Marketers have a lot of options when it comes to choosing how to best reach customers: traditional marketing, mass media, digital, social media, public relations, celebrity promotions, guerrilla marketing, etc. However, the newest emerging marketing category is all about social media users with large followings, sometimes called “influencers,” those undercover trendsetters who are gradually adding new layers to the way marketers leverage social.
These social media users are everyday people who turn themselves into rock stars. They’re the ones who blog, record, and podcast themselves straight into online fame, and the fame portion is now translating into massive potential for brands. In the world of social media, the spotlight’s direction is determined by what interests readers and viewers. Those who have something interesting to say collect their own followers, giving people with wits and talent instant influence with the power to plug your brand.
Some marketers still aren’t sold on this strategy, but those who hesitate may soon be left in the dust. Popular social media users are wising up to the chance to connect with major brands they love, and smart marketers are building relationships that cost pennies and could pay out for years to come. These popular folks are making their mark on marketing, and not just because investing in them is is easy.
“Influencers” blend well with the marketing tools you’re already using.
Your brand likely already has social media accounts, a blog, a sales site, and public relations relationships. Marketing via popular social media users isn’t just another item to add to the list, it’s a great sales tool that compliments what you’re already doing. A well managed campaign will grow your social audience and drive traffic to your website. In other words, you’re already doing all the other work, so why not add “influencers” to the list? It’s a big potential payout for minimal extra effort.
Working with popular social media users isn’t so different from working with a public relations firm.
Developing relationships with these social media stars is similar to working with a public relations firm, another task your team is already used to handling. Working with “influencers” involves developing a partnership that includes guidance on how you wish a product to be featured and what you’ll require in terms of traffic feedback.
Follow the market; customers are tuning in to social.
Still not feeling the vibe? Consider this: Social media stars may now have more clout with younger consumers than mainstream celebrities. Younger audiences are constantly plugged in and often consume more social media than television. Social influence isn’t just an emerging form of celebrity, it’s the celebrity of the future. Cultivating relationships now may mean you develop partnerships that pay major dividends in the long term as “influencers” become more potent.
Influencers have proven their legitimacy in marketing.
Social media has opened the door on a fresh realm of publicity that gives people with online star power the potential to seriously shine. Consider Michelle Phan, a makeup enthusiast whose helpful tutorials have collected 7.6 million YouTube subscribers and more than one billion views. Phan flipped her personal blog into partnerships with Lancome and L’Oreal, and she has launched several successful ventures of her own. Fashionista Chiara Feragni, John Lee Dumas of the Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast, and gamer PewDiePie are other prime examples whose followers prove they’re legitimate marketing players.
This type of marketing has a proven track record.
No marketing strategy will be worth much if you can’t prove it’s working. Before you invite a popular social media user to start working his or her magic for your brand, make sure you can clearly show web traffic stats, sales spikes, and other vital data that will illustrate credible results. These stars shouldn’t be able to take a free product or perk without being able to provide clear tracking data and metrics. If they don’t know how to help deliver meaningful results-based information on how they’re helping your brand, they’re not a true “influencer.”
A balanced marketing strategy should include multiple facets. Working with social media users who draw large followings should be one of them. Connecting with “influencers” involves the same skills marketers are already using with public relations and social media management, so involving them in marketing initiatives is a logical extension of what you’re already doing. Bringing influential folks on board can offer a major bang for very little buck, and if strategies are managed well, it’s an almost effortless way to draw attention to your product.
Landon Ledford is cofounder of InstaHype, an email service that connects brands directly with more than 10,000 social media stars in fashion, beauty, food, and lifestyle.