How important are influencers to your product or brand?

The role of branding in modern business is evolving. And like it or loathe it, the role of the influencer is more powerful than ever. While traditional advertising was once considered the best marketing strategy, social influence now seems to be one of the most effective ways to generate positive buzz – and gain trust – around your brand.

But exactly how important are influencers to your business? And will they always generate a positive buzz around your brand?

These findings may help answer that question:

1. Online friends and family members are our biggest influencers

The power of the influencer all started with the power of social media. Back in 2009, digital agency Razorfish published their Fluent report which claimed that the only story about your brand that matters, is the story your customers tell online.

It was then the excitement around ‘Social Influence Marketing’ really began. Companies realised that buying behaviour and the affinity to your brand was hugely influenced by what a potential customer’s peers said about you online. In fact, when it comes to brand affinity and purchasing decisions, 79 per cent of us will be heavily influenced by content shared by family and friends.

What’s more, market research company Nielsen found that 92 per cent of consumers trust online recommendations from friends and family over other forms of advertising because it leads to the ‘Halo Effect’ of a brand. 

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2. Influencers have become consumers’ new best friends

Relying on peer groups to grow your brand affinity is important. But how much are customers influenced by bloggers, instagrammers and influencers they’ve never met in the flesh?

Deborah Weinswig’s article in Forbes claims that influencers are the ‘golden children of marketing strategies right now’. Despite not knowing them in the real world, 92 per cent of consumers trust an influencer more than a traditional advert or celebrity endorsement. Are influencers becoming the new celebrities?

3. 47 per cent of millennials say their purchase decisions are influenced by social media

If Millennials fall into the target audience for your brand, there’s an even bigger reason to start investing in your social media strategy. That’s because a report by Deloitte found that just under half of customers from the Millennial generation will be influenced by social media when they spend their cash. However just 23 per cent of non-Millennials are influenced in this way.

4. Influencer marketing beats display advertising for product purchases

Marketing technology company Tap influence carried out the Sales Effect Study which explored the effects of influencer marketing on sales of specific food products. They found that when top fitness and food influencers promoted a vanilla almond milk product in their online content, it generated almost 18 times the number of sales as display ads. With the rise of online advertising blockers, brands are relying more and more heavily on blogs. After all, as this study showed, blog content continues to drive 11 times more return on investment than display ads after 12 months.

5. Online influence depends on the type of brand you’re promoting

The way in which digital content affects our buying behaviour is a little more complex than you might think. As Deloitte reported in their 2015 study Navigating the New Digital Divide, how much the online world influences a customer’s spending depends on the type of brand you’re promoting.

For example, 62 per cent of shoppers are influenced by the internet when shopping for electronic brands. But when it comes to food and drink, only 31 per cent of customers are influenced by online content. So, if you’re a personal electronics or home appliances company, perhaps it’s time to get those tech bloggers on board. 

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6. Product-focused influencer marketing may damage your overall brand

Another interesting factor to think about is whether you invest your influencer marketing on an individual product or your overall brand. As this study found in the journal Marketing Science, focusing on a product may have a detrimental effect on your brand.

The experiment carried out nearly 400 marketing campaigns with 192 cosmetic brands across a community platform in South Korea. And interestingly, the campaigns successfully generated a buzz around the specific products they chose to promote, but it led to a decrease in word of mouth around the cosmetics brand in general. So, if you’re looking to promote your overall brand, sending influencers an individual product may not be the way forward.

7. 70 per cent of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencer opinions over celebrities

If Generation Z are the key target market for your brand, you may want to take note of this. In this article for Forbes, Tom Ward reported that teenagers are far more likely to trust a brand if they are being endorsed by a YouTube influencer that they can relate to, over a celebrity influencer. Does this mean that micro-influencers will start to charge brands more, or that companies are going to save a lot of money if they ditch the celebrity endorsements? Watch this space.

8. Video cross-promotion could be the future of social media influencer marketing

So, what is the future of social media influencer marketing and how can you make it work for your business or brand? Some people claim the relationship between brands and SMIs is going to fizzle out. But it’s more likely it’s going to evolve. According to an article by Christina Newberry for Hootsuite, one of the most effective ways to boost brand credibility, is not to just invite influencers to post about you. It’s doubly effective if they participate in content on your own brand’s social media platforms too. And if it’s video content, even better. Is it time for your brand to think about cross-promotion?

9. 75 per cent of UK marketers said they would increase their influencer budget in 2017

As eMarketer reported, Rakuten Marketing and Morar Consulting carried out some research this year that found budgets for influencer marketing are showing no signs of dwindling. While just three per cent of marketers were planning to reduce their influencer budgets, 75 per cent were planning on spending more. Unsuprisingly, brands are paying celebrities far more than your average influencer. But micro-influencers (those with fewer than 10,000 followers) can still earn up to £1,350 per Facebook post. The same study found that brands are willing to put almost a quarter of their marketing budgets towards this type of marketing.

So, influencer marketing is here to stay – for now. The question is, will you be embracing it?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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