Social media influencers – what’s all the fuss?

Social media influencers form an integral part of many marketing strategies for today’s consumer-facing brands, helping them connect with real consumers via their personal network of thousands of followers. While you have most likely heard of the term “influencer”,  do you really know what it means and the impact influencers can have on your brand?

What is a social media influencer?

Influencers are individuals that have the ability to sway or change an audience in their opinions or buying patterns. Generally speaking, influencers have a large reach in their chosen niches, due to their knowledge, relationships with their audience and content they share with their followers. Ultimately their followers trust them and value their opinion. Harnessing these relationships can be extremely powerful for brands, providing an opportunity to reach a new audience with authentic and relatable content from a trusted source.

In marketing, the Oxford Dictionary determines the term influencer to mean “A person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media”.

Different types of influencers

There are many different types of influencers online, covering different topics with varying numbers of followers. The number of followers can impact the way in which influencers communicate and interact with their audience, and this is essential to keep in mind when identifying bloggers or Instagrammers to work with on brand partnerships. This must be carefully considered to ensure you are meeting your objectives. We can identify three types of influencers:

Micro influencers

With a smaller community between 1,000 – 100,000 followers, micro influencers are usually everyday people who have built a small dedicated following online, within a chosen niche. Their followers are extremely loyal and tend to trust their opinion as if they are friends. Usually micro influencers have great engagement rates and will often reply to all of their comments, building up a good rapport with their audience. Working with micro influencers can be extremely targeted, lower cost and they are usually happy to create content in exchange for free products or samples. However, it does take a lot of research to identify the right influencers to work with.

Macro influencers

With a following between 100,000 – 1 million followers, these influencers are usually professional bloggers or a leader within their industry. Their social media channels are usually their main source of income. This type of influencer tends to charge a fee, due to their reputation and follower reach. Generally speaking, the engagement rate of this type of influencer is lower than that of a micro influencer, but it is still high and maintains a personal feel. When working with this kind of influencer, it is important to understand who you are working with and do your research beforehand. Influencer fraud is currently a hot topic – we will touch on this in another blog post – but it is crucial to be aware that some influencers may not have an authentic following. It’s not always easy to identify which content creators have had organic growth and which have bought followers, you must use your judgment. Look at the ‘likes’ and comments on their posts and review the quality of their audience to see if it meets your requirements.

Mega influencers

With over 1 million followers, the great majority of them are celebrities. They have a large audience from all parts of the world, cover many topics and often focus on more than just one subject. These types of influencers will charge a large fee for a single post (it has been said that Kendall Jenner earns an estimated $300,000 per social media post). It can mean big reach for brands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your potential customers will be interested in seeing that type of content. Usually, brands will work with mega influencers strategically for high-impact campaigns for maximum brand awareness, or as longer-term brand ambassadors.

Thinking of using a social media influencer to increase your brand?

It’s important to understand whether you think an influencer is right for your brand. What are you trying to achieve? Does it fit with your business objectives? Does the majority of your audience use social media? Will your budget stretch to meet the demands of mega or macro influencers, or is it more suited to micro influencers? Do you want to raise brand awareness or increase sales?

If you can answer all these questions and you decide that an influencer is the right choice for your brand, then here are some tips on how to select the right influencer for you:

Does the influencer’s content align with your brand message?

You need to choose influencers who relate to your brand message, tone and voice. For instance, if a vegan brand uses a non-vegan influencer to sell their products, it won’t have quite the impact or uplift and could even create a backlash. Their vision must align with your brand message to reflect your brand values and resonate with their audience.

Do they have enough reach?

Select an influencer with enough reach and engagement to make the partnership worthwhile for both parties. If the influencer has a good number of followers and engages regularly with their audience, then this could be a fantastic way to increase brand awareness, tap into a new audience and encourage conversations about your product. It is also a great idea to carry out research on their audience. Are their followers mainly female? What is their age range, 16-20 or 50-65? This will massively impact the return you get from this type of marketing, so make sure you do your research first!

What sort of content do you want them to create for you?

Every influencer has a different style or format in which they post. It could vary from videos, flat lays, tutorials, lifestyle images, review posts, blogs, or live interactive videos. Some influencers may even have a particular colour theme they follow or photography style. You will need to decide what sort of content you want to get out of their feed and whether your chosen influencer suits your requirements, or even, the style of your brand. You must bear in mind that influencers will want to follow their personal aesthetic, so this must be respected. Don’t try and change their creative vision or style of social media activity, otherwise, they may reject the opportunity to work with your brand – not to mention it can appear inauthentic and alienate their audience! If their style or content format does not suit your brand, then they are not the influencer for you.

Should I consider gifting or a paid partnership?

Both routes have their pros and cons. Gifting is a fantastic way to engage micro influencers, giving away free products in exchange for authentic, genuine personal reviews, while paid partnerships can guarantee coverage and boost your brand to a large number of people. Gifting empowers influencers to share their real opinions, which will help build trust and authenticity online. The latter is particularly important when talking to a new audience on social media – versus a paid influencer campaign, where bloggers and Instagrammers are contracted to say good things about your brand. Many influencers with a bigger following will be more likely to only work with brands in a paid partnership capacity. This can be quite expensive for brands and can appear ingenuine. Consumers are now extremely savvy to paid or sponsored posts and this can have less impact than an authentic review. Ultimately, transparency is now key. Due to CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) requirements, influencers must now disclose any paid partnerships (#spon, #ad, #collab, ‘Paid partnership with…’ etc). It is important to understand what you want to achieve from influencer activity when deciding which route to take.

Have they been part of an influencer partnership before?

It is helpful to look at what brands, if any, an influencer has partnered with before when choosing them. This will give you a great indication of what content they could produce for your brand and an idea of the capacity in which they work – gifting or only paid partnerships? Take note of what sort of products they promote and see if this is what you want for your brand/products. Will they promote them in a fun and friendly way? Or will it be simplistic and subtle?

Before financially investing in influencer marketing, consider these points and do further research, as it is not a task to take on lightly. Influencer marketing is growing year on year and is fast becoming a key part of the online marketing sphere, meaning it must not be ignored, but rather approached with careful consideration.

If you would like to speak to one of our social media experts to ask questions or seek advice about whether influencers are right for your brand, then please contact us on 01603 252555  or fill in a contact form.