audience with an external resource. Contrary to this, Influencer Marketing has a more interpersonal touch as it is usually done by somebody whom the audience can trust.
The experiences shared by the influencer is usually real and authentic, at least they don’t look like paid adverts. These features of Influencer Marketing make your target audience trust the recommendations.
I recommend using Content Marketing and Influencer Marketing together to boost your marketing efforts. You may have created great content, but unless and until a few influencers share it with a trusted voice, the content won’t get noticed.
If integrated judiciously into your marketing strategy, Content Marketing and Influencer Marketing can drive home incredible results.
Blogger outreach program, which is the most sought-after Content Marketing strategy, is also a form of Influencer Marketing. Here the concept of Influencer Marketing is deployed by influential bloggers.
Blogger outreach campaigns become influential when a company asks a popular niche blogger to write compelling content on a product or service for which he/she is an expert.
In return for the exposure, the company sends the product or provides free access to the service.
One of the benefits of the blogger outreach program is that bloggers or influencers are not there to rip your service apart.
Even though they might have a disclaimer that says the review is based on personal observations on receiving a free login or product, 99% of cases include a favorable review by the blogger.
How to do Influencer Marketing the right way?
According to the Association of National Advertisers, US advertisers have already found Influencer Marketing as a successful marketing technique.
Their data says 75% of the digital marketing firms in the U.S, use influencers to market products. In addition to this, due to the high success rate, 43% of these advertisers are looking forward to spending more in the next 12 months.
If you have done Influencer Marketing in the right way, it will bring in positive results. That said, Influencer Marketing is not about going after anyone with huge followers or fans.
If you want results, there should be enough research put into finding the right influencer for your niche. Take the example of American model Natasha Pieper, Nata is a known influencer for fashion brand Van Cleef & Arpels and cosmetic brand Luminess Cosmetics.
Nata’s profession and the brands that she spreads awareness about are closely related. Think of a scenario wherein Nata chooses to take on the role of an Influencer Marketer for a healthcare product outside of cosmetics?
First of all, the fan following that Nata has are people who are interested in fashion. Even if the healthcare firm gets a mention in Nata’s social media profile, it’s not going to gain the attention of her followers; the end result will be a loss for the healthcare firm.
Sherri Langburt, CEO of the Influencer Marketing company BabbleBoxx that recently got featured in the Inc. magazine’s 37th annual Inc. 5000 List said, “We’ve carved out a niche by creating custom-designed boxes that contain five to seven complimentary product brands which are then shipped exclusively to a list of selected social media influencers for social sharing to their followers.
Previously, everyone was aiming directly at consumers by jumping on the subscription box platform. We analyzed the marketplace, then took the opposite tack.”
“As a result of our co-op promotional solutions, brands are currently turning to BabbleBoxx to create bespoke, theme-inspired packages, which they are now leveraging for their media relations, social giveaways, and consumer sampling programs,” adds Langburt.
- 75% of the digital marketing firms in the US use influencers to market products.
- 43% of these advertisers are looking forward to spending more on Influencer Marketing the next 12 months
- Quality research has to be put in before selecting influencers
Why do brands fail to pull off Influencer Marketing?
1. Wrong Influencer
As I had mentioned earlier, one of the reasons why an Influencer Marketing campaign fails is because of the wrong choice of an influencer. A lot of meticulous thought has to be put in before zeroing down on your influencers.
The influencer need not be a celebrity (macro influencers). One common mistake big brands make while choosing their Influencer Marketer is going for celebrities; celebrities don’t come at a cheap cost.
At the end of the day, these brands fail to pull the campaign off. Before choosing the influencer considering the product and services that you are pushing.
If I want a mascara brand to get promoted, I will go for Beauty Stores, Spas, and Salons as my micro influencers rather than going for Angelina Jolie.
Choosing the right micro influencers would have more impact when it comes to reach and engagement. In addition to this, such influencers would help you in achieving your brand’s marketing goals.
2. Controlling Influencers
Once you have identified the influencer for your campaign, make sure that you give him enough and more information about your product. This doesn’t mean you have to control their voice.
One major mistake that marketers make is they try to control the influencer’s voice. This will hamper the output; always try to forge a bond with the influencer. Try to engage him in the process of idea creation and execution.
This will create a sense of belonging, which can help with the influencer to engage in creative discussions with his followers. By giving creative freedom to the influencer, the campaign will be successful.
3. Lack of background research
As mentioned earlier, big brands tend to choose macro influencers or celebrities who have a large number of followers and ignore whether the followers fit their target audience.
They invest hastily without taking the time to learn about the influencers in their niche. Before you reach out to influencers, do a background check about their ratings and reviews on the social media platforms.
A thorough background study about the influencer will help you in identifying the deliverables and also help you with generating unique ideas.
How to find the right micro influencers in your niche?
Always keep in mind that your target audience is getting inundated with lots of information and ads in particular. This is why you have to make sure that your information is passed on through the right sources or influencers who take your message seriously.
Recently, I was approached by a hospitality client who wanted Influencer Marketing done for their premium property in Miami.
We chalked out a plan to get onboard with a blogger who provides fabulous beach inspirations for her audience. We offered her free travel and accommodation in the 7-star property.
In return, she agreed on some mentions about the property and its amenities in her next blog, the result was astounding.
According to the property executive, tracking the leads was so easy as each time a reader made a booking, he/she asked the representative whether it is the same hotel that got featured in the blog.
Here’s an overview of the process that I took to conduct this successful blogger outreach campaign:
- Found bloggers who wrote high quality engaging content in the hospitality and travel sector.
- Scrutinized each blogger on social media and other Influencer Marketing Tools.
- Gathered stats on the authors to find out how authoritative they are.
- Filtered the list to identify the most Influential Travel blogger.
- Reached out to the blogger.
- Worked with her to create quality content assets on the 7-Star property.
- Utilized all her distribution channels and social contacts to create the hype.
Here are a few other case studies of agencies who have done successful influencer marketing or blogger outreach programs.
How Mustela Used “Mummy Bloggers” to win customers?
Mustela, which is a popular baby skin care brand, was particular in choosing their influencers. In their case, the buying decision for almost all the products they market is made by mothers.
So, who else can better promote their brand than “mummy bloggers?” Twenty-four hours after publishing the blogs, the Mustela became popular among the target audience with one post alone getting 15k views on Instagram and over 800 likes.
How Pepe’s Restaurant group innovated influencer marketing?
Pepe’s Restaurant group needs no introduction for people in NYC. They recently did a successful outreach campaign to bring brand awareness and more customers to its five Manhattan-based chains.
They used social media, influencer marketing, and blogger outreach programs for scaling their business.
Pepe and its marketing partner did extensive research to identity right influencers. They segmented influencers based on the type of content produced, follower count, target audience alignment and proximity to the restaurants.
They innovated the strategy by organizing a progressive dinner that was attended by some of the NYC-based influencers. These influencers visited all the four chains. Within six months they received 45 influencer visits, 4.5 million impressions, 66,500+ social interactions, and average blog engagement of 2,000+ per post.
Tools that helped me with filtering the right influencer in the niche segment
BuzzSumo is one of the most popular research tools that are currently available for marketers to find key influencers to promote your content.
The tool has a dedicated “influencer search” feature where you can search for top influencers in various niches. You can filter out your influencers either by their bio or through the type of content that they share.
This tool gives you an overview of the audience reach, trust level, and the quality of engagement that the target audience has with a particular influencer.
Upfluence is another leading Influencer Marketing tool that will help you with finding top influencers. This tool will help you manage your campaigns and measure your results with stats and figures.
Upfluence Search is a tool that is offered to find your top influencers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Blogs.
Upfluence Manager helps you to scale and manage your influencer campaigns in one place. By using Upfluence Analytics, you can determine the power of Influencer Marketing and measure your success too.
FollowerWonk is a handy tool for Influencer Marketing professionals. The tool allows you to search for keywords within twitter bios and sort the influencers according to their reach and authority.
Even the free version of this tool has excellent features such as analytics that compare the authority and followers of three influencers.
If you are starting as an Influencer Marketing professional, Kred is a tool that helps you in gaining knowledge about influencer metrics. Kred provides Transparent Scores, Custom Profiles, Crypto Rewards, etc.
By using Kred, you can connect and engage with Influencers, marketers and C-Suite executives. The platform generates scores for every domain of expertise.
The list would not be complete without the mention of PeerIndex. This platform has come up with a totally out-of-the-box approach, and they are a stand out among other Influencer Marketing tools that are currently available.
PeerIndex is built on the cornerstone concept that it’s not the volume of followers or the number of times the content gets shared, that defines a successful campaign. It says real influencers are the ones that can convert people and prompt them to take actions.
PeerIndex metrics are based on the expertise that the influence has, on a given niche. This helps marketers find and read authoritative influencers in various topics and cater to a very segmented group, thus improving the conversion rate.
How to measure ROI from your Influencer Marketing Campaign?
The ROI of your Influencer Marketing campaign is directly linked to your goals. You undertake an Influencer Marketing campaign to fulfill certain goals.
Let’s say your goal is to increase the number of sales of a product or service that is offered by your client. Check the number of sales and conversions; this will be a blueprint to assess your ROI.
Always keep in mind, the ROI will be different for each goal. The metric that is used to calculate will also change.
For example, the metric used to calculate the ROI of a campaign is intended to increase Signups and will be entirely different from the metric that is used to calculate the success of a subscription campaign.
In some cases, you can calculate the ROI in dollars whereas in a few other cases this may be calculated based on the number of sign-ups, followers added, or new subscribers.