Why are influencers so effective at selling your product?
Nobody wants to keep chasing the next big thing. Chasing is like fishing, and people say they like to fish, but what they really like to do is catch. Not only can investing in influencer marketing feel like chasing the next trend, but it can also feel unreliable and unvetted, quite the opposite of more definitive alternatives like measurable ad spends.
Yet, here’s the truth: The returns look awfully good. Here at Lewis, some of our most notable successes in the past year have been due to the monetary gains clients have realized through influencer marketing. Ultimately, as vague and unvetted as investing in influencer marketing may seem, it’s no different from anything else: The good stuff is always good because somebody didn’t half-ass it.
Every successful project relies on people who are willing to get their hands dirty and do the work. As it relates to influencers, the work looks like hours of careful research and observation. It’s valuable time spent combing through the online communities relevant to a client’s brand and marketplace. It’s also learning where their target audiences gather online, how they interact with one another and, most importantly, who the leaders are. Find the leaders, and you’ve found the influencers.
Everything Old Is New Again
Influencers can be just about anyone, from powerful monarchs influencing their subjects through public speeches and informal endorsements to Santa, who was an early influencer for Coca-Cola. And technically, Mother Teresa was an influencer for the Catholic faith.
So why are audiences — a brand’s potential customers — influenced by strangers?
Trust in consumerism isn’t reliant on whether or not the user knows or has ever met the influencer. Instead, trust is a consequence of relatability. If a consumer relates to an influencer, that relatability has built-in trust that comes with relevant and meaningful connections shared by like-minded people.
This helps explain why, according to Content Marketing Institute, 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands — even if they don’t personally know them. The connection between influencers and consumers is as powerful as the data suggests:
71% — According to the 2021 Nielsen Trust in Advertising study, 71% of consumers trust advertising, opinions and product placements from influencers.
80% — According to first-quarter 2022 norms from research measuring the effectiveness of influencer ads in nearly 200 campaigns, an average of 80% of influencer ad viewers were able to recall seeing the brand featured in the ads.
76% — Seventy-six percent of brands are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2022, according to Aspire 2022 State of Influencer Marketing.
Return on Investment: What’s Possible
Most of the observations we’ve noted so far — the trust factor, the persuasive power of being relatable, and how what’s old is new again — are at work in the influencer-centric campaigns we’ve created for our clients.
Teasing out these factors and allowing the relationships between influencers and their followers to work organically — and without heavy-handed intrusion from our company or the brand — is a critical part of our standard and process at Lewis.
Sure, we’ll provide the brand messaging and assist influencers with products for giveaways or an exclusive promotional code, but we don’t dictate the style or means by which the message is delivered. Our success in the influencer marketing space is partly due to this commitment to take a step back, and let relationships between influencers and their followers reach critical inflection points that result in relatability and, ultimately, trust.
Once trust is established, the user journey that spans from engagement to making a purchase (or taking action in a number of other ways) are natural next steps. We know this because we’ve experienced it. Lewis started small. Early on, we paired influencers with clients who’s products or services were natural fixtures within online spaces where active users and thriving social groups and communities were abundant.
And after experiencing some initial success, we expanded our use of influencers over time, gaining increasingly favorable returns on behalf of our clients. To date, on average, each influencer we’ve partnered with reaches and engages more prospective customers at higher rates than brand posts. This considerable gain is rooted in:
the cost-effectiveness of dollars spent;
And the quality of the reach.
As it relates to the “quality of the reach,” you might look at it this way: This approach is the exact opposite of the salesperson's “cold call.” The type of people reached by influencers are ripe for action, because these relationships existed before our clients partnered with influencers. As such, “influencer reach” becomes a warm call, where resulting engagement is high and taking action is likely.
This bears out in measurable ways. For one of our clients, earlier this year, we gave each influencer we work with a promo code to reach their respective audiences. Within this 4-month effort, these influencers generated nearly $5 million in total revenue for our client, and 41% of them were new customers who had never previously made a purchase from the brand. As for return-on-investment during this period? Incoming revenue realized against costs was 48:1.
What’s the Secret Sauce?
What is the secret sauce? Well, we sort of gave that away in the beginning. It’s best captured by a familiar quote we’ve used before:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison
A good marketing strategy will prioritize the time and work required to learn the nuances of online spaces where target audiences spend their time. And they’ll do what’s needed to become exceedingly familiar with the influencers who hold court there. It’s about immersion.
And, just like most things, it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. For instance, we’re usually looking for influencers with a respectable number of followers. And, yes, it’s true that “respectable” is indeed a vague way to describe the size of an influencer’s following, but the vagueness is instructional.
Depending on the situation (the brand, industry, competitors and the client’s unique goals), you’ll want to judge the number of followers a social influencer has against other influencers in the same space. Plus, based on a client’s single, overarching goal (example: leads, pageviews or online sales), we’ll determine whether the size of an influencer's audience is more or less important than the level of engagement an influencer typically commands.
We’re also mindful of how influencer marketing fits into a client’s larger goals and marketing strategy. This is not a tactic we trot out on its own. Rather, it’s part of a multipronged attack. If traditional media can be analogous to air strikes, then influencers represent a unit within our boots-on-the-ground campaign. Each effort supports the other.
And influencer marketing is no different. They need the support of frequency, where those receiving influencer messages are also intersecting with messaging from other sources, whether it’s targeted online ads, sponsored or social organic posts and a robust offering of supporting content like a client website that’s layered with useful information and easy-to-find places of action.
We’ll end where we started: There may be a looming sense of vague ambiguity that a brand feels when investing in influencer marketing for the first time. These feelings are usually paired with these questions: How do we find the right influencer? How do we even know what characteristics make an influencer right to promote our company or product? How can we be confident the influencers we choose will be the right match for our niche product or unusual idea?
Any approach to influencer marketing that’s not fully vetted and well-researched can quickly turn into a dose of guesswork with a pinch of wishful thinking thrown in. Investing in influencer marketing and choosing the right influencers for the job is science when a brand’s marketing arm is committed to doing the work.