Trust. As you’ve no doubt heard, it takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.
And that’s in terms of relationships among people.
With corporations, it gets even trickier.
There is, perhaps, no greater challenge in marketing than that of building brand trust. These days, such trust has become a prerequisite to consumer purchases, and yet traditional interruptive marketing tactics fail to build this vital commodity.
Enter influencer marketing.
If you’re not tapping into the influential voices in your given space, you’re not only missing out on valuable insights, but also on the trust and amplification these individuals can lend to your brand’s message.
Influencer marketing can no longer be considered an optional component of a content marketing strategy. Here’s why.
Harnessing the Voices of Influencers
Leveraging influencers to help tell the story of your brand needs to be a vital part of your content and social strategies. The definition of an influencer, of course, varies depending on your brand’s niche.
But in short, they are the people who live and breathe the space in which your company plays. Their voices can deliver value to your outbound messaging in several ways.
At its core, good influencer marketing is about borrowing the trust that an influencer has established with his or her audience.
This is trust that the person has built over time by being an active and authentic part of a given community, and few brands can hope to establish such rapport on their own.
However, if your brand can create a meaningful connection with an influencer and earn his or her endorsement, the trust of that person’s audience will transfer to your company’s message.
This borrowing of influencer trust is commonly seen among the mom blogging community, a highly valued and yet incredibly discerning group of individuals who are known for their honesty and tight-knit bonds within their communities.
The Abbi Agency and its client, Lake Tahoe, tapped into this coveted community by offering a select few bloggers a free personalized trip to Lake Tahoe for their entire families. They created custom itineraries for each blogger to ensure the experience they shared with their networks were both authentic and uniquely tailored to the writer’s own personality and preferences.
Influencers represent a media channel unto themselves. Brands can place their messaging virtually anywhere they desire on the web — traditional display, native content, paid social media, video ads, etc.
But in the end, all of these placements represent the voice of the brand.
When you tap into influencers to tell your brand’s story, you amplify your message in an entirely new way—through the authentic voice of the influencer. As such, every impression reached via an influencer represents a wholly unique touchpoint for your brand.
The added reach that a single influencer can bring to your brand can be impressive. Last year, Cadbury's #CadburyCraveyard Halloween campaign caught fire thanks to a single tweet from celebrity Rylan Clark. The tweet garnered more than 1.3 million impressions and drove more than 11,000 #CadburyCraveyard tweets in a single day---compared to just 105 the day before. That’s the amplification of an authentic influencer interaction.
These days, it’s getting harder and harder to reach consumers via traditional advertising. In fact, nearly two-thirds of millennials are now blocking ads when they view digital content.
Influencer marketing represents an alternative for connecting with these highly valued — yet highly ad-averse — consumers, in a way that they welcome. By becoming a part of the real conversation, brands can evolve their marketing approaches from ones based on interruption, to ones based on true engagement.
Strategic Feedback from Influencers
While a lot of the attention given to influencer marketing centers around building trust and amplifying messaging, marketers should not overlook the value that inbound feedback from influencers offers. Influencers are, after all, also your target customers.
Their opinions about your brand — as well as the topics that they care about and discuss — can be immeasurably valuable when it comes to building, and honing, your content creation strategy.
Their opinions can help to both validate your existing strategies and to develop new ones.
In short, it pays to listen to influencers — not just talk to them and hope they talk back. And you might be surprised by how willing influencers are to give pointed feedback on your efforts.
How Shutterstock Capitalized on Influence
Take, for example, Shutterstock. Way back in 2009, before the term "influencer" was part of the standard marketing vocabulary the way it is today, Shutterstock reached out to members of the PR blogging community to offer interviews with its CEO.
One blogger, in particular, bounced an idea back to Shutterstock: How about the company provide him with free access to the service for a test drive, in exchange for attribution on images used in posts?
It was a novel idea for Shutterstock at the time, but the company made it happen — and even took the blogger's advice and evolved the idea into a full blogger partnership program. In three months' time, Shutterstock's Twitter following reportedly grew from around 170 followers to more than 11,000 thanks to its new influencer relationships that were, in reality, a result of listening to a single influencer.
Pitfalls to Avoid with Influencer Marketing
Of course, as with any marketing strategy, there are pitfalls to avoid in harnessing the most powerful voices in your space. As you begin to hone your influencer marketing strategy, keep the following points in mind:
Don’t miss the boat. The greatest pitfall to avoid in influencer marketing is underestimating its power and prevalence. If you aren’t leveraging influencers in your space, your competitors probably are. According to a study published in eMarketer, nearly 85 percent of marketers are incorporating influencers into their campaigns. And more than 80 percent of those marketers have found such campaigns to be effective for driving both engagement and awareness. As such, it’s not surprising that nearly 60 percent of marketers planned to boost their spending on influencer marketing in 2016.
Don’t be too transactional. Influencer marketing isn’t about just paying influencers to tweet a dictated message to their audiences. You need to focus your efforts on engaging influencers who are naturally passionate about your brand and letting them speak about your brand in their own voices. Only then can you hope to truly borrow the trust they’ve established with their followers.
Identify the right people. Choose your influencers wisely. Research them before reaching out. Look for influencers who are talking to your target audience and are informed on the topics that matter to your brand. Moreover, look for individuals who appear to be genuine and likeable. Remember, influencers have become influencers thanks in part to their authenticity and trustworthiness. These are precisely the virtues you should seek to amplify and promote with your own influencer marketing efforts.