If you’ve been on any form of social media in the past five years, you’ve likely encountered the word “influencer.” Whether it was in a hashtag, an Instagram bio, or a thought piece on Forbes, influencers have been all the rage in digital marketing.
Some herald them as the logical evolution of digital marketing, while others decry them as a fad, patiently awaiting for the “bubble to burst.” No matter where you stand, one thing is clear: influencers are disrupting modern marketing practices, and are indelibly changing the way we use social media.
To be succinct, influencer marketing is the process through which brands advertise using social media influencers. Brands leverage the content and credibility of an influencer to target specific audiences in authentic and engaging ways.
It’s important to understand what influencers are and how influencer marketing works, to fully grasp why they’re having such an impact. Download our ebook now for a deep-dive into the history, context, and execution of influencer marketing.
What exactly is an influencer?
An influencer is merely a person or character who has the ability to influence an audience. They might be content creators online, celebrities known for their talents and exploits, or characters created for pop culture. The best influencers develop followings that are large, loyal, or both, and this makes them attractive to marketers who want to target those audiences to sell them something.
However, an influencer is more than just a person with a camera. Influencers have the capacity to, well, influence – they have credibility with an audience and can authentically persuade them to take a certain course of action. But what gives them credibility, and how do they hold sway over the opinions of their followers?
Connecting through cyberspace
Social media influencers create entertaining and engaging content on social media that their audience likes to see. Influencers relate to their audience through their content by showcasing their personalities and unique qualities. As a result, they form a relationship-by-proxy with their followers, who become attached to the person or character as much as their content.
Furthermore, the ability to interact and engage with an influencer – whether through likes and comments, direct messages, or contests and giveaways – bridges the gap between creator and consumer. The relationship that arises out of this potential to communicate is one that feels emotional, genuine, and real.
Marketers use influencers to hypertarget audiences
Having established that influencers can form intimate connections with their audiences, connecting the dots with marketing is relatively straightforward. Social media is composed of a near-infinite number of digital communities who converge on specific interests, subjects, or ideas. Influencers tap into those communities as trend setters, opinion leaders, or even as community organizers.
By leveraging influencers, marketers can hypertarget those specific audiences with language and content that authentically appeals to them, without feeling intrusive or unwanted in the space. Influencers can seed online communities of any size with products they’ll actually want to use, and engage with them on a human level.
Their opinions are given weight and credibility by their followers, and marketers can leverage that to do anything from launching new products and building a following to drumming up hype and driving sales.
The only limit to an influencer marketing campaign is your sense of creativity, but the influencer has to be the right fit for your brand. If your influencer’s audience doesn’t align with your brand, your messaging will likely fall flat. Likewise, if your brand doesn't authentically mesh with an influencer, their audience won’t react to promotional content the way you want them to.
Measuring performance in a variety of ways
Since influencer marketing can take on many forms, measuring its impact can be a challenge. Depending on the goals of your campaign, your benchmarks and KPIs might look different. Further, while ROI and impact are still necessary to measure, it’s tough to put a value on brand recognition and awareness.
That being said, there are three main benchmarks marketers use to measure their campaigns: reach, impressions, and engagement.
Reach tells us how many followers an influencer has.
Impressions tells us how many people have actually seen a post, whether they scrolled by, idled on it, or had it show up in their feeds.
Engagement is the number of people who engaged with a post in any way – depending on the social platform in question, that can entail likes, comments, shares, views, or streams. Engagement rate is the percentage of engagements over the total reach or total impressions of the post.
Beyond these three metrics, there are two other main KPIs marketers can use to evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign. If the goal of a campaign is to sell products, the best way to measure impact is to look at sales conversions. And then there’s earned media value (EMV), a calculation that estimates the value of communications and engagements about your brand that weren’t paid for directly.The formula assigns a dollar value to each type of engagement someone can have with your brand on social media, whether it’s a like, a comment, or a share. These engagements are referred to as “earned media,” since they occur somewhat organically.
Putting it all together
Influencer marketing is a complex process with a variety of moving parts. No two campaigns look identical, and the same goes for influencers. To get a more in-depth look into what influencer marketing is and how it works, download our ebook, or visit our content hub for more educational content.