Within the past year, Shane Dawson, a YouTube personality, has evolved his channel from quirky comedy sketches to in-depth, multi-video docu-series that have topped the trending charts. So far, he has interviewed and uncovered secrets of other YouTubers such as Tana Mongeau and Jeffree Star. Now, he’s tackling one of the biggest names on social media: Jake Paul.
By recreating himself and molding his channel into something completely new, Shane Dawson has become more than a YouTube personality — he has become an influencer. And with an influencer marketing strategy, his sponsored brands have flourished. In fact, brands like SeatGeek and BetterHelp generated up to 15.9 million views within days of Shane uploading videos that promoted their brands.
So, how can you acquire influencers to help market your brand, increase traffic to your website, and boost sales? Here’s our complete guide to influencer marketing.
What is Influencer Marketing?
An influencer is someone who does exactly what the term suggests — they influence others. In marketing, an influencer is someone who influences their audience, pushing them to view a certain website or buy specific products. They can be anything from bloggers and vloggers to reality stars and politicians.
Contrary to what many people believe, influencers aren’t determined by the number of followers they have. Instead, influencers are determined by how much power they have to change the perception of others. They’re able to use their reach, credibility, communication skills, and creativity to take brands and their reputations to the next level.
What is a Micro-Influencer?
A micro-influencer is similar to a traditional influencer, but they have a smaller audience base. While it may seem like having a smaller following is a bad thing, most micro-influencers have a niche focus. Because their followers are truly interested in their niche, micro-influencers tend to have elevated levels of user engagement. Rather than choosing to work with a few regular influencers, brands may decide to work with many micro-influencers to capture a range of targeted audiences with high engagement.
How Does Influencer Marketing Work?
When brands team up with influencers for marketing purposes, they rely on the influencer’s ability to engage with their community. Influencers utilize their social media platforms to get the word out about their sponsored brands, which has proven to be a more effective way of impacting audiences than a traditional digital ad.
Here are a few examples of some of the ways influencers have worked to promote brands:
- Taking over a brand’s social media (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.)
- for a day or multiple days throughout an influencer campaign
- Posting on their social platforms or sharing content from brands
- Using branded hashtags in their sponsored posts
- Promoting branded giveaways and contests that their audiences can enter to win
- Creating a video series about brands
- Reviewing brands on their social platforms
Why Does Influencer Marketing Work?
According to Marketing Technology Insights, at least 60% of users say they seek out user-generated content and reviews before making a decision to buy a product. Influencers offer both content and reviews on products to their consumers, helping to satisfy user needs.
Influencers also give audiences a voice to trust in. As their posts show up in users’ news feeds, their followers begin to feel a sense of familiarity with them. Audiences know that influencers are not just there to sell products, they’re there to entertain and deliver information that’s relevant to their users.
With the help from authentic voices that are close to their audiences, brands can widen their consumer circle, increase sales, build brand awareness, and push traffic to their websites.
Influencer Advertising vs. Influencer Marketing
While the terms influencer advertising and influencer marketing may sound the same, they’re actually two very different tactics. Influencer advertising is as simple as paying someone to post about your brand on their social platforms. Influencer marketing is more about building the relationship between a brand and the influencer. By working on an influencer marketing strategy rather than focusing on influencer advertising, you can create a long-term connection that can support your brand for years to come.
How Effective is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer Marketing Successes & Failures
In order to show the full scope of how effective influencer marketing strategies can be, it’s important to take a look at both the successes and failures of past brand campaigns. Here are a few influencer marketing examples:
Influencer Marketing Successes
Milton & King
Milton & King is a producer of high-quality, unique wallpaper that’s easy to install. In order to increase their brand awareness in the United States, they turned to influencers who focus on home interior and design. They sent samples of their wallpaper to 45 influencers, asking them to use it in their homes or in a new project. After using it, the influencers were asked to post on Instagram or create blog content about the wallpaper. Here are the key results:
- 158 pieces of content were created on Instagram and other various platforms
- There were 83,971 direct engagements with influencer content
- 980,071 total users were reached
- Milton & King gained 10,000+ new social media followers across their platforms
In another instance, Boxed Water, a company with a focus on world sustainability, wanted to encourage people around the world to be conscious of their consumption. They reached out to Aidan Alexander, an actor with over 600,000 followers on Instagram, to post a picture of their product using their branded hashtag (#ReTree). They also asked other popular influencers such as Alyssa Milano and Julianne Hough to do the same. For every repost, Boxed Water would plant two trees. Here’s what happened:
- The brand’s reach increased tenfold after the campaign launched
- They gained tens of thousands of followers on Instagram
- Over 300,000 people reposted the Boxed Water photo or shared their own
- More than 600,000 trees were planted overall
Influencer Marketing Fails
Pepsi, the popular soda company, wanted to promote their brand through a global diversity campaign. They chose Kendall Jenner, a widely-known reality star and model, as their influencer.
The ad they created portrayed a reenactment of a Black Lives Matter protest. In the ad, Kendall Jenner ditches a photoshoot to join the protest, showing that all races have the ability to come together for a cause. Meanwhile, police try to control the crowd. That’s when Kendall approaches the officers, offering them a can of Pepsi. It was a reference to the protester Ieshia Evans in a real Black Lives Matter protest.
Audiences criticized the ad and brand because the recreation of the Black Lives Matter protest was led by a white model. Consumers were also upset because it seemed like Pepsi was minimizing or ignoring the controversy around the treatment of African Americans by the criminal justice system. The ad was taken down and Pepsi apologized to the public, explaining that they only wanted to promote unity in diversity and didn’t intend any harm or mean to offend anyone.
The main lesson for other brands looking to use influencer marketing is that companies should invest time in finding the right influencer to promote their products. By searching for the right person, you can avoid influencer campaign failures such as this.
When Snickers took its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign global, they reached out to celebrities such as Katie Price, a British model, to become influencers for the brand. Katie took to Twitter to promote the Snicker’s campaign.
Katie’s followers were used to her tweets about fashion, so they were very confused when her tweets were suddenly about politics and macroeconomics. In fact, some of her followers even reached out, asking if her account had been hacked. Then, Katie posted a selfie while holding a Snicker’s candy bar, captioned with the campaign slogan and a sponsored hashtag. While the incident was cleared by the Advertising Standards Agency of the UK, her followers didn’t see the tweets as a marketing stunt. Instead, they were confused and disgruntled by them.
The takeaway from this influencer marketing case is that taking your campaign global can be tough. Again, adequate time should be invested in finding the right influencers to promote your brand worldwide. Unique ads can also be created based on specific demographics, helping to eliminate some of the negative criticism.
Influencer Marketing Statistics
We’ve created an infographic to share the most staggering influencer marketing statistics. Take a look below!
Is Influencer Marketing Worth It for Brands?
If you’re a brand that’s considering influencer marketing, one of your main concerns may be finding genuine influencers. You’ve probably heard the horror stories about companies partnering up with influencers and exchanging free products for their services. Those horror stories sometimes end in so-called “influencers” requesting payment after the exchange is made.
For an Entrepreneur article, a contributor named Jacqueline Detwiler went undercover as an influencer to see what it was actually like. She created a fake Instagram account, bought fake followers and likes, and even went as far as posting pictures from other Instagram accounts as her own. The goal was to see if she could convince brands to use her as an influencer…and it worked.
Jacqueline ended up reaching out to several companies and a few of them got back to her, willing to create a partnership. Two brands even offered products in exchange for Jacqueline’s influencer services. After she let those companies know the real motive behind her account, one owner was willing to discuss her influencer marketing strategy. The owner said that she’s always aware that there are fake people out there, but she does take chances on accounts that say they have interest in her brand. She’ll often offer free products to influencers, considering it a first-time discount. In her eyes, she’s “just sharing an excellent product,” no matter the circumstances.
The owner’s strategy has actually led to partnerships with influencers that have produced enormous profits for her company. She says that “because gifting can create feelings of reciprocity, the plan can be effective for many businesses.”
So, is influencer marketing worth it? Should you learn the ins and outs and increase your budget to account for influencers? The answer is that despite some of the hiccups and the risk of failure, brands may have no choice but to work with influencers. In order to maintain relevancy and increase growth, brands need to use influencers to get their name out there and build consumer trust.
How Influencer Marketing is Changing
History of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing isn’t new to the industry. Take a look at some examples of how influencer marketing has been used in the past:
- In 1890, Nancy Green was dubbed “Aunt Jemima,” a reference to a popular character from a local show. Her face was plastered on boxes of pancake mix and many people were influenced to buy the product because of her.
- In 1905, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a well-known celebrity, was hired to represent a Turkish cigarette brand called Murad. While he wouldn’t agree to actually smoke cigarettes on stage in front of an audience, he did advertise the cigarettes in print.
- In 1931, an image of a jolly Santa Claus was created to help promote Coca-Cola soda. The brand began experimenting with pictures of lovable public figures. They tested to see if consumers would be more inclined to love a product that was being promoted by someone that they loved. Turns out they were right!
- In the 1950s, the Marlboro Man became a staple, representing the cigarette brand. The man was portrayed by many people, helping to promote smoking as a trendy, masculine habit. In return, many men jumped on the smoking bandwagon and preferred the brand Marlboro.
- In 2010, Old Spice created a campaign to help break away from it’s “old man” stigma. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign targeted young men by incorporating humor. With this strategy, the campaign ended up going viral. Overall, Old Spice sales doubled and their website traffic increased by 300%.
- In 2015, Airbnb recruited Mariah Carey and asked her to stay at luxurious company properties. She shared pictures and details with her followers on her social media platforms to help promote the brand.
Now, brands have maximized their influencer marketing budgets and tend to rely heavily on celebrity ads. Micro influencers are also a big part of the industry, helping to promote smaller voices in society.
Today’s Top Social Media Influencers
Influencers that are currently topping the charts range from YouTube stars such as Shane Dawson and Jake Paul to actresses such as Lena Dunham and singers like Selena Gomez. While the top influencers change from year to year, some have stayed there for years. Why? Because they have what it takes to keep people interested and engaged.
The Future of Influencer Marketing
What can you plan to see in influencer marketing in the next year or so? In an IAB article, the Pinterest Head of Global Marketing Communications, Eric Edge, says that we’ll see the industry move to a bottom-up strategy where influencers become partners with brands and develop more long-term relationships. There will also be a stronger focus on complete trust and authenticity.
In another article by InfluencerDB, it’s suggested that influencer podcasts will be on the rise. More influencers will voice their thoughts, opinions, and advice over audio and video, extending their audience reach.
Quick Guide to Influencer Marketing
What to Do Before You Begin Marketing with Influencers
1. Determine Why You Need an Influencer Marketing Strategy
A successful and effective influencer marketing campaign always begins with a solid goal. Do you need to build brand awareness or change your brand’s reputation? Do you want to gain a certain amount of followers? Would you like to achieve a certain amount of sales? Think about what success would mean for your campaign and make that your strategy’s goal.
2. Search for Influencers (Both Regular & Micro)
Begin your search by using hashtags. You’ll be able to find a wide range of users who are all interested in something related to your brand. This gives you a deep pool to choose from! There are sure to be both regular and micro influencers amongst the bunch.
To help you get started, we recommend trying hashtagify.me, a quick tool for tracking hashtags and finding influencers.
3. Set Your Relationship Terms
Before you actually begin working with any influencers, set your brand-influencer relationship terms. What do you have to offer influencers in terms of compensation? Are you willing to give them free products or do you have a set payment per post you’d like to offer them? Setting these terms ahead of time will help you in the long run, especially if you plan to deal with multiple influencers of various levels.
Creating an Influencer Marketing Strategy
1. Develop a Plan for Marketing to Your Influencers
Before influencers begin promoting your brand, you’ll have to convince them that your brand is worth working with. KickOffLabs suggests sharing your products and services with them so they can familiarize themselves with your brand. You may even create events so potential influencers can have a hands-on experience with your products.
2. Strategize How Your Influencers Will Market to Their Audiences
What would you like your influencers to do once they’ve agreed to promote your brand? Do you want them to share product reviews or create a series of posts? How about a product giveaway? Develop some options for your influencers so they can choose what would work best for them and their audience.
Top 3 Influencer Marketing Tips
1. Know the FTC Disclosure Rules
Before you dive into an influencer marketing strategy, make sure you know the rules you’ll need to abide by. Within the last few years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun regulating influencer marketing. Now, when influencers create posts or videos for their brands, they must disclose to their audience that they are being sponsored. Making that known can be as simple as adding #sponsored or #ad to the end of a post.
2. Find Niche Categories
When you’re looking for your influencers, try searching for very specific things your target audience is interested in. As we previously discussed, niche categories have been known to deliver more passionate, engaged users.
3. Track Engagement, Not Followers
Since bots and spam accounts still exist (unfortunately!), it’s important to measure your influencer campaign success by engagement, not the number of followers you’ve gained.