It's not a silver bullet, but it could be a golden opportunity
Word of mouth marketing. Social media marketing. Search engine marketing. Direct marketing. Guerrilla marketing. Content marketing. Remarketing. Ferret marketing. Okay, we made that last one up, but you get the picture. With 372 different kinds of marketing out there, is there room for one more? Depends. A less overwhelming way to think about it is: marketing is marketing. Affinity marketing and partnership marketing and tradeshow marketing and the whole lot are simply marketing tactics that may or may not have a place in your marketing plan. So what's influencer marketing all about, and is it as cool as the internet thinks?
So what is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is the practice of identifying, empowering and incentivizing key influential personalities within specific social groups to objectively promote your brand. Influencer marketing is conducted primarily, but not exclusively, on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope.
In the ongoing search for the rare, elusive, never-before-photographed authentic brand experience, the voice of the professional marketer has been diluted while the voice of the consumer is stronger and farther-reaching than ever. Brands are in the hands of the consumers — as they should be. The onus of the professional marketer has shifted from pushing out a fixed, one-way narrative to inspiring and guiding an ongoing conversation with the consumer. Word-of-mouth is, as it has always been, the most powerful form of marketing. Influencer marketing is word-of-mouth marketing on social media steroids, and falls into two categories:
Paid influencer marketing: Influencers receive tangible compensation for objectively posting about your brand. Compensation can be cash, free or discounted product, coupons, other goods or future considerations. Sometimes those in the influencer’s social network don’t know there’s compensation involved. Sometimes influencers acknowledge they've been compensated in exchange for their objective opinion. Amazon does this well, restricting compensation to free product, sent in advance of an objective review.
When done well, paid influencer marketing can net huge ROI. However, brands must assess certain risks before diving in:
- Unacknowledged paid mentions can dilute consumer trust
- Acknowledged paid mentions can be met with the same skepticism as more traditional marketing tactics
- Brands could be paying people to create negative, inaccurate or off-brand content
Unpaid influencer marketing: Influencers receive no direct, tangible compensation for posting about your brand. Influencers are motivated by forces other than direct compensation: true love for your brand, altruism, building their own content library and strengthening their position as a thought leaders in their space.
Unpaid influencer marketing is incredibly powerful and so authentic you can hardly consider it marketing. However, it comes with its own set of risks:
- Brands have less control of the narrative
- Well-connected unpaid influencers are harder to find
- Absent the pay-to-play model, brands must surprise, delight and over-deliver in order build brand love among influencers
Is influencer marketing right for your brand?
When websites, apps and social media emerged as new marketing tactics, many brands were convinced they needed to get on those trains right away — before they knew where the train was going or why they needed to be on it. Influencer marketing played out the same way. Some succeeded wildly. Many dabbled and failed. The difference between success and failure with influencer marketing is the strategy behind it. Brands can successfully engage in influencer marketing when they have thoroughly documented customer personas, a solid brand strategy and an extraordinary brand story to tell.
Influencer marketing is not the space for status-quo or unexciting brands. Before entering the space, brands need to be clearly extraordinary, as well as able to demonstrate it and articulate why people should care. False or overblown brand narratives will ultimately deflate when they reach the public space. Even playing at par is risky business. No one tweets about okay pizza. A can opener that functions exactly how you’d expect a can opener to function has no brand advocates. Brands need to step up their game and continually excite, delight, surprise, entertain and engage consumers. If you’re delivering above and beyond, have an exciting story to tell and have the time and resources to dedicate, influencer marketing is worth exploring.
This is the best can opener in the world, and so much more!
How to put influencer marketing to work for your brand
Alright, you’re in. You have an extraordinary brand, an exciting brand story, customer personas and a comprehensive brand strategy. Here’s how you get started with influencer marketing.
Start spreading the brand love
Influencer marketing is not the latest fail-safe, magic marketing bullet, but it is a golden opportunity for many brands. Innovative companies with a compelling brand story, a culture of creativity and a contagious passion for their products and services can turn influencer marketing into brand love and exponential growth. If you’re psyched about what you do, it’s an exciting time to be in marketing. Now get out there and spread the brand love.
About Toolbox Creative:
Toolbox Creative offers a powerful engine to grow technology brands and take on the big players in the field. We help innovative technology companies look and sound as good as they truly are, increasing brand equity, boosting media buzz and making the most of marketing dollars.