Over the past decade, digital marketing, in particular social media marketing, has been noticeably transformed by the rise of the social media influencer. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok or one of countless other social media platforms, there are always influencers sharing their opinions and expertise with their enthusiastic followers.
Influencer Marketing Hub defines an influencer as someone who has both “a following in a distinct niche, with whom he or she actively engages” and “the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience.”
These personalities and their large, almost cult-like, followings are a powerful tool for digital marketing and are regularly employed by brands to promote products and services.
Influencer marketing offers a variety of unique benefits but also presents its fair share of challenges. Below we discuss both so that you can decide if this strategy is right for your business.
Influencer marketing benefits
Increased reach and engagement
One of the main benefits of influencer marketing is the potential to reach a large and highly engaged audience.
Influencers, by definition, have an established and dedicated group of followers who trust their opinions and recommendations. Partnering with the right influencer can get your brand in front of thousands, if not millions, of potential customers while they’re ready, willing and able to engage with your message.
Influencers typically have a very specific area of expertise and association, and their audience reflects this.
By working with influencers whose target audience is similar to your own, you can ensure that your message will reach the right people at the right time.
Influencer marketing can be a very cost-effective way of reaching a large and highly engaged target audience. Using influencer marketing, businesses can achieve significant results for just a fraction of the cost of a comparable large-scale TV or print ad.
Influencers have a much more personal connection with their audience than traditional businesses, which makes their recommendations far more credible and trustworthy than regular advertisements.
When an influencer promotes a product or service, their audience receives that promotion like a recommendation from a friend which, for the associating business, can improve brand perception and even increase conversion rates.
Outsourced content creation
If there’s one area in which influencers excel, it’s content creation! They know their audience well and have a good understanding of what messages will resonate with them; which is evident in their ability to attract such a large following.
With an effective influencer partnership, you generate an association between your brand and the high-quality, engaging content that the influencer produces. This can save your business the time and resources of creating your own content while still maintaining or improving your brand image.
Questions of authenticity
While certain segments of an influencer’s audience will view their messages as more authentic than traditional advertising, there will inevitably be those who find influencer marketing an instant turn-off.
There’s no escaping the fact that brand-influencer partnerships are paid advertisements and, with many influencers open to promoting just about anything as long as the money’s right, it can be difficult to trust that the opinions they share are truly their own.
If evidence of dishonesty arises it can prove damaging to both the influencer’s credibility and the brand’s reputation.
Potential for reputational damage
Relying heavily on influencer marketing can expose your brand to some significant risks.
If the influencer’s reputation is damaged (through fault of their own or otherwise), or if they somehow lose their following altogether, this can have a serious negative impact on your brand.
To mitigate this risk it is important that brands diversify their marketing strategies.
Loss of brand control
In collaborating with influencers, you will need to relinquish at least some of the control you have over your brand message. Influencers are usually given briefs and brand guidelines, but the content creation is ultimately in their hands.
While this does provide a unique opportunity for creativity and variation of messages, it also presents the potential for miscommunication and could result in content not aligned with your brand values.
Oversaturation of influencer marketing
As influencer marketing becomes increasingly common, audiences are relentlessly bombarded with what is essentially marketing in disguise.
This oversaturation can lead audiences to become skeptical of all influencer marketing and instinctively reject these kinds of messages.
Difficulty measuring ROI
Determining the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing can be tricky if not managed correctly. Properly tracking leads and conversions, and effectively attributing them to an influencer’s efforts requires clear metrics, sophisticated tracking mechanisms and ongoing evaluation of results.
Influencer marketing provides a unique opportunity for businesses to connect with their target audience on a personal level, strengthen brand image and generate leads. It is, however, vital to approach this strategy with an understanding of both its benefits and challenges, as well as the unique disposition of your target audience. Knowing your audience will help you predict how they will likely respond to influencer marketing.
If you should decide to utilize influencer marketing, the keys to maximizing this strategy are working with appropriate influencers, communicating clear expectations and monitoring performance closely, while also taking appropriate steps to minimize the potential pitfalls.
Carl Garner-Watts is the lead marketing content creator at exhibition stand design and build contractor Quadrant2Design. He has over a decade of experience in digital marketing, spanning industries including trade shows, facilities management, finance, property investment and venue marketing.
To explore more SmartBrief Originals on influencer marketing, see:
- The latest trends in B2B Influencer Marketing
- How de-influencers and influencers affect brand collaborations
- Reverse-engineering influencer marketing for a Web3 world
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