Let's get to it: we're laying down the fundamentals of Influencer Marketing.

What is influencer marketing anyway?

Today more than ever, online personalities engage with and influence communities of people. There's an enormous opportunity for brands to reach these targeted groups through these individuals. We call this new type of advertising "influencer marketing". Businesses partner with and leverage the strength of social media personalities to promote their products and brands.

On the other hand, it is just as important to understand what influencer marketing is not. It cannot be inauthentic, no matter how well-known the individual. An influencer cannot successfully tell a brand’s story to their audience if they do not believe in the brand, or if the narrative does not align with their content.

credibility & clout

An influencer lends his or her voice and credibility to brands. This has the power of word-of-mouth marketing, at scale. Influencers have developed relationships and cultivated trust among their audiences -- giving their recommendations the weight of a close friend's. To be successful partnering with influencers, brands need to develop relationships with influencers who have clout in the relevant communities.

a trusted sphere of influence

While a celebrity might also be an influencer, there are differences between an influencer and “just” a celebrity. Celebrities might be very well-known, but they are not always trusted. Unlike influencers, celebrities do not necessarily have the power to change the behavior of their audience. An influencer is not only well-known, but is also highly trusted by the audience they have built in a particular sphere of influence.

Influencers have built a relationship with their audience through significant interaction over time -- viewers feel like they are a part of the influencer's lives. Influencers also tend to focus on certain topics or subjects, which they build their audience around. For example, Destin Sandlin (SmarterEveryday on YouTube) is a trusted voice in the Science space after years of posting insightful and engaging scientific content.

Comment engagement between  SmarterEveryDay  and members of his audience. 

Comment engagement between SmarterEveryDay and members of his audience. 

Influencers have a dialogue with the audience, which helps to build loyalty and trust. When they talk about a brand, their audience is more likely to believe -- and be interested in -- what they say. The foundation for the conversation is already there. Brands who work with influencers are able to tap into this "secret sauce" -- a strong sense of audience trust for the influencer.

fame ≠ influence

Fame does not always equal influence. Consider YouTuber Nikolas Lloyd (aka LindyBeige) -- his audience is interested in his quirky presentation of history. When approached by a shampoo company for a brand advertisement, Lloyd turned down the offer, noting that it didn’t make sense for his audience. Instead, Lloyd is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus, who have loads of educational history content online. These promotions ring true to his audience, since Lloyd has genuine interest in the service provided by the sponsor. Lloyd is able to integrate the ads into his content without sacrificing authenticity, and his audience is inclined to appreciate The Great Courses Plus for supporting its favorite YouTuber.  

creative freedom is key

Influencers can advocate for brands within their community, but are not a mouthpiece for those brands. Brands need to provide the influencer with creative freedom when creating advertising content for their audience. The influencer knows his or her audience better than anyone else, and allowing them flexibility enables them to tap into the dialogue they already have with their audience.

Tips when designing your campaign (Shortlist)

Here are some tips for how an influencer marketing campaign should be designed from the brand’s perspective:

  • Use influencers who create compelling content and understand your brand
  • Integrate influencers into your holistic marketing efforts
  • Create interesting and engaging content. Is there a social component to the message? Can people comment, do the same, or have an opinion about what’s going on?
  • Watch out for a breakdown of how to run an influencer campaign next month...

Visit our Youtube Channel for our bi-weekly video series, "Thinking Outloud" where we share industry knowledge, discuss influencer marketing trends and host influencers we work with.