Marketing Under the Influence?

This week, a breaking news report from MNN (Millennial News Network): Urban Outfitters, the trendy clothing and lifestyle chain, has added an “Influencer” costume to its Halloween collection.

To some, this might seem silly, but to marketers in the know, it makes complete sense. Regardless of which camp you’re in, the fact that “influencers” are ubiquitous enough to inspire a Halloween costume – like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were in 2016 – means it’s worth taking a closer look at what (or who) influencers actually are.

In a nutshell, influencers are people with significant followings on social media who have the power to influence their followers’ spending decisions and other choices. Understandably, this power makes them very attractive partners for many brands looking to significantly boost their exposure to particular audiences.

The most well-known influencers are celebrities, like the wildly successful ladies of the Kardashian/Jenner clan. Kylie Jenner alone has 116 million followers on Instagram – more than three times the entire population of Canada! That’s an incredibly large, and unusually attentive, market to sell to.

However, most influencers aren’t high-profile celebrities — or, at least, most people wouldn’t think of them as celebrities. They won’t ever grace the pages of People magazine, but these micro-influencers command lots of attention on their individual blogs or on social platforms like YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook. Many of them focus on incredibly niche, well-defined audiences, like adherents to the ‘paleo’ diet or North American cricket fanatics. And because they’ve already done the difficult work of audience segmentation, they’re often perfect surrogates for brands looking for customers in those niches.

Think of it as companies giving influencers cash in exchange for credibility.

The Influencer Orchestration Network, which “specializes in developing powerful relationships between brands and influential content creators,” has some pretty compelling statistics about influencer marketing, including:

  • 86 per cent of women turn to social networks before making a purchase
  • 71 per cent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference
  • On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing

Influencer marketing works best when companies choose influencers that are true partners, not just paid shills. But how can you make sure you follow this advice? The same way you succeed every day with other facets of your marketing plan: tell the truth to your audience, and tell the truth to yourself.

When looking at partnering with a particular influencer, there are several things you should analyze. Does their existing social media presence fit well with your brand’s image? Is there significant overlap between their audience and your own? Does this person post consistently and thoughtfully, and seem to have the respect of an engaged following?

Choosing the right influencer is about so much more than the number of followers they have. So instead of being drawn in by that massive number on the top of the page, dig a little deeper. Your results will speak for themselves.

Aleisha Bosch

Aleisha Bosch is an Account Manager at Bonfire.