Influencer Marketing 101

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘influencer’? Probably something like “someone who influences another.” Good one, champ. You’re right. But if I asked you to think of a time when you were marketed to by an influencer, you’d probably say something like, “No, what are you talking about?” And then I would smile a knowing smile that says I know something you don’t.

And that is this: in all likelihood, you’ve already been marketed to by many influencers, multiple times over. If you don’t think so, you probably weren’t paying attention. I’m here to pull the wool from your eyes.

Influencer marketing is all the rage these days, and rightly so, as it’s essentially the new and improved word-of-mouth marketing. There’s no better recommendation than a recommendation from a friend. Even if that friend happens to be someone you don’t actually know IRL.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

What is influencer marketing and why does it work?

Well, let’s start from the beginning. It’s no secret that most people dislike being blatantly advertised to, and can you blame them? Our daily lives are inundated with ads; one study estimated that we see up to 5,000 of them a day (!). Now more than ever, brands have to walk a very fine line with advertising: too much of it and people will be turned off, too little of it and people will forget your brand exists.

This has evolved in an interesting way since the advent of social media. Because advertising is more intrusive than ever– bombarding us not only in print publications and billboards but also in every nook and cranny of the digital space– brands must now provide value to fans while they're advertising to be successful. Because let’s face it, if a brand’s post shows up uninvited in my Instagram feed, it better be worth looking at, or I’m not going to feel good about that brand.

So, why run the risk of pissing people off with intrusive advertising when someone else––someone who your target audience trusts, respects and admires––could do it for you? This is where influencers come into the picture. If you can get someone who has a significant following on social and is already well-liked by your target audience to tout your brand, you win. Someone else––someone cool––just did your marketing for you.

So, is this just a fad?

All signs point to definitely not. For starters, as described above, influencer marketing is simply an evolved form of marketing. It’s more effective than traditional advertising in that it’s organic, genuine and unobtrusive.(Of course, it could be argued that an influencer is the exact opposite of all those things, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Moreover, young people take to this type of advertising much better than they take to traditional advertising. They’re more likely to pay attention to your brand if your message is delivered via someone they look up to and admire.

Still not convinced? Well, I hate to break to it you, but influencer marketing is a bona fide industry these days. The big-time influencers––think Casey Neistat, Shaun McBride, Logan Paul––are represented by agencies, and they have lots of options to choose from: Social Talent, Viral Nation, Hello Society, InstaBrand, ENACT, and on and on. It’s happening and it’s here to stay.

What are some examples?

So glad you asked!

50 Shades of Dress

Lord & Taylor recently executed a great example of small-scale influencer marketing. The retailer partnered with (read: paid) 50 hand-selected influential fashionistas on Instagram to wear the same dress over the same weekend.

[Note: Read the comments section in the first screenshot to get an idea of the casual user's disparate thoughts on this kind of marketing.]

The posts generated tons of engagement, and the dress sold out by the end of the weekend. Grand slam for Lord & Taylor.

State of Wonder

Here at Sparkloft, we’ve worked on a slew of influencer campaigns, big and small. Travel Oregon’s 7 Wonders campaign is one of our favorites.

The influencer aspect of the campaign occurred during Phase 1 when we selected seven social influencers to explore Oregon’s 7 Wonders. We chose them based on the specific geographic markets and individual interests Travel Oregon was looking to target.

The results were significant: Travel Oregon’s Facebook community grew by 26,000 fans, Twitter by more than 6,000 followers and Instagram by nearly 8,000 followers.

Influencer marketing can be successfully achieved on a small or large scale. But the main takeaway is this: as you navigate this strange social world we live in, take a closer look at your social media feeds. There’s more there than what meets the eye.

Head back to our blog next week for another lesson on influencer marketing. There’s a lot to learn. We’ve only just scratched the surface.