As more and more businesses embrace social media as a vital part of their marketing strategies, the concept of influencers has been opened up to exceptional scrutiny. Influencers have taken the main stage in recent years across a variety of social media platforms, but none as much as Instagram. Per a March 2019 article from eMarketer, more than 500,000 active influencers are operating just on Instagram alone, according to a study by InfluencerDB. That’s roughly 39% of all Instagram accounts with more than 15,000 followers.
But what exactly is the role of the influencer, and why are they so important?
The role of today’s social media influencer
When most marketers think of a social media influencer, they are thinking of a person who has purportedly established credibility in a specific industry. These influencers generally have a large follower base, and it is believed that they can persuade others based on their authenticity and reach. Influencers come in all kinds too. For example, Robert Downey Jr. currently has over forty-one million followers. Imagine the influence he would have to Avengers fans, or any of his fans from his other 50+ films if he were to promote the product he uses for his hair? Or, Kim Kardashian, who has over 120 million followers? Just recently, she announced the launch of Kimono, her new shapewear brand. Just envision what sales will look like for this product launch if she promotes it to her 120 million followers.
Robert Downey Jr. isn’t a hair product designer and had no involvement in developing the hair product that he might represent in this hypothetical example, but his endorsement will work because he has mass appeal. Millions of fans look up to him and maybe willing to try anything he endorses. In the case of Kim Kardashian, she may gain additional credibility when she recommends her product, such as Kimono because she has mass appeal and was part of the design and development of the product. Unfortunately, these two examples do not necessarily represent the norm amongst today’s paid influencers.
The question that has created scrutiny in the marketing world is whether or not these paid influencers are genuinely authentic. Today’s social media audiences do indeed want to be influenced by others that have used the product. But in reality, are these influencers using the product as regularly as they would claim? How is that use being monitored? If they weren’t being paid to represent the product, would they still use it?
Spotting non-authentic influencers
Not only are some of these paid influencers not guaranteed to be authentic, but there have also been concerns about influencers developing fake followers in recent years. A sudden spike in followers does not necessarily mean that social media users have decided instantaneously to follow a particular influencer. A quick review of a top influencer’s followers can show you whether or not they are real by looking for posts from those followers if they have profile pics, etc. An authentic influencer with a genuine following can best be spotted by someone who has posted regularly and consistently over several years and has grown their following over that period.
An authentic influencer can influence
A survey conducted by Collective Bias involving 14,000 respondents in the US revealed that the recommendations of their peers influence 70% of millennial consumers in buying decisions. In that same survey, it was revealed that 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by a regular person, a non-celebrity. Consumers can align themselves more with these influencers and value their opinions more than that of celebrity influencers.
If you were to ask any Millennial or member of Generation Z as to whether or not they would be more likely to purchase a product endorsed by their favorite celebrity, or a competitive product highly recommended by three or four of their peers, they would most likely go with the latter. This goes back to the point of authenticity, and that shoppers want to know that other people like them have used that same product and had great success. Those unofficial endorsements from actual product users can go a long way.
It is for this same reason that businesses benefit when they have a strong review system on their social media channels, such as on Google, Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, Trip Advisor, or anywhere else that a product or company review can be left. Customers are far more likely to shop at a place that has an average rating of 3.9 with 400 reviews, than a place with the same rating, but only 50 reviews. As such, more and more businesses are seeking to encourage their customers to leave reviews, regardless of their rating. Because even when a bad rating is left, a company that takes the time to publicly acknowledge the complaint and offers a solution, can turn a bad experience into a better one and can tell a prospective buyer that the company cares.
How to develop an authentic influencer strategy
If you want to develop an authentic influencer strategy for your organization, follow these steps:
- Identify your goals for your Instagram influencer strategy – Use the SMART goal system to make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. Tie your goals back to your key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensure you have a measurement system in place.
- Find the right influencers – It isn’t hard to find micro-influencers. These influencers have a minimum of 1000 followers and are likely more like you and your customers. In many cases, these influencers can be your current customers, and you can ask them to partner with you on an influencing strategy. But make the caveat be that they have to be a regular user of your product or service. A way to compensate them would be through free products or services instead of monetary compensation. And, make sure that their followers are similar to them, and would also be interested in your product or service.
- Work with your influencers to build a campaign – Are you looking to create brand awareness? Increased sales? More followers? Design the campaign to meet the objectives you seek, and then launch for a specified period. Measure the results at the end of the campaign period, and use the information to make tweaks to your next campaign.
By seeking out real and authentic users and encouraging your customers to leave reviews or testimonials on your website or other social platforms, you will help your company to gain trust amongst social media users. Over time, this will organically lead to better brand awareness and increased revenue.