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Insight & Opinion

Under the influence

Influencer marketing is nothing new. It’s not magic and it’s definitely not a guarantee of success. Put simply, it’s word of mouth. But don’t underestimate the power of the people, especially when their voice is amplified on social media.

Influencer marketing has been around for some time – from product placement to celebrity endorsements. But like most things online, it’s evolved with social media. In that space anyone can be famous, even for 5 minutes. Anyone can become an artist, critic or stylist. And anyone can become an informer or influencer of the people.

The question is, how do you harness the power of the masses?

For the sake of this post, let’s assume you know your offering and audience inside out. But even so, you probably still have questions about how to approach an influencer-led campaign. With the entire network of social media at your disposal, how do you decide the correct direction for your brand/campaign? How do you decide what conversation you want to start?

First, it’s not enough to just throw money at social media and expect a return. Influencers should only be used if they can solve a core problem. They should be treated in the same was as any other potential solution, touch point or supplier. Do they serve a purpose in solving the overarching project problem? If not, then influence marketing may not be appropriate this time. If they do, then it’s time to welcome you to the world of the micro influencer…

Size isn’t everything

This new generation of influencers has significant power over smaller groups of society, ultimately delivering greater impact, better results and providing stronger return on your investment. Gone is the need for celebrity endorsements. Don’t get me wrong, they can be useful and have huge reach, with impact. But they are by no means essential. 90% of social media users trust peer recommendation. I doubt even Kim and Kanye can generate those sorts of numbers.

The biggest realisation in recent years is that having high numbers of followers does not guarantee high rewards. Fanbytes created a scoring system to measure the influence of over 3,000 influencers on their site. The results found that influencers with high scores and smaller audiences outperformed those with similar scores and a large audience. When delving into the world of influence, remember that one individual talking to a group of 10 is more likely to engage and resonate with his audience as another individual talking to a group of 100.

Influencing done right

Shore Projects is a prime example of how to take full advantage of influencer power. They collaborated with Whaler, a marketplace for influencers, to create a product campaign for a new watch. They wanted to move beyond the use of commercial product shoots. Instead with Whaler’s help, choosing people who would photograph the product and post it on their Instagram and Facebook accounts. These individuals were chosen based on their creative style, and most importantly, for their audience who had to be right for the product.

The overall project comprised 50 content creators engaged across the UK, Europe and the USA. 150 unique content assets were produced, with each creator sharing through their own Instagram channel. The overall project reached 6 million people, generating 200k+ likes. And the results were even better – with highlights including an impressive 7-1 return on ad spend, 19% increase in sales conversation, 27% increase in click through rate, and a massive 80% reduction against previous campaign production costs, making it cheaper than a traditional product-led photo shoot.

The key to the success here is not in the reach of the influencer; it’s in the sway over their audience. It shows that finding the right influencers is vital. Shore projects understood their problem, what they wanted to achieve and also their target audience. All of these along with additional insight would have informed the decision on each of the 50 content creators. This was no accident or fluke.

Influencer marketing is not magic, and it’s definitely not a guaranteed formula for success. It also isn’t for everyone. But for brands that are aspirational, products that are desirable and purchase decisions that are emotional, it can be a compelling and useful tool. When you stop trying to work out how to talk to your audience, you might reap the benefits of letting them talk between themselves.

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