The rapid growth and popularity of social media marketing has been accompanied by an increasing number of people endorsing different brands, products, and services online, to their large follower bases. This unique form of advertising would come to be known by the term influencer marketing. Today, influencer marketing is almost omnipresent in the advertising space, with brands vying for the attention of the large pool of consumers that these influencers have amassed.
Over the years, influencer marketing has been on a continuous upward trajectory, now being valued at over $21 billion dollars, according to the State of Influencer Marketing 2023 Benchmark Report. Moreover, data from the IMH State of Influencer Marketing Report has uncovered that more than 82% marketers have a dedicated budget for influencer marketing, with more brands looking to increase their spends over time.
Simply put, an influencer is someone characterized by a large follower base that enjoys a fan following from their audience. This gives them the power to influence people via the power of advocacy, i.e., if the influencer endorses something, their followers would follow suit too. This is achieved via a closer-knit rapport that influencers have with their fanbase, which sets them apart from celebrities/ personalities in this regard.
Here, followers see their influencers as regular human beings just like them, and find a sense of reliability with them. This sense of being grounded, to facilitate communication that is more human-like is something that brands struggle with even today, and why they look to influencer marketing as a solution to this conundrum. Building a connection that feels more personal is an important step for brands to succeed in today’s day and age, even more so with the industry saturation that has come as a result of many competitors.
Influencers themselves are real-life consumers of the products and services that brands build. They are an authentic reflection of the same things that consumers go through on a day-to-day basis. This leads to a feeling of transparency between followers and influencers. Collaborating with them thus creates a sense of trust with newer groups of consumers who are already familiar with the influencer they are following.
Influencer marketing has caused major disruptions in the marketing industry by introducing a level of authenticity and transparency that is unparalleled to other forms of traditional marketing. This leads to customers engaging with the influencers’ content directly, creating a two-way communication in the brand’s marketing.
As a spillover effect, it has encouraged many more people to become influencers in their own right. Now, the landscape is filled with micro influencers, each collaborating with brands both small and big. This has further led to a segregation in the types of influencers, namely micro and nano influencers.
Micro influencers that are influencers with a following of 10,000 to 100,000 followers often create content corresponding to a particular niche, such as fitness, or food, as examples. Their larger reach naturally means that brands would have to invest more on collaborating with these influencers.
Nano influencers, as the name implies, come with a smaller follower base, usually less than 10,000 followers. In spite of their reduced reach, this group is considered to be more authentic in nature given that the content they post is a lot closer to what regular consumers who aren’t influencers would post. This is because they have just started out and are amassing a following in their initial stages. Collaborating with nano influencers also incurs lower costs for brands.
One of the biggest reasons why influencer marketing is so successful for brands is because it builds social proof. This refers to a psychological phenomenon wherein people look to others to help them make decisions, especially when they may be uncertain, unfamiliar, or simply unable to decide how to go about a purchase. Here, customers tend to conform to the actions of the people they see around them, especially if they are deemed to be credible.
When it comes to marketing, social proof is an excellent way of influencing potential customers by visually guiding them to make a purchase of a particular product or service. Because the product or service in question is seen as favourable to the influencer, their followers can then know that it would give them the same experience as well. The end result of this is customers feeling confident to make a purchase, because the influencer that they adore has experienced the same.
At present, brands benefit from including influencers in their affiliate marketing programmes. With their large following, influencers are able to put brands right in front of consumers, across social media platforms. This unique partnership between influencer and affiliate marketing involves influencers promoting products via affiliate links. When consumers make purchases via these links, the influencer makes a commission or percentage of the sale.
In recent years, influencer commerce, a new phenomenon, has taken the centre stage in influencer marketing efforts. This is a sub-genre of e-commerce that is characterized by selling products in collaboration with influencers. It enables brands to sell their products to consumers via influencers’ social media channels, thereby allowing for very direct purchases.
As time goes by, influencer marketing will only continue to be heavily leveraged to help customers feel closer to the brands they buy from or subscribe to. One of the biggest trends that is already visible is brands collaborating with influencers that have smaller follower bases. This is to help build that sense of connection with audience groups across a larger pool of influencers, while also managing their allocated marketing budgets better.
Moreover, brands have increasingly been looking to build longer relationships with influencers, which comes as a stark contrast to how influencer partnerships would usually be a short/ one time act. With technology continuously evolving at a breakneck pace, geographical borders will continue to be irrelevant, as brands reach out to influencers on a global level. This will also positively impact the overall reach by introducing their products and services to audiences far across the world.
With every new development and technology, and every impact it has on influencer marketing, brands must always remember one thing – that influencers are themselves customers who face the same problems as people do in their regular lives. This should encourage brands to create strategies that are more collaborative in nature, rather than ones that make influencers emulate celebrities in the way they endorse brands.