Word of mouth has long been heralded as the best form of marketing, but this is hard to generate and maintain. Or at least it was, before the rise of Instagram and social media ‘influencers’. Beginning in the fashion industry, more retailers are coming to see the power of influencers who will spread the word about your brand—for a price.
Imagine if, instead of one happy customer spreading the word to a few friends about your store, you could multiply this word of mouth across hundreds or even thousands of people? Using social media influencers, you can.
Put simply, ‘influencers’ are people with large numbers of followers on social media, particularly Instagram and YouTube. Working with brands, they create content—think beautiful images or videos—and share this with their online community alongside non-sponsored posts.
Detch Singh, co-founder of influencer marketing agency Hypetap, says influencer marketing involves an influencer collaborating with a brand and endorsing/recommending their products or services. The idea is the influencer’s followers will then act on that recommendation (for instance by purchasing a product) as it is coming from someone they trust and admire.
“We define it as a way for brands to have an authentic voice other than their own advocating for them,” he explained
According to Roxy Jacenko, founder of influencer agency Ministry of Talent (and PR firm Sweaty Betty), this authenticity is what appeals to brands, as they understand the benefits of partnering with personalities that are seen as more ‘attainable’ than celebrities.
“Social influencers offer a ‘real’ representation of what the everyday individual is purchasing, which customers can relate to,” she said. “This is far more powerful for brands.”
Influencer marketing began in fashion, but other industries have quickly jumped on board. The sheer number of Instagram personalities with their own niche, be it food, beauty, fitness, or homewares and interiors, means there is an influencer for most, if not all, brands.
“Nowadays the influencer space has become increasingly diverse, which means far more brands can participate within it and gain amazing results,” explained Jacenko.
One such brand is Sydney-based fragrance and homewares company, Hutwoods. Founder Becky Hutley first began experimenting with influencer marketing by reaching out to personalities she thought Hutwoods had a strong brand alignment with. She is now working on a wider campaign with more influencers.
“As a brand in our fourth year, we want to test and trial different marketing channels for effectiveness,” she said.
“At this stage we don’t have the biggest marketing budget so we felt it was a relatively risk-free way to gain broader awareness with the bonus of having the credibility of an ‘influencer’ to promote our brand.”
This credibility is the key to using influencers, said Singh. The influencer needs to be a credible voice to their fans, so they trust his or her recommendation, and the brand needs to align with the influencer’s existing content.
“[Influencers] are tastemakers in a particular industry and their followers really engage with what they have to say,” said Singh.
“If an influencer is smart about the work they take on it’s a real person advocating authentically for a brand.
An example of Hutwood’s social influencer marketing.
For brands, one of the hardest parts about working with influencers is giving up control, said Huxter. “You need to be ok with handing control to the influencer…That’s why it’s vital to ensure any partnerships are aligned and offer a natural fit.
“If you try and force a particular style or message then it simply won’t work for you, the influencer, or their audience.”
Hutley says her initial, small-scale influencer marketing effort has helped drive traffic to Hutwood’s social channels but she is yet to see any clear business results. However, it has offered benefits you don’t get with traditional marketing.
“It offers instant feedback so you can see how an audience is responding to your product, providing insight that isn’t possible in traditional marketing… We’re actively expanding our influencer outreach efforts to see how this works with a more consistent approach.”
Even if an influencer doesn’t have Kylie Jenner Instagram numbers (Jenner currently has 95.8 million followers), it can be a very effective marketing method because you can reach a specific demographic.
“For example, if an influencer’s content is primarily based around interior design, this means [the majority] of their audience is interested in interior design,” explained Singh.
“As a result, you reach a very targeted audience with your marketing efforts.”
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A sponsored Instagram post by Ministry of Talent influencer Cass Sersemis.
Jacenko said she has seen numerous homewares brands collaborate with Ministry of Talent influencers with fantastic results.
“We represent niche influencers who specialise in this space, with followers who are actively engaged and interested in home development,” she said. “Brands can capitalise on reaching new marketing by partnering with influencers who are specialists in this area.”
Singh agrees, saying that homewares is “in the sweet spot” for influencer marketing and that brands (and stores) shouldn’t be afraid to gift product to influencers.
“There are a lot of amazing lifestyle and interiors influencers who are able to incorporate brands really cleverly (and authentically) into their content… People trust people, not ads.”
Becky Hutley’s top tips for influencer marketing:
Brand alignment—don’t choose an influencer with the highest numbers. Choose one based on their content style, values and interests.
Do your research—make sure your influencer is genuine. It’s easy to buy followers and engagement that makes it look like an influencer has a much larger audience than they do.
Be respectful—once you’ve selected an influencer, be open and respect their content style and approach. Influencer marketing shouldn’t be considered an advertisement for your product; it should be a natural endorsement, which works for all parties.
This story originally appeared in Giftguide.
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