When it comes to promoting your business through social media, it can sometimes be easy to get trapped into thinking that developing your own channels is the only way to get anything done.
However, there is another way to reach a wider audience.
Social influencers are individuals or collectives who hold large online followings. Traditionally, these people tended to be Youtubers (i.e. video content creators) or bloggers (people who manage a blog about their life or a particular topic). However, these days, influencers are just as likely to be Instagram or Snapchat stars or celebrities with large audiences on multiple platforms.
Creating mutually beneficial relationships with social influencers can help a brand reach a new audience, promoting their products or services via independent, established platforms to a very specific target audience. While these relationships can work in multiple ways, in essence the influencer will typically agree to promote the brand in one of three ways:
- by displaying advertisements
- by creating their own content directly or indirectly promoting the brand
- by working with the brand to create content or promote the brand.
Depending on the relationship, social influencers might promote the brand free of charge or in exchange for free products or payment.
There are several benefits to this over other methods of promotion:
- Social influencers already have established followings. For influencers who create content on a specific topic and interest, these audiences represent an ideal target audience for brands catering to this topic. For example, Zoella is a very prolific beauty and lifestyle blogger, making her an ideal partner for brands in this sector. Other influencers might cover multiple areas of interest but attract a particular type of person (e.g. millennials, parents etc.).
- Influencer opinion often holds great sway over their followers who look to them for recommendations and opinions. Getting an influencer to showcase your product in a positive way acts similarly to a celebrity endorsement. However, it may be even more powerful. Since influencers thrive on being ‘normal’ people (compared to traditional celebrities) with whom their followers can easily interact, their audience may see them more as a friend than an idol. Consequently, their endorsement can act like a recommendation from a friend, which is known to be a very powerful sales tool.
- By working with a well-matched influencer, you can lend credibility to your brand. Having a well known-voice vouch for your product can help claims you make about your product stand up (or fall down, if your product does not work as promised).
- An influencer who uses your service or product within a piece of entertaining or useful content (fitting in seamlessly alongside their normal output) can encourage people to watch and actively engage with it. While product placement in movies and traditional media has often attracted derision, millenials in particular are growing to respect this kind of approach The followers of influencers know that paid-for content and sponsorships support the creators they love. While no one likes ads, many of the younger generation know they are a necessary evil for many types of content creators. With this in mind, if a brand offers an influencer an opportunity or means of creating content they would not have been able to access otherwise, many followers will respect this. However, this only comes into effect if it works with the influencer’s normal style and the content strives for authenticity.
Partnering with influencers to promote your brand can work in a wide variety of ways. Some of the most common ways are:
1. Getting the influencer to run an ad for your product
This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to promote your brand. Companies such as Audible have used this technique effectively via a number of popular Youtubers. However, this tactic also works well in the podcast market and on social media.
2. Sending the influencer your products to review
In certain industries, such as beauty or gaming, this has already become standard practice. Sending choice influencers products to review draws upon the ‘recommendation from a friend’ effect referred to earlier, offering official endorsement (assuming that the review is positive!)
3. Working with the influencer on a piece of content marketing to implicitly or explictly promote your product
This is an incredibly broad category and can be approached in lots of different ways. Normally, these types of content show the product being used in a typical ways, like this recipe using Splenda, or less than typical ways. In an attempt to stand out, this approach often produces more off-the-wall ideas as brands attempt to stand out and make their content go viral.
4. Asking the influencer to appear in content you are creating
It doesn’t all have to be down to the social influencer. It is also possible to hire social influencers to take part in your own content, ad or event to lend credibility and attract eyes to your content. Website creation tool Wix have used the duo from popular youtube series Good Mythical Morning in their advertising campaign. Likewise, Body product brand Lush used this technique to great effect this year, asking self-care and beauty vlogger Grace Victory to host a self-care themed event.
Regardless of whether your content is paid or unpaid, any relationship your brand has with a social influencer should aspire to be:
- Transparent – It is of utmost importance that you declare that the content is sponsored upfront. Not doing so will not only get you in trouble with the advertisement regulators but damage both your and the influencer’s brands.
- Led by the influencer – Ideally, your approach should be tailor made, designed and honed in collaboration with the creator. After all, the creator knows their audience and their advice on how to target them will help you get the best out of the partnership. Not listening to the influencer may mean your content has the opposite effect, eliciting a bad response from viewers.
- Authentic – Influencers thrive because they provide a man-on-the-street vibe and home-grown, independent content to their followers. Consequently, any content you create must seek to show your influencers in the same way to be effective.
- Honest – Regardless of your approach, you should never put words in your influencer’s mouths. Paying them for positive reviews or getting them to be dishonest about your product is unethical and, with any likelihood, will be discovered in the end.
- Fair – There are some influencers who will, and do, work for free or in exchange for free products. However, as a trade off, brands who go this route must accept that they cannot reasonably expect to shape or alter the content the influencer produces. If you want input into the content created, or you are asking for a lot of work from the influencer, consider offering the influencer money for their services. For an excellent analysis of the pros and cons of paying your influencers, check out this article.