Thinking About Influencer Marketing? Just Know What You’re Getting Into.
“Influencers are the future of marketing!” You’ll see a lot of headlines like that and articles (with plenty of statistics) telling you that hiring an influencer (and influencer marketing) MUST BE part of a modern marketing mix.
Are the marketing experts right? It’s hard to know if you influencer marketing is the real thing or whether is another marketing trend…or perhaps just the latest fad. Some influencers are indeed “internet stars,” while others simply say they are…and hope you believe them.
For those of you who need a crash course in just what an influencer is, read on.
What is an influencer?
Influencers are social media personalities with a level of sway over their followers. Their popularity online is so great that they’re able to influence their followers’ buying decisions. If they use, promote or demonstrate a product, there’s a good chance their fanbase will follow.
Here’s the key part though: Marketing influencers tell their followers about certain products FOR A FEE. The manufacturers of the products influencers promote in their blogs, photos or video clips are the ones who foot the bill. It’s pure business in the guise of a friendly recommendation.
Does influencer marketing work, and should every company, big and small, be using influencer marketing? Influencers themselves and influencer marketing agencies say yes, for the simple reason there’s good money to made by promoting themselves—their personal brand and influence—to businesses eager to cash in on the action.
That’s where businesses need to be careful though because these days it doesn’t take much for people to call themselves influencers.
If you work in marketing or own a business, you need to discover the answer for yourself or your company. More than just a hot topic, it does work for select products and industries and it could be a marketing channel for your business.
But, like anything else in life, influencer marketing isn’t a sure thing, and anyone who says otherwise may be more interested in your marketing budget than your marketing results.
“There’s a lot of money being thrown around.”
That was the opinion of Neal Shaffer, a recent guest on my Easy Prey podcast. He’s just written a book called The Age of Influence, and he talked about the pros and cons of influencer marketing.
He did a great job of looking at influencer marketing from both sides of the equation: businesses and influencers. If you want to know more about the benefits and pitfalls of influencer marketing, I’d start by listening to Neal.
Marketing influencers on a smaller scale.
Recently, I heard a story that brought influencer marketing into focus and close to home.
A local orthodontist, not a large corporation, was approached by an influencer with a business proposal. She is a lifestyle influencer, married with kids, and she has a decent following on social media. In exchange for some free orthodontic services, she would promote the doctor’s practice on her social media platforms.
In a way, that’s something like old-fashioned bartering.
Based on what I know, the orthodontist is getting a deal too. The cost of the service he is providing is less than the influencer’s typical fee: $4,000 a post.
The orthodontist was impressed by her online presence and her pitch. And, because medical professionals are always in need of new clients, he bit at the offer…so to speak.
Will it work out for him? That remains to be seen. But it seemed to him to be a risk worth taking.
Easy fame. Easy money?
The Wall Street Journal recently had an article on would-be social medial stars and influencers. The headline in the April 17–18 weekend edition said, “TikTok Turns Average Joes into Stars. Then What?”
The article quoted a social media consultant who said,
“Everyone feels they can be seen. Everyone feels like they can be discovered.”
That’s why any business, large or small, needs to do its own research and get up to speed about influencer marketing.
Sure, there are many accounts of successful collaboration between internet stars and brands they hawk. But there are also plenty of businesses that used influencers and discovered the returns just weren’t there.
Then there is some fraud…
Wherever there is money to be made, you’ll find people who are eager to make a quick buck. Everybody, it seems, wants to be an online celebrity. That’s fine.
However, more and more there are self-proclaimed “influencers” who are nothing more than wannabes who want to cash in on fame…that isn’t there.
So yes, some influencers inflate their egos to get attention. They also inflate the number of followers they have.
There can even some outright deception involved: There are devious companies called “click farms” that hire a staff to inflate online traffic for influencers. They might, for example, offer 1,000 YouTube followers $50 each, as well as other followers on Facebook or Instagram, at set prices.
“Influencer deception,” as it’s called, could cost advertisers well over $1.5 billion annually.
The Easy Prey podcast.
As my podcast guest Neal Shaffer said, “Businesses can’t let the glare of an influencer’s spotlight blind them to basic marketing common sense. People have to be smart enough and to have a critical mind and analyze what they see. Don’t take anything at face value.”
You can hear the entire podcast on influencer marketing on my Easy Prey podcast.
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