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March 21st, 2019

What is influencer marketing?

An increasing proportion of marketing budgets are being spent on influencer-led marketing campaigns, particularly among consumer-facing brands. In fact, according to research by Rakuten Marketing, the percentage of marketing budgets being set aside for these campaigns has almost doubled since 2017 to around 40%.

A recent blog in Marketing Week Magazine said: “The way young people perceive digital influence is critical to the future of influencer marketing, with 61% of millennials claiming they have been influenced by a social media content creator.”

So what is influencer marketing? Who are influencers and why are companies so keen to enlist their support in promoting their brands?

Who are influencers?

An influencer is an individual who has built up a dedicated following on social media, on their blog, on YouTube or any other online channel. Someone who has gathered a loyal community of followers who value their opinion on a specific topic or issue. It could be food, books, gadgets, architecture, cars, or any other specialist area of interest.

How can influencers help to market your brand?

Across social media, there is a proliferation of influencers, each with a different reach and an appeal to different audiences and demographics. Finding the right influencer to talk about your products or services is a valuable way to connect with the key audiences for your brand.

Influencer marketing is so valuable because it involves an endorsement by a trusted or respected individual with specialist knowledge. It does not come from you, the seller, and so is perceived as impartial and honest. Followers value the opinions and judgements of influencers when it comes to the products, services or issues they are interested in. The same research by Rakuten Marketing found that 49% of global consumers now use influencers as a way of learning about new brands and products.

So influencers don’t just encourage direct purchases, they offer a very effective way for people to discover your brand and learn more about your business.

How do you find the right influencers?

Market research is essential to ensure you identify the influencers who can reach the right audiences for your brand. You can find influencers by reading around in your area of interest on social media. But that may not always mean looking purely at your market sector. Think about your customers: what are they interested in? What are they likely to read? Whose opinions do they value? Who do they follow on social media?

How do you implement an influencer-led campaign?

There are many ways you can engage influencers to endorse your brand. You can send them products or samples for review. You can pay for a series of blog posts. You can offer free experiences or services. In the early days of influencer marketing, big brands would pay big money for a Facebook post by a high-profile celebrity.  Nowadays, the trend is turning more towards engaging micro-influencers, who are perhaps seen to have greater integrity and have more influence over smaller groups of very dedicated followers.

Remember, influencers will be keen to avoid alienating their followers, so any endorsements must be seen as genuine and impartial. That’s why you need to choose your influencers carefully and to ensure they are aligned with your values. An unfavourable post from an influencer who doesn’t approve of your approach could be extremely damaging to your brand.

Understanding the new Competition and Markets Authority guidelines

The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) outlined new laws surrounding the transparency of influencer marketing across social media. This includes sponsored ads, gifted products, promotion of personal services and many more.

So, what does this mean? Influencers now, by law, have to make their content as clear as possible so audiences can understand the intentions before they click/engage with a post. There are many ways this can be addressed like putting all the relevant details in a title, thumbnail or on the image, whether that be using ‘paid partnership’ tool on Instagram, using ‘ad’ or ‘gifted’ on images and videos, and declaring ‘paid for partnership’ at the beginning of a collaborative blog.  Read the full guidelines here.

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