There’s little question that the ongoing pandemic is a significant challenge for marketers. With so many people stuck at home or, worse, left without a job, it’s easy to feel like nobody’s buying. After all, for several months people couldn’t get to brick and mortar stores to check out your product line. Unfortunately, ongoing store closures continue to make marketing a challenge. Many of the organic advertising approaches are also less effective. People aren’t taking the bus, train, or flight as often. With all these challenges, it’s more important than ever that we invest in digital marketing. Here, we’ll take a look at influencer marketing and discuss how it is critical to a well-balanced digital strategy that is aligned with the digital-first consumer of today.
The Power of Social Media
Once upon a time, digital marketing was mostly a bunch of banner ads and paid search. Website owners flocked to affiliate links and targeted advertising such as Google Adwords to fund their websites. While this is still true, this type of arrangement is not necessarily the biggest driver of online sales depending on your industry. With digital consumers spending so much time online, we must confront them where they spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes each day: in social media.
Everyone hangs out here
First of all, social media is where everyone seems to hang out these days. Especially when we’re all holed up at home, this is an important way that we can socialize. Originally catering to college students and other young adults, social media now influences all but the youngest of American demographics. In fact, according to Statista, there are an estimated 344 million social media users just in the United States. In practice, this means that most American adults and a large percentage of youth spend time on at least one of those social networks. It also means that we marketers need to spend resources reaching out on social media.
People buy things as a result of social media
It’s long been the case that social media is a source of purchase inspiration. Every so often, you’ll see people posting for recommendations on Facebook, for example. Here, they’re usually looking for a dentist, an honest mechanic, or something similar. However, this is just a small example of where social media influences people to buy.
Any time that a brand demonstrates values that are compatible with their audience on social media, there’s the potential for people to buy. Think about it this way: if you’re into sustainability, would you prefer a gas-powered SUV or a Tesla? Within a sustainability-related community on Facebook, people can debate the merits of getting a Tesla along with something gas powered for long trips. Alternately, some families might find that a hybrid is more advantageous for their lifestyle. Even without commercial interference from the car companies, people are making up their minds what to buy based on these forums.
Social media helps reach new audiences
Here’s the thing: no matter the size of your audience, social media can help you expand it. Advertising in the local newspaper, for instance, only gets you eyeballs among those who read the paper. As consumers increasingly turn to the internet for information, readership at newspapers all over the country is declining. Over time, they are becoming a less important way of reaching customers. Likewise, radio and television are changing. Streaming services and satellite radio have disrupted the market and turned many customers into digital audiences. For that reason, digital advertising is increasing in importance.
Critical to this shift is the power of social media. As people go online more, they spend time on social media. One of the great things about this medium is that if you advertise on social media, you have the potential to reach more than your initial audience. This is because friends and family of your audience might be able to see when someone interacts with your content, whether organic or paid. A well-executed social media strategy results in more people hearing about your brand than might have been possible with paid social. In some ways, it’s almost like print media didn’t go away, except that this new audience can expand far beyond your geographic area.
However, There are Challenges to Social Media
Unlike with print and other traditional media, there are certain barriers to marketing on social media. Because this is a worldwide forum, there are a lot of measures in place to ensure relevance to an audience. Besides this, social media networks make money off of advertising, and at the same time, they need to keep the scammers out. For this reason, and many others, there are challenges to social media advertising.
It’s hard to hear yourself speak
When you think about it, social media can easily seem like a big gymnasium with everyone talking at once. Sure, there can be individual conversations, but at some point the crowd gets too loud to easily talk to people. Maybe that’s because the team scored a goal and everyone’s cheering. Or, it could be that there are simply too many conversations going on at once to pick out the speech you want to hear. At some point, you can’t even hear yourself speak.
On social media, there are conversations being held constantly. While these conversations rarely make noise (unless someone posts a video), they are nonetheless easy to get lost in. Twenty or more companies in your niche are probably vying for attention. Soon, social media user’s feeds get filled up with competing messages about the latest flash sale or ongoing event. How can a brand stand up above the crowd this way?
Organic social traffic? Not anymore
While social media networks haven’t exactly banned businesses from user feeds, the algorithms make sure that they don’t get much attention. After all, these networks are run for people to hang out and connect, not as a marketplace. Advertising is a way for the network to make money, but it isn’t part of their core mission.
It’s been known for a long time that social media networks give organic social content from brands a disadvantage. There’s more than one reason for this. First of all, it incentivizes brands to purchase social media ads. These are an important part of your advertising efforts due to the amount of time that people spend on social media. Buying ads on social media nowadays is a lot like buying time on the local radio station or TV program: it’s essential. This is one reason why I only work with clients who are willing to pay for social media advertising.
The other reason that brands are at a disadvantage for organic social media content is the fact that the networks are made for people. Contacts with friends and family are the primary draw for most people on most networks. On other networks, they come to view the quality content that can’t be found elsewhere. Having their feeds full of nothing but commercial content would turn users off, and quick.
Your business isn’t human
Yes, I just said it. Your business, unless you’re a solopreneur whose business is tied up in your personality, isn’t human. OK, even the solopreneurs and freelancers must have a business side to their personalities, even online. Things like marketing your services must be done in a businesslike fashion. Same thing goes with collecting payment and dealing with other financial aspects of business.
Why is this important? On social media, being human is everything. One of the major trends for businesses these days is showing that you may be a business, but there are humans behind the brand. Look at how brands have dealt with the Coronavirus crisis. When shops were first shut down, many brands sent out email blasts talking about how they were taking care of their employees. Many of them, in fact, paid those employees for the first few weeks of their enforced time off. It was better than having to rehire them, and it was good public relations. In another example, companies like Amazon highlighted their ability to quickly deliver everyday essentials to people who couldn’t get them locally. By doing this, they looked like the hero that was out there to meet an important need.
Unfortunately, you can only take this so far. Brands will never be fully human, even if they show corporate responsibility. In addition, when people try and figure out what products and services best fit their needs, they tend to ask people. While some of the things which brands put out will always be essential to consumer selections, people won’t take everything at face value. It’s one thing to say that this device is indestructible, and another to have someone say, “I dropped it off a roof and it survived.”
Influencer Marketing Helps Solve These Problems
With influencer marketing, businesses can leverage the power of social media while bypassing many of its disadvantages. The ability to overcome these barriers places businesses at a significant advantage over those who rely on traditional social media marketing. In addition, influencer marketing allows brands to get people’s attention in ways that are impossible for most other marketing methods. Let’s take a look at how influencer marketing is critical for digital marketing success by looking at some of the many benefits of influencer marketing.
People “hear” influencers
Remember the analogy of the busy gym where nobody can hear anyone else, or even themselves, due to the noise? With influencer marketing, you’ll have the ability to use a bullhorn or a loudspeaker. This cuts through the noise, so that your brand voice can be heard by everyone else in the room.
How does this work? People pay attention to influencers because they produce quality content. It could be that they post fabulous photos of the Himalayas. Or maybe they’ll talk about their awesome tennis match, complete with a kudos to the worthy opponent. Then, if the influencer mentions the shoes that held up to abuse or that trustworthy tennis racket, people listen.
You can access organic traffic again
When an influencer posts about your product, they’re lending you their audience. More than that, however, they also let you bypass the business account disadvantage. Sent from an individual account, these endorsements get posted on people’s feeds just like anyone else’s content. With a successful influencer, the content usually gets liked, shared, and posted by people who find it useful. While people will occasionally “like” an advertisement, it’s relatively uncommon. Quality content gets all over the internet, and sometimes goes viral. Who doesn’t like that?
Influencers lend their human face
When a “mommy blogger” talks about that awesome diaper rash cream, it isn’t just some hack from marketing mentioning why you should buy it. Rather, the cream has been mom tested and approved. Not only is this valuable for lending a human face, but it also helps consumers know which babies can benefit. For instance, some babies might have specific skincare needs that this cream is excellent at addressing. In the process, you’ll probably sell some tubes to moms who have been desperately looking for the right one since forever.
Influencers bypass the anti-ad bias
Similar to the problems of impersonal brands and organic reach deficits, influencers get people to pay attention. All too often, people ignore advertisements. They’re scrolled past much like banner ads get ignored with impunity. However, because influencers are human and have built up trust with their followers, people listen to them. The content is likely to be enjoyed, and even passed along, even if the user isn’t going to buy the product. For instance, they might decide it’s useful to someone else they know.
Quality content? It’s yours
As a brand marketer, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut or make things too advertisement-like. That’s especially true for your own branded content, because you are typically used to producing ads. However, influencers can make things unique. They literally do social media all day, or at least, specialize in it heavily. Making up quality content is the influencer’s job in most marketing contracts, saving your staff’s work time. Think of it as the “in your own words” assignment from school. Only the influencer is doing it. And if you work with nano influencers, you can often get access to content simply through providing free products to willing participants and advocates.
Influencer marketing is critical to any good digital marketing strategy. By lending a human touch to social media content, influencers let you be heard above the noise. They also ensure that your brand message is distributed without the interference of social media algorithms. If you haven’t tried it yet, why not? Download a free preview of my definitive book on influencer marketing, The Age of Influence, here.
Photo by Athena Kavis on Unsplash