Whether it’s John Wayne and Camel cigarettes or Colin Kaepernick and Nike, influencer marketing has been around for hundreds of years and isn’t going away anytime soon.
The rise of Influencer Marketing
The pace at which digital marketing has advanced in the last 10 – 15 years is staggering so it’s difficult for me to put a finger on when I first heard of influencer marketing. It could have been 2 years ago or it could have been 5.
One story of the first influencer marketing accounts I heard of is Gymshark. They managed to build a brand almost in a subculture of “working out” and going to the gym. They found a gap in the market that to most people would seem saturated. Nike and Adidas, 2 power house brands, 2 worldwide brands allowed this business to appear from nowhere overnight and in 7 years built a truly amazing company.
Without going into too much detail, Gymshark stumbled across influencer marketing before the name even existed. They gave some of their fashionable clothing to a few of the key people in their industry, invited them to their significant events and created a buzz just through social media.
The impact - transforming marketing
Fashion brands like Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Missguided could not have reached their current dizzying heights without influencer marketing. 30 years ago it would have been almost impossible for them. Whether through celebrity endorsements or sport star sponsorship, really they are just influencer marketing tactics on a much greater scale. Brands are essentially trying to leverage the celebrity that fits their brand image.
What the internet and social media has done is allowed SME’s to now compete in the same area but on a smaller scale. The pool of influencers is almost infinite and the various niches/communities arising on social media are countless; cleaners, chefs, parents, pets, gamers, gym enthusiasts, house renovators etc. If you have a brand, there truly will be an assortment of influencers for you.
Influencers can certainly help from a brand awareness point of view, but how do you scale it and how is there an ROI? Surely just giving a product or service away will cause a loss?
Getting started with an influencer marketing strategy
Personally, when we first started with influencer marketing, we absorbed all the information we possibly could from them. How did they work with other brands and companies? Which ones did they like, which did they not like, and why? Within the space of 3 months we built up a team, 500 strong. The influencers talk about and review our products, resulting in the awareness of our brand being the greatest it’s been in 25 years.
We were already effective on social media before, but leveraging our existing following has also helped tremendously. These are the people choosing to follow you. Nurture them, create brand fans, and suddenly you have a small army talking about how they love your products. Word of mouth marketing, but at scale.
Another myth is that influencer marketing will cost a small fortune. It can cost as little or as much as you want. If you really hit your niche with a product they will love, it actually becomes very cost effective. If you are trying to be something you are not, then you will encounter problems. Make sure that your niche fits your demographic. If your reach is 50+ males, don’t be actively recruiting 20-45-year-olds on Instagram, find the right people for your brand.
Another thing to remember is, people love freebies and telling their friends about it. Social media is just “keeping up with the Jones’” on a sizeable scale. Various retailers also have affiliate schemes that most influencers are signed up to. Again, it’s about finding the right people for your brand and also your retailers. With affiliation, they can be paid per sale and most of the time this will be picked up by the retailer.
Influencer marketing is not disappearing any time soon. The platforms it is present on will always evolve and adapt, whether in the more traditional direction of Facebook or Instagram, or on emerging platforms like LinkedIn or TikTok.
If you make a success of influencer marketing, this could potentially lead to your business becoming an influencer in its own right; other companies approaching you to promote their products, which is fantastic exposure for both entities.