Navigating the Changing Landscape of Influencer Marketing
By Leanne Pressley
If your business is active on Instagram (click here for information on how to best utilize Instagram for business), then it is likely you have witnessed the rise of “the influencer” in recent years. These popular users have flooded social media feeds, especially Instagram. As an example, the most recognizable influencers are any one of the Kardashian family members. Influencers have become a robust marketing tool for small and large businesses, providing an “authentic” voice that can speak directly to a product’s key demographic. An influencer’s strength resides in the relationship they have with their followers, who respect, value and, most importantly, trust their opinion. A recent report shows that followers are more likely to purchase products promoted by social media influencers than by brands.
Influencers have a pre-built and often fiercely loyal and engaged audience. Once you identify an influencer with an overlapping fan base, it is an easy, effective and often cost-efficient method of marketing directly to your consumer. We like to think social media has completely changed the advertising game, but, in reality, it has only shifted a well-trod landscape. The influencer is essentially the 21st-century version of the celebrity spokesperson. The difference is that the digital age has allowed for more focused targeting — social media feeds stream directly to your intended audience — and that the “celebrity” factor can be available on a smaller scale, known as micro-influencers.
Micro-influencers are users with a social media following of anywhere from 1,000 to 1 million followers. They provide a more focused impact within niche markets, such as crafting industries. A Kardashian might demand seven figures to hawk a detox tea or diet drug, but their user engagement will often prove fickle — users idolize celebrities, but don’t always trust what they have to say. A micro-influencer, on the other hand, occupies an approachable position that imparts trust and believability. Micro-influencers often generate not only higher levels of engagement, but more meaningful, personal interactions. Their natural accessibility and ability to interact with followers makes them effective, trustworthy ambassadors for your brand. And, micro-influencers’ rates are also far more manageable. According to a recent article, a single branded post for a micro-influencer with fewer than 50,000 followers can start at around $250, but numbers vary.
Finding influencers and micro-influencers is fairly easy. Once your business identifies its audience, it’s a cinch to glean which Instagram users carry a large number of followers while also posting consistently about your brand. But, while finding a micro-influencer can be as simple as searching your own hashtag and discovering a vocal and influential follower, forging a mutually beneficial relationship is slightly more complicated. How do you know the influencer you have found is not buying followers or fabricating their confidence in a product? In a recent marketing stunt, Unilever rebranded their Suave hair care line as a new luxe brand called Evaus (Suave spelled backward) and tricked a number of online influencers into raving about it. The stunt proved how easy it was to essentially influence the influencers. Properly vetting potential influencers is the first — and most important — step of starting an influencer relationship.
Do Some Digging
Once you find a potential influencer, the first step should be to look at their followers. The craft market is still a niche one, so the likelihood that you will recognize mutual followers is high. Study their posts for comments and the kinds of engagement they receive. Their interactions should be genuine and responsive. A good influencer will also typically respond to the comments left on their profiles with more than a simple like or emoji. Look out for other profiles leaving spam- or bot comments on their posts (emoji-filled comments are a red flag). User profiles without pictures or user names with strings of letters and numbers are another red flag. Check out their followers’ photo streams for repetitions and to make sure the accounts are live — a dead account with only a few photos is a sign the account is a bot. You want a true influencer, not someone who has bought their influence. Remember, it’s not just about the number of followers, especially when the numbers can be purchased. Real, genuine engagement is key.
A real influencer won’t just have a single online profile. Look for them on other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat or YouTube. Do they have a website linked in their profile? Browse their website to ensure it isn’t simply a placeholder — an active website or blog is also a good indicator of a productive influencer. The more channels they prove active on, the more trustworthy they should be.
Reverse Image Search
Google offers an easy way to upload a photo and search for it on the internet. If you find a suspicious influencer or an influencer with suspicious followers, download a few photos and perform a reverse image search. This is a quick and easy way to rule out doctored photos and fake profiles.
Utilize Fake Follower Alert Services
Companies like Dovetale utilize more than 50 metrics to analyze an account’s followers, including country of origin. Sylo investigates every single piece of content an influencer produces to calculate their reliability. Their algorithm looks at an influencer’s engagement, reach metrics and more, and rates them accordingly. Used by both brands and influencers themselves, Sylo offers a reliable network for both parties in an influencer relationship. InfluencerDB is another online service that will analyze a potential influencer and deliver a letter grade based on their profile and interactions. Hypr vets influencers and directly connects them with brands. If you are interested in securing an influencer for your brand, an outside service can take a lot of the guesswork out of finding a worthwhile micro-influencer.
Interestingly, some companies are skewing the parameters of who can be an influencer in social media marketing. Taco Bell recently turned a select group of customers into potential influencers. Launching limited reservation “speakeasy” pop-ups across the country, the fast-food brand invited customers to free chalupas in exchange for a little word-of-mouth advertising. Equipped with photo props and good lighting, the pop-ups encouraged Taco Bell customers to photograph and Instagram their meals, the belief being that “people are much less likely to believe a fast-food chain bragging about a new product than they are to trust an Instagram account they’ve been following for months.”
Taco Bell’s experiment only further proves that the role of influencers in social media marketing is in a state of flux. Stitchcraft Marketing can help you define how to most effectively incorporate influencers in your business strategy.