Influencer Marketing: The What, Why and How

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What does the term make you think about?

For some, it brings to mind images of Kim Kardashian, Nash Grier, and Chiara Ferragni-esque figures clad in the latest and greatest of designer gear, fresh from a shoot, martini-in-hand, and always accompanied by a swift little caption or two and the #ad or #advertising hashtags. Something bright. Something young. Something to which we can aspire.

For others, influencer marketing is more-than-a-little squeamish conjuring feelings of coercion, take-over, and even action as strong as brainwashing. Heavy.

The truth is that like any broad marketing strategy and approach, influencer marketing can be undertaken and incorporated into corporate marketing strategy in a variety of different ways. Really, by engaging in influencer marketing you’re simply looking for ways in which you can build meaningful connections between current or prospective clients/customers and those who have the knowledge, skills and authority to endorse your specialised product/branding.

Due to its being based around an approach that’s actually quite standard and straight-down-the-line for most marketing professionals - that is, the importance of establishing an emotional connection with your audience - influencer marketing is likely a concept that’s more within your reach than what you realise.

Bite-sized and brimming with tips and tricks for the beginning influencer marketer, check out our below guide to the what, why and how of engaging in influencer marketing in 2019.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing now describes one of the most influential (*ahem*) and central concepts to contemporary marketing practice of the day.

Broadly, influencer marketing describes a form of marketing in which a large amount of focus is placed on establishing emotional connections between influential people (influencers) and customers/prospective clients. Traditionally, influencers will go about their lives (and use associated products) in a particular way that aligns with - or is aimed at - influencing the decision-making activity of their followers.

What is an influencer?

As Forbes reports, one of the biggest misconceptions about influencers is that they’re people with huge social media followings.

Well, they may be (take any of the examples in the opening few sentences of this blog), but the fact is that they needn’t be. Of course, this kind of thinking only confuses influence with popularity and exposure. It’s an important distinction to make.

A key characteristic of an influencer is that they’re someone who, for whatever reason, has the power to achieve a very specific result: that is, a change in someone’s thinking, action, or behaviour.

Take note: an influencer is someone who has the ability to alter your current or prospective clients’ perceptions. While it may be useful, it’s not entirely necessary (or conceivable) that this person has a social media presence to rival that of Kanye West, Cristiano Ronaldo or Katy Perry.

Forbes outlines for us three important markers of a highly effective influencer:

  1. Reach: they have the ability to effectively and efficiently deliver a message to a large number of people in a short period of time

  2. Contextual credibility: they have the perceived knowledge, skills and level of expertise in their field in order to be regarded as a credible source of information

  3. Salesmanship: they have the tone of voice, communication style and sales persona required to increase the possibility of conversions

How did influencer marketing begin?

It’s widely acknowledged that the earliest signs of the development of influencer marketing as a key contemporary approach began back in the 1920s.

In the early 20th century, there were only a small handful of growing yet increasingly powerful brands on the global, product-based market helping to shape community expectations of what consumerism and increased productivity might involve.

An example?

Santa is a particularly interesting one. How many of us will realise that Santa is not a secular, one-size-fits-all symbol of Christmas, but can instead be traced back to creation by one of the world’s longest-standing and most influential brands of all time?

That’s right… the modern-day image and personification of Santa (as a large, rotund, bearded white man) was invented by none other than the Coca-Cola.

Of course, no-one back then used the term ‘influencer’ to describe Santa and his jolly old habits, and yet we’d all agree that Santa’s central purpose was to create an emotional connection with Coca-Cola’s prospective customers and use that link to form positive associations between Santa, customers, Coca-Cola itself (the drink) and the Western custom of Christmas.

Put simply, Santa was created as an influencer who would increase the likelihood that consumers would sympathise with the Coca-Cola brand, journey and advertising more generally.

These days, influencers may take many forms, examples of which include:

  • High net worth individuals (e.g. Chiara Ferragni, Kim Kardashian, Nash Grier)

  • Partnerships between companies (e.g. this influencer collaboration between Audible and the New York Times)

  • Customers as influencers: Company-run competitions and giveaways (e.g. ‘tag a friend’ and ‘like, share, comment to go in the draw’ posts)

How can I get into influencer marketing?

Hopefully it’s a little clearer to you now: influencer marketing poses a huge number of possibilities and benefits to businesses of all shapes and sizes, and that’s right: no, you don’t need to be a big corporation in order to to get going on your foray into the influencer fold.

Check out our top tips below:

1. Bolster your creative team

You’d be hard-pushed to find this tip anywhere on other ‘how to do influencer marketing’ blog posts, but in the boundary-pushing spirit of Pickle, we’re going to suggest it anyway!

As we wrote a little earlier, we believe that the very first step to growing your output is making sure you have the right people at the helm to begin with - that is, a great creative team.

Having super-talented and passionate individuals on your side - regardless of whether or not the team is in-house or contracted - is an amazing start to getting on the right track to achieving exactly this. Knowing and working with the right people means that if you struggle to find the time or money to create growth and opportunities yourself, you can have other talented individuals do it for you. That includes starting to research and select your influencers, so more on this below.

2. Get into Instagram

The great thing about Instagram is that it’s more easily customisable than facebook meaning users’ feeds can be filled - by choice - with images, messages and content (more generally) that makes sense to - and is meaningful for - individuals.

Amazingly, facebook and instagram played a role in 93% of the influencer campaigns that took place in 2018. 93%! Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that too?

A nice and simple first step to take is to search for posts that match with:

  • Key hashtags relating to your industry, and that also contain

  • Hashtags #ad #ads #adv #advertising and/or #advertisement

Take a look at the various influencer content that’s being created (as well as at the approaches being taken) and decide on options that could work best for you and your brand.

After creating your corporate content strategy (check out our top tips here), you might also choose to sit down and identify the key messages/selling points relating to your content and products and brainstorm links between these and people in your vicinity whose reach, contextual credibility and salesmanship skills align.

That’s right: it’s time to search for your influencers!

3. Find and engage your influencers

To understand who you want to engage as an influencer, first you have to really know your brand. Make sure that before you even begin to throw names and options around that table that you’re clear on all of the following branding characteristics with which your influencer is going to have to align:

  • Tone of voice

  • Language use

  • Political, ethical and social priorities

  • Target audience

If you need some help nutting out this corporate content strategy-related stuff, let us know and we can help you out!

There’s some wonderful software (and associated services) out there which can help connect you and your businesses with a huge and global network influencers from different industries and of different personal and professional backgrounds. Try:

Understanding what to pay your influencers is a whole other kettle of fish, but here’s a handy guide to starting to develop a fee structure that works for everyone.

Taking all of this into account, getting into influencer marketing isn’t so scary after all, right?

Cast off your preconceptions. It’s time to get the ball rolling.