Geo 101: Influencer Marketing in 2018
'Businesses have to make the choice between something like a targeted ad on Facebook, hoping it will reach the right person and they will click on it, or choosing to partner with an influencer whose audience is engaged and will often take their suggestions,' said Yext's David "Rev" Ciancio. 'Which sounds like a better shot towards the bullseye to you?'
With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far technology may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: what marketers need to know about influencer marketing.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing can be broadly defined as marketing that places the focus on people who can influence a target audience through their popularity or social following — rather than speaking directly from the brand to the target audience itself. This often takes the form of having “influencers” with a specific following on a certain social platform — someone with millions of YouTube subscribers or Instagram followers, for example — directly or indirectly promote a brand or product in their content.
This involves paying an “influencer” to use, promote, or talk about a brand to their audience — with rates and arrangements varying by follower count, number of mentions, and more.
Essentially, “influencer marketing is a form of promotion where an entity partners with outspoken market leaders who have curated their own audience to augment your brand’s message,” said David “Rev” Ciancio, director for Partner Marketing at Yext (full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on that relationship here). “Some modern marketers see it as a form of ‘growth hacking,’ where the leverage these market leaders give you allows your brand awareness to grow exponentially faster and gain more trust than you would by more traditional advertising or paid media.”
Why Does It Matter To Marketers?
Social media, review sites, and more are ingrained parts of consumers’ lives today — making it easy to see why influencing customers through these platforms in a way that feels organic can be a clear win for brands.
And influencer marketing has grown vastly in popularity even over the last year; headlines like “2018 Will Be the Year of the Influencer Roster” dominated the conversation at events from CES to NRF.
“Influencer marketing in the early days of social media was almost non-existent. Business were in so much denial that social media was going to stick around or be important that they just passed over the ability to harness the power of being a first adopter,” Ciancio said. But then things changed: “This gave rise to smart marketers, passionate fans and creative types using social media to build their own audiences around subjects that drove their interests. Suddenly, these people had the power to make suggestions to others — often with a higher degree of trust than other media sources.
“Since then, trust in brands and advertising has decreased the reliance of recommendations from friends or influencers has taken a driver’s seat.”
As such, marketers need to play in this space — where brand recommendations are taken seriously by a consumer base accustomed to looking to their friends and favorite social media personalities for advice.
As Ciancio described, the present conception of influencer marketing has been around for a couple of years now. But one recent trend in the space is the rise of ‘micro-influencer marketing’ — which, in spite of its name, can have big payoffs for brands.
Definitions of micro-influencers vary, but its commonly defined as an influential social media figure who has between 1,000 and 50,000 followers (estimates sometimes go up to 100,000, but not beyond).
Deciding whether to partner with a micro or “macro” influencer? It all depends on the brand, the campaign, and the goals for reach — but it is important for marketers to know that, with influencer marketing, bigger isn’t always better.
The advantage of working with a micro-influencer is that, due to their smaller fan base, many of them are able to directly engage with followers — meaning that they can answer questions about a promotion or brand via direct message or in a comments, building a valuable one-to-one connection. Because they’re not dealing with comments and messages from millions of followers, they have the time to respond directly, thereby seeming more accessible. They are often available to answer organic questions about why they chose to partner with a certain brand, which can make sponsorships more authentic that your average “celebrity holding up a Coke can” campaign.
Additionally, “when you’re dividing up a market budget, it helps if you can pilot a lot of small experiments rather than spend your budget in one fell swoop,” Simon Ross explained in an article for Entrepreneur. “Working with micro-influencers allows you to do just that. The average micro-influencer charges around $250 per post, whereas the average celebrity can cost you upwards of $25,000.”
At the end of the day, influencer marketing is not a replacement for direct communication between a brand and its consumers, nor the personalized experiences that should be created for them. But it is an incredibly valuable tool — particularly in the current social media marketing landscape.
“As social media platforms ratchet down their algorithm, they are basically removing the ability of brands to have organic reach and becoming pay to play platforms,” Ciancio said. “Now marketers and businesses have to make the choice between something like a targeted ad on Facebook, hoping it will reach the right person and they will click on it, or choosing to partner with an influencer whose audience is engaged and will often take their suggestions without scrutiny. Which sounds like a better shot towards the bullseye to you?”
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