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21 December 2016, 12:36

The future of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is fast becoming a vital part of the marketer’s toolkit, helping brands boost awareness and achieve sales growth. The emergence of influencer marketing is primarily due to the huge rise of social media and the enormous reach of the personalities that use it. Like any tactic, though, influencer marketing must be integrated into a wider strategy and reflect your brand’s values. You wouldn't, for example, want an influencer that is a vegan promoting the latest range of cheddar cheese.

One of the key questions to consider when planning a campaign is whether to work with a major influencer – such as high-profile social media stars like Zoella and PewDiePie – or build relationships with micro-influencers, such as smaller YouTube and Instagram personalities with more niche followings.

Major influencers: go big or go home?

At first glance, it might seem that bigger will always be better. For big-name brands like L’Oréal, for example, engaging with major influencers is the perfect approach. Its Beauty Squad campaign – where it collaborates with influencers like Emily Canham, Kaushal, Patricia Bright, Ruth Crilly and Victoria Magrath to create authentic content about L’Oréal’s skincare, make-up and haircare products – enables it to significantly expand its reach and impact by tapping into the major influencers’ combined audience of five million users.

There is no doubt that this approach can work for the right brand, from premium products looking to boost their prestige value to brands with broad consumer appeal looking to connect with as many people as possible. The combination of reach and established influence is a heady cocktail that delivers strong results. It is important to remember, though, that influencers must share a brand’s values and tone of voice, as well as being a good fit for the product – e.g. if Rimmel were to run a similar campaign to Beauty Squad, it would choose different influencers than L’Oréal, because its values are not the same.

However, before the bright lights of YouTube fame draw you in, take time to think about whether collaborating with a major influencer is the best approach for your brand. One thing to consider is the cost: influencers with a substantial following can demand large sums for their endorsement. Also, remember that even the subtlest sales messaging can seem jarring unless the product perfectly matches the personality. If an influencer is working with multiple brands, this might also diminish the authenticity of their posts and reduce their value. The opportunities are there – a popular food blogger extolling the virtues of a new range of cooking sauces, for example – but it requires careful research and management.

Micro-influencers: small but perfectly formed?

While partnership with a major influencer has reaped large rewards for some brands, it shouldn’t be forgotten that micro-influencers can also have a big impact – and often at a much lower cost. Research shows that 82 per cent of people are likely to follow a micro-influencer’s recommendation (Forbes 2016) and, as their following is frequently more niche, the campaigns can be more specifically targeted.

For example, cheesemakers Barber’s had great success when collaborating with micro-influencers to create a recipe book made up of dishes containing Barber’s cheese. Each of the micro-influencers had between 1,000 and 10,000 followers on social media, and shared the niche brand values of Barber’s – a love of good food and locally sourced produce – as well as reflecting the brand’s tone of voice. This enabled Barber’s to connect with the influencers’ users in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with a major influencer, where the brand message would probably have been lost due to the mass scale of the audience.

The main drawback of a micro-influencer, however, is right there in the name: their audience is much smaller. While the advantages of a segmented approach using niche audiences are clear, organisations may need to manage multiple relationships with a range of micro-influencers to reach the same audience asone major influencer with millions of followers. Those diffuse voices may dilute the tone of a campaign and any brand messages.

Tailor your approach to find theright influencer for your brand

There is no ‘one size fits all’ option for influencer marketing; it is all to do with finding out which influencers suit your brand and appeal directly to your users. There are clear advantages to both major and micro-influencers – it just depends what’s right for you. The key to a successful influencer campaign lies in the strength of the relationship between the influencer and the brand, and having a strategy in place to leverage the impact of the video, blog or social media post they create for you.

Here at pslondon, we’re always interested in discovering new ways in which brands are using influencers to reach larger audiences, inspire users and, ultimately, generate sales. 

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