Since the dawn of Web 2.0 consumers have growingly been looking to fellow consumers, rather than companies, to rely on when making purchasing decisions. Social influencers are those consumers who manage to make their voice heard above the social media clutter. Marketers use influencers as a tool take hold of the newly consumer driven market, spreading their brand message from “consumer” to consumer.
Social influencers are able to use their strong social media presence to influence their followers’ behaviours, or more importantly from a marketing perspective, influence their purchasing habits. Influencers offer brands a human voice and therefore a more trusted, authentic source of product buzz. They also offer marketers a source of native advertising, in other words, the advertising occurs within an organic context, e.g. a sponsored post on Instagram, rather than interrupting the consumer experience, e.g. a pop up ad. An endorsement from an influencer with a strong and loyal following is also likely to be seen as a legitimate opinion rather than a shameless plug because they have a closer relationship with their followers than your typical mainstream celebrity, making them seem more reliable.
Using a social influencer can be great value for money; they don’t necessarily require a large pay check. In fact, in some cases they may not be paid at all, instead receiving free or discounted products. However, marketers need to make sure that they choose the right influencer for their brand in order to get the ROI they’re looking for.
Marketers need to be strategic when dealing with influencers, choosing those whose personal branding suits the company’s brand image. The goal is to appeal to as large an audience as possible without making the influencer drift too far from their original source of brand equity. For example, McDonald’s isn’t going to ask a vegan Instagram influencer to post about their “mouthwatering cheeseburgers”. And for their followers who have issues with promotional content? Countless influencers regularly explain that they only promote products that they truly recommend. Additionally, if the influencer was to face backlash for promoting a particular product they have the perfect platform (social media) to explain to their masses of followers why they chose to promote said product, limiting any negative impact.
The social influencer is a friend to their numerous followers and marketers alike. In a world where the digital landscape is constantly changing, now is the perfect time for brands to leverage off the success of social influencers before we’re catapulted into the next marketing trend.