What the influencer marketing trend means for business

Celebrity endorsements have always been an enigma. A tool typically reserved for the highest echelon companies in the world, it was a high risk, high reward solution for companies that needed to stand out. In particular cases, say Jennifer Aniston and Smartwater, or Kim Kardashian and Shoedazzle, it brought companies into the mainstream and transformed them into market leaders.

In other cases, say Subway’s famous Jared, or the "Can you Hear Me Now" guy from Verizon leaving for Sprint, it can be a complete and utter disaster. Still, companies that were in dire need of stepping up their marketing game often sought out a quick and easy solution: slap a beloved celebrity’s face on your product and hopefully watch public attention and positive emotions soar sky high.

Fast forward to today and the world of celebrity endorsement has been overcome by a new form of micro-celebrities. Niche influencers that reach a devoted audience in a specific niche - and sometimes have the ability to drive enormous amounts of attention and dollars to a product have proven highly effective. They live on social networks and have ongoing and even unprecedented, communication between themselves and their followers. This leads to building powerful levels of trust and loyalty that can and by all means should be taken advantage of by companies and their marketing departments.

Today, Influencer Marketing is an industry in and of itself, with an estimated $2 billion spent on influencers making posts on social media in 2016. The key driver behind the growth of the influencer marketing industry has been the popularity of social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

It has also had impacts on the emerging platforms like Snapchat and Music.ly by aggressively stretching the spectrum of traditional marketing campaigns that, in the past, were utilising celebrity endorsements for exposure.

This new and improved business model brought exciting opportunities along with it. As a channel of marketing prowess, influencers create a significant goodwill among their followers and allow advertisers and brands to skip past the challenges presented by digital media today. The fact is that people do not want to see ads; they see enough. People are bombarded by thousands every day and are actively installing ad blockers to avoid them. They do not remember which ads they saw, and if they do they do not recall which brand posted it or where. If they happen to remember the brand, they feel as if their personal space was violated, or it came in an untimely fashion and it interrupted something they actually wanted to see. Click fraud and poor metrics reporting have led to an even more strenuous time for marketers everywhere.

But what influencers do that other means of marketing do not is offering avenues to get in front of the exact target demographic. This means that not only are the people putting out products suitable for the brand, but their followers (your potential customers) will trust the recommendation and be able to remember the product, unlike ads, which around 70 per cent of millennials block out anyway. In essence, you can override the ad blockers by utilising industry influencers. 

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The one problem that came along with the days of old in influencer marketing is now all but resolved. Ten years ago, there were about 5,000 people who you could categorise as celebrities. The social media age has opened that avenue to streamline around 10 million niche influencers. Your brand can now afford to work with influencers even if your brand does not reside in the Fortune 500. There are no agencies that can manage such a high number of influencers. The old model of having one agent per ten celebrities is no longer scalable and is somewhat archaic at this rate.

Despite that, one problem may arise: How do you find the right influencers for your brand when there are millions of them to choose from? To address this issue, hundreds of influencer marketing platforms have emerged, but the industry is still fragmented beyond belief.

That being said, we are beginning to see a major shift. Technology is beginning to catch up and platforms are embracing the data and analytics as a driving force to sift through the abundance of options. You may recall the same thing happened 25 years ago when Google replaced old school methods with a sophisticated search engine that organised the web and allowed you to search through websites efficiently.

Now is the time for marketers to embrace the idea of influencer marketing. Technology is catching up, and it has allowed agencies and brands to take advantage of opportunities and inefficiencies. Smaller, targeted influencers that have a tremendous relationship with their fans can become business’ best friend and be the difference between being unknown and a household name. Industry experts say that every dollar spent with an influencer converts to $6.50 of earned media. 92 per cent of people trust the word of an influencer over the word of a brand. Businesses need to learn how to gather them and catch their followers’ attention correctly – as more people start taking advantage of this opportunity in the years to come, they will leave their competitors behind.

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