Social Influencers: The Trendy and Trustworthy

It’s no shock the digital space is oversaturated with advertisements, and with that “clutter” comes frustrated consumers struggling to tune ads out, leading customers to navigate nontraditional avenues to consume information. Who wants to see generic advertisements with unsupported claims – how are we supposed to decipher what products or services are trustworthy? Cue the social influencer.

Ah, the social influencer: the newest marketing weapon of the digital age. To many, an “influencer” is considered a widely-known (and widely-followed) celebrity who endorses a product via social media. Look a bit deeper, and you will find an entire universe of these social stars ranging from fashion ambassadors to fitness gurus. According to a 2012 study by Neilsen, some 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and 70 percent trust customer reviews, while only 33 percent trust ads. We already follow our favorite celebrities, bloggers and creatives, so why not utilize them as a brand ambassador to generate that authenticity consumers look for?

Choosing the right influencer for your digital marketing strategy is the difficult part – it isn’t always about the number of Instagram followers. It is of utmost importance that your influencer’s posts, values, passions, personality and audience align with your brand. Dudley Nevill-Spencer, Director of The Influencer Group, believes that collaborating with individuals who are genuinely excited by your brand is the key to a strong influencer campaign. Unlike big-name celebrities, smaller-scale yet enthusiastic endorsers have more potential for being long-term advocates of brands and can be retained without breaking your budget.

However, the trend of pursuing one focal macro-influencer is changing course. Many companies strategically pair up with multiple users and provide them with discount codes or payment in exchange for posts promoting their product or service. La Croix, the sparkling water brand we all know and love, has launched a community-based organic campaign to engage its loyal customers. Their campaign encourages customers to post with the product using the hashtag #LiveLaCroix for a chance to be featured on its Instagram page or simply be sent product vouchers. This grass-roots ‘micro-influencer’ approach genuinely rewards consumers for being a brand advocate, as well as encourages engagement and impressions from many social media users who may not follow La Croix directly.

This micro-marketing technique is perfect for not only start-up companies seeking “buzz” and some weight in their respective market, but it is also a useful tool for more well-established brands. Relationships strengthen brand loyalty – especially the relationships that form between influencers and their attentive spectators. If you are considering implementing a social influencer campaign, consider these five tips adapted from John Lamarca, Director of Marketing for London-based social media startup 6Tribes:

  1. Don’t micromanage your influencers. They know their audience better than anyone, and have built the relationship with them on trust and being true to themselves. It is essential to let them integrate your brand in a way that is holistic to their content.
  2. Ask them to promote you across all their relevant channels. In the world of social networks, this is equivalent to multi-channel marketing.
  3. Plan for long-term engagement to get the most from your marketing spend. Integrate the influencer into your community, and complement and amplify the influencer campaign with targeted promotions on other marketing channels.
  4. Bigger isn’t always better. As discussed above, it is important to gauge how the influencer involves the audience in terms of style and tone, and if their community aligns with your brand.
  5. Engage with the created content. Comment, like and repost the influencer’s content yourself to increase the lifespan of the sponsored content.

Influencer marketing is perhaps the “new” word-of-mouth. Logistically, it is a wonderful asset to any strategic marketing plan, as it encourages more natural engagement with your brand. Take a step back from traditional advertisements and integrate social influencers to create an effective, stellar campaign that consumers are captivated by!

Hannah Peebles is a junior at Clemson University pursuing a degree in marketing with a minor in management. Hannah serves as Vice President of Membership for her sorority, Kappa Delta, and is currently an Account Intern with Flourish. 

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