Influencer Marketing 101

“Influencer marketing” is a major buzzword right now. It’s been cited as one of the year’s biggest trends by Forbes; Meltwater; Ragan’s PR Daily; and more. And according to Klear, an influencer marketing software platform, the field grew by a whopping 198% last year.

So, we’ve established that influencer marketing is important. But what exactly is it? What makes it so powerful? What clients would be the best fits for it? And how do you go about finding the right influencer?

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a broad term for the area of marketing that uses endorsements to sell products. It’s been around for ages, in the form of celebrity and athlete endorsements, as celebrity brand ambassadors (think Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger).

However, when we talk about influencer marketing today, we’re usually talking about micro-influencers in particular. These are your bloggers, journalists, critics, and Instagram and YouTube stars, among others. If you’ve ever bought a beauty product because your favorite vlogger raved about it, or gone to a restaurant because you saw it on a food blogger’s Instagram, you’ve been affected by influencer marketing.

If you stop to think about it, influencer marketing is pretty common these days. That’s because 92% of consumers trust referrals from someone they know (Nielsen and TapInfluence). As consumers, we’ve always trusted our friends and family above brands. And now marketers are realizing that we consider “Karen from Omaha” more relatable than Kim Kardashian. Bonus: Karen is a lot cheaper to partner with, too.

Who should be using it?

Influencer marketing can really be done by any company, but it’s particularly well-suited to food and beverage, beauty, and hospitality brands. These are service-oriented products with a lot of variety and people are already asking their friends for recommendations. Influencers just act as an extension of that.

It’s also a great tactic to use if you’re trying to generate “buzz” or generate audience growth, especially if you’re going after a new target market. Influencers provide a great way to get your foot in the door with a new demographic. It’s like asking your friend to recommend you for a job at their company.

Of course, you still have to get through the job interview and prove that you’re the best fit, but that recommendation helps the interviewer gain a level of trust in you. And that gives you a leg up on the competition.

How do I choose the right influencer?

Now, this could take an entire blog post in itself, so I’m just going to say that the first step is weeding out the fake influencers from the real ones (Spin Sucks). Then, it’s a matter of finding the right influencer for the goal you’re trying to achieve.

Think of it like building a shelf or whatever you might build (sorry, Dad, I know you tried to teach me about tools and building stuff!). You have a lot of different tools and most of them could probably accomplish the job. But there’s one tool that will give you the best results. That being said, here’s this handy graphic from Traackr, another influencer marketing platform that I recommend checking out. They also publish a lot of handy guides like this via Twitter!

An Infographic of The Many Faces of Influence: 10 key influencer archetypes

This is hardly a comprehensive guide to influencer marketing, but I hope it provides a good starting point. For additional resources, be sure to check out my Twitter!

How do you feel about influencer marketing, from a marketing or PR standpoint? What about as a consumer? I’d love to know your thoughts!

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