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The Influencer Marketing Ecosystem: What Companies and Influencers Need To Know.

Elizabeth Wanja Adamou Boubacar Amadou

Table of Contents

Have you recently scrolled through Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube, or Twitter and run into an individual that you follow— constantly posting about the products and services they enjoy from various brands?

Such an individual often has a "bourgeois" lifestyle, which further captivates their audience. We want to look like them, eat where they eat and wear the clothes they wear.

Brands know this fact! Therefore, they hire such individuals to endorse and recommend their services and products.

Think back to times when you did not plan on making a purchase, but you were “influenced" into making it.

In a way, influencer marketing is a genius concept because it gives common people the illusion that they use products and services used by their favourite online celebrities. Consequently, consumers learn to trust influencers as tastemakers and opinion leaders.

However, before you delve into influencer marketing, it is fundamental that you understand how it works and the aspects to consider to maximize the marketing benefits associated with this concept.

For example, how do you ensure the influencer you hire not only creates awareness of your brand; but also converts some of their audience members into consumers of your products/services?

Let's explore the influencer marketing ecosystem and essential aspects your brand should know about this modern marketing concept.

Topic Overview

What is influencer marketing, exactly?

If you are not new to the social media landscape, you might already have a basic understanding of influencer marketing— a brand hires an individual(s) with a following (influence)online to endorse or recommend its products and services to his/her audience.

In this case, the brand works with the influencer to create entertaining and relatable content in written, video, image, or audio forms for the target audience.

However, that is a simplistic look at influencer marketing.

One interesting fact about influencer marketing is that it merges traditional and modern marketing tools.

It uses the traditional concept of celebrity endorsement and merges it with the modern concept of content-driven marketing campaigns.

Influencer marketing is more effective than celebrity endorsement since it is affordable even for small brands.

The influencer is popular with their online followers, but that popularity often does not apply in an offline setting.

An influencer is an individual hired by a company to market its products and services since they can influence their audience's purchasing decisions due to their:

  • Authority
  • Knowledge
  • Status
  • Connection with his followers
  • A following in a distinct niche

As a brand, once you find an influencer who meets your target niche, the next move is to collaborate with them to market your brand.

In the case of newer brands, an influencer facilitates brand recognition, while bigger brands use this marketing concept to expand their reach and inform their customer base in the case of new products.

Another significant aspect of influencer marketing is that a brand should not solely focus on an influencer's number of followers before collaboration.

While influencers need to be influential, they should also demonstrate expertise in the brand's niche. Moreover, the influencer should show a history of audience engagement— with a good engagement rating of about 3.5% to 6%.

Now that you understand what influencer marketing is, it is time to explain how this marketing concept has evolved over time.

The Evolving Landscape of Influencer Marketing

As more brands adopt influencer marketing to reach new and larger audiences, it is important for the brands to recognize how this landscape has evolved and what that means for businesses.

Influencer marketing was picked in 2005 while Twitter and Facebook were still new. This means that influencers were limited to sharing their stories and promoting products only in blog format.

Later in 2010, Instagram joined the social media landscape. Currently, there are various social media options for marketers, including YouTube and TikTok, that support the use of video formats.

Some people argue that social media has created an opportunity for everyone to become an influencer!

This was not the case in the past, as influencing positions were often filled by movie stars and popular musicians.

The current landscape offers different levels of influencers:

  1. Nano Influencers (1000-10,000 followers)
  2. Micro-Influencers (10,000-100,000 followers)
  3. Macro Influencers (100,000- 1,000,000 followers)
  4. Mega Influencers (More than 1,000,000 followers)

The various influencer categories are great as they serve diverse business and brand sizes; even so, do statistics reflect the expected outcomes in regard to this marketing concept?

How Effective is Influencer Marketing

It's no secret that millions of people worldwide use various types of social media for communication and interactions. Ergo, it is safe to assume that influencer marketing— which relies on social media— is a wise marketing strategy.

Nevertheless, effectiveness in marketing is determined by a strategy's ability to promote both brand awareness and sales.

Statistics do not lie! The influencer marketing market grew from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $ 13.8 billion in 2021. These numbers show steady growth that is projected to increase even further.

Other than that, marketers argue that this marketing tool is effective due to the following reasons:

While statistics do not lie, what is the explanation behind the success of influencer marketing?

Mimetic desire and the power of social proof

Once our basic needs are fulfilled, we begin having desires— cars, fancy houses, travelling, e.t.c. According to the Mimetic Theory of Desire, desires are social; we want what other people want.

We may want what those close to us have, and as desire progresses, we want what prominent celebrities and politicians have.

This concept is referred to as social proof, where human beings look to other individuals to assess the desirability of objects.

In the past, businesses were skeptical of using this theory in marketing as approval does not always translate into conversion. As such, people can like what others like, but do they buy it?

However, if you look at the ROI associated with influencer marketing, it is clear that the mimetic theory of desire works.  To evoke your consumers' desire in your products or services, you have to demonstrate that similar desires exist in other people.

In influencer marketing, the influencer shows desirability towards a brand's products and services, and the consumers mirror this desire.

It is clear that influencer marketing is an effective marketing concept. Let's now explore the steps required for a brand to nail influencer marketing.

Finding the Right Influencers for your Brand or Business

As we have learned so far, influencer marketing is the real deal for any brand looking to improve sales or create brand awareness. Now we need to explore another key aspect of this process—- choosing and finding influencers!

The simple answer is: Get recommendations from Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube—- write a list of all good influencers.

Nevertheless, getting an influencer who suits your brand; that's the tricky part!

You have to first consider aspects such as the level of engagement between the influencer and their audience. A celebrity with one million followers may seem impressive in regards to reach, but how is their engagement?

Remember, a good influencer knows how to engage and connect with their audience. So, they feel relatable, unlike a celebrity, and you want to mirror them, unlike a common person!

You can opt to build relationships with influencers the old-fashioned way, but that is a long and tedious process.

Hence, here are top-three free influencer marketing tools that will help you identify influencers that are successful in your niche:

  1. Hyper Auditor ranks Instagram influencers based on the number of their quality followers and authentic engagement.
  2. Affable.ai offers information about an influencer's social media history on diverse platforms and their impact on your brand.
  3. Upfluence offers brand owners the chance to type keywords to narrow the influencer pool down.

These tools will help you filter influencers based on characteristics like; age, gender, preferences, language, and preferred social media platforms.

For example, if you look to market clothes for people above age 40, using a TikTok influencer will have minimal or no impact since the platform is mainly used by people below age 25.

Then, consider your budget and goal— zero down to influencers within your financial capability and niche.

For example, if your goal is to market fitness products, it is better to consider fit influencers who promote fitness on their social media platforms.

The influencer's audience should align with your target audience.

After you narrow down to a few suitable influencers, then you should communicate with them and see who delivers your vision effectively.

While brands work with different categories of influencers, one of the most popular categories of influencers is micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers

By now, you can already define the term influencer. But who is a micro-influencer?

This is an individual with high engagement and a niche following.  This type of influencer has an average number of followers (10000-50000), and the quality of engagement is often high.

After finding the right micro-influencer(s), you should set SMART goals and develop a plan.

Your plan should include information about the format the influencer will use to promote your products/services, the timelines e.t.c.

You should also highlight the guidelines your influencer should follow during this process.

The second set is to set a budget, the amount required for the marketing campaign, communication, contract and legal details of the influencers, and the influencer(s)' pay.

Then… strike a deal with the influencer(s). Sigh contracts, discuss payments, and discuss content briefs and templates.

One essential tip when working with micro-influencers is to track your results. Ensure they present to you a copy of analytics that depicts how their audience is engaging with your product or service.

Another essential tip when working with any influencer is to upgrade them into brand ambassadors.

How to Build an Ambassador Program?

An ambassador program serves brands that find one-off influencer partnerships. In the long run, such a program prevents your influencers from accepting deals from your competitors.

Basically, an ambassador program cements a long-term relationship between a brand and the people that love its products and services.

Think of a brand ambassador as a person that speaks for the company; they represent the company.

In that case, to build an ambassador program, you have to lay down specific goals. Define what your idea of success is in regard to this program. Additionally, elaborate clear expectations from your brand ambassadors.

Ideas are fundamental to marketing, but do you have a game plan? What are the steps required to execute your program? A game plan acts as a guide to show which ideas work and which ones don't.

The next move is to prepare guidelines, briefs, and salaries for your ambassadors. Show them what you offer them in return for their services.

Your next step is to reach out to your desired brand ambassadors and negotiate and craft deals.

Other steps you have to take include managing your brand ambassadors and analyzing their outcomes.

After selecting the right influencer(s), you need to develop a relationship with your audience.

Building Trust in Your Audience

Trust is a fundamental aspect of marketing. Influencer marketing is advantageous since an individual has two options for developing their audience's trust:

Earn Trust

In influencer marketing, you have to develop a good marketing campaign to earn the trust of your audience. Your brand should use these simple ts to develop an effective marketing campaign:

  • Familiarity with the brand's target audience
  • Engage with your audience by creating authentic and interesting content
  • Evoke the emotions of your audience; create content that makes your audience laugh, think, or cry.
  • Invite your audience to participate
  • Practice authenticity

Borrow Trust

A brand can build an Alpha audience by taking the steps listed above. Still, it will take years— which is not the goal in business. As such, you can fast-track building trust from scratch and borrow trust from a trusted influencer.

To borrow trust, the brand owner has to identify the trusted influencer. You can easily spot trusted influencers based on how their audience interacts with brands they have previously worked with—- though this may be a daunting task!

It's easy to use the existing influencer marketing tools or gather that information from other brand owners in your industry.

After selecting the "trusted influencer", who suits your brand, you have to both work to come up with a marketing campaign that introduces your brand to the influencer's audience so they can trust your brand.

You can do this by ensuring your product or service aligns with the needs of the influencer's audience.

The final step to nailing influencer marketing is to align your marketing strategy with modern trends.

The Role Of Native advertising as the central part of marketing strategy

If you have used YouTube in the past, you understand the frustration caused when your video is cut short by an Ad— We can't wait to hit "Skip Ad".

This is the major reason why Native ads are gaining traction!

“Native advertising is the use of paid ads that match the appearance, form, and function of the user experience in which they are placed".

In this regard, marketers do not need to bombard their audience with pre-roll video ads; native ads are incognito. Marketers should use these ads as part of their marketing strategy since they are subtle and non-intrusive.

In this era of ad-blocking technology and short attention spans, using influencer marketing in tandem with native advertising is a good marketing strategy.

As you have seen, influencer marketing suits all businesses and brands. For those entrepreneurs who look to venture into this fast-growing industry, here are a few tips on how you can create your own influencer marketing agency:

How To Build an Agency Around Influencer Marketing?‌‌

An influencer marketing agency collaborates with influencers to market brands to their audience while helping them gain more website traffic. In short, they help the influencer develop and execute an effective marketing campaign.

The first step to a successful influencer marketing agency is industry knowledge; there are various ideas under the digital marketing and social media marketing category— to establish a clear niche.

You also have to develop a comprehensive plan for your business techniques. Define your mission and target market, and create SMART goals.

Have you created that website yet? If not, create one and give it a catchy name; then make it available in the market and on WordPress.

Like any other company, you should get all the necessary legal documents and licenses.

After legalizing your agency, you are now free to create your team. Do you want to run the agency? How many influencers do you want in your agency? Then, reach out to popular influencers on various social media sites.

Takeaway‌‌

Well, if you look to join the influencer marketing landscape as a brand owner or an influencer, here are some insights you need to know!

Some people argue that influencer marketing is the future of marketing. These sentiments are accurate as more people are transitioning to digital marketing and social media marketing.

Unlike other forms of digital marketing, influencer marketing is effective since it takes advantage of the concept of social proof— We want what another person perceives as desirable.

Furthermore, an influencer first earns the trust of their followers by engaging with them.

I'd also like to hear from you: have you used any of these influencer marketing techniques? Leave a comment and let me know.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are companies building media arms?

Some companies build media arms to take advantage of content marketing tools, which have helped them engage with their customers.

Why are influencers undervalued?

In some cases, influencers are undervalued because of a lack of authenticity. They blend with what everyone is doing.

How to pick a platform as an influencer?

As an influencer, your choice of platform should rely on the type of audience you target and the formats you want to convey your message.

How to use referral programs to grow?

Referral programs are a good way for an influencer to gain the trust of a brand owner. Any individual wants to collaborate with an influencer with good references.

Let me know in the comment your take on influencer marketing!

Marketing

Elizabeth Wanja Twitter

Content Strategist @INSIGHTEURS, with 3 years of experience in Content Writing. I have written multiple research papers, case studies, blogs and articles in both academic and non-academic domains.

Adamou Boubacar Amadou Twitter

Growth Specialist and Content Creator. I write content at the intersection of business and technology to help you learn while I do the same. Helping SaaS Startups Scale With Digital Marketing.