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Is influencer marketing actually profitable?

Whether you spend every spare moment on social media or you can’t stand the sight of it, there’s no doubt that the online social experience has significantly impacted nearly every person alive at this point.

And no wonder. The images and information that people so readily propagate across their social media channels significantly impacts others. It influences the thoughts, minds, and reactions of others within your digital space.

But what about social influencers? Is utilizing influencers actually an effective marketing tactic, or is it just another ploy that lures unsuspecting marketers in only to deliver subpar results?

In other words: does influencer marketing actually work?

Influencer Marketing Defined

Of course, the first place to start is by making sure everyone is on the same page. What, exactly, is an influencer?

At its very core, an influencer is a person that influences someone else. Influencers have always been utilized in marketing, from Uncle Sam to Michael Jordan and beyond. However, ever since Facebook launched the modern social media world into prominence back in 2006, the term “influencer” has come to represent something quite different.

An “influencer” is now a person who has a following, typically via a blog or a social media platform. They might be a celebrity, politician, or opinion leader with millions of followers. However, they don’t necessarily need a huge following. They might also be a micro-influencer, that is, someone with a following typically between 1,000 and 10,000 followers.

Specifics aside, influencer marketing has come to represent a powerful part of the marketplace. And that’s not just an empty claim. When asked, 89% found the ROI from influencer marketing was comparable or even better than other marketing options.

This sentiment is matched on the consumer side as well. For instance, 34% of American daily Instagram users buy things that were recommended through an influencer.

How Influencer Marketing Can Be Profitable

Okay, so the reports claim that influencers are helpful, but how, exactly? What is it that sets influencer marketing apart? There are actually a few unique perks to using influencers :

  • Influencers provide access to a highly-targeted group. Most influencers focus on a niche, and if that niche applies to your core target demographic, you have a captive audience already created for your message.
  • Influencers influence. Influencers establish themselves by naturally influencing others. They are good at creating content and convincing consumers to buy in on a message.
  • Influencers positively reinforce your brand from a third party perspective. While many influencers will balance out their reviews with personal preferences and “cons” for the “pros,” on the whole, they provide an invaluable endorsement for your particular brand and message.

Factors like these allow influencers to gently and confidently promote a brand or product that they believe in, which typically leads to more conversions.

How to Find Influencers

Of course, the natural question that follows is how to find influencers for your particular company. After all, a clothing model isn’t necessarily going to be a natural fit for a gaming company. How do you find the influencers that are right for your particular marketing strategy? Here are a few basic steps that should generally be followed:

  • Find the platforms where your consumers tend to congregate. For instance, a food company would do well on image-heavy Pinterest, whereas a news company might find more success on Twitter, where breaking stories are common and current.
  • Look for influencers within your niche. Consider what your niche is — entertainment, construction, marketing, and so on — and then look for popular voices within that industry.
  • Consider your marketing budget. Huge sums can be invested into influencers if you’re not careful. If you have the budget, go for the macro-influencers — that is, those with millions of followers. If you have a restricted budget, aim for micro-influencers.
  • Size up their content. Don’t just fall for the numbers and the niche. Make sure an influencer is actually posting the kind of content that you want to be associated with your brand.
  • Make contact. Once you’ve identified a potential influencer, start up a conversation geared towards exploring the possibility of working together. Remember to treat them as peers, not employees, as respect goes a long way with an influencer. They will be representing you, after all.
  • Get organized. Finally, make sure that you address contracts, payment, expectations, and so on before they start working on promotions.

If you can follow these steps, you can begin to cobble together an army of influencers all beating the drum for your particular products or services.

The Future of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has a bright if ever-evolving future. While most influencer advertising has taken place on Instagram up until now, that platform is currently in the process of removing the like button, which will likely push influencers and influencer marketing budgets out onto other platforms.

In addition, micro-influencers are having a greater impact, and more businesses continue to invest in long-term relationships with influencers as brand ambassadors, rather than simply investing in one-time events or campaigns.

All of this is promising and continues to demonstrate the powerful impact that influencer marketing can have on a company’s marketing strategy, going forward.

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