A Dummies Guide to Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has quickly become a major buzzword in the digital sphere, but the concept has been around for much longer than many pundits may assume. So what exactly is influencer marketing, and how does it work?

When individuals meet an “expert” in their field, the person in question is often immediately viewed as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source of information. An expert, then, can have significant sway over an audience’s views – and wallet. This is, in essence, influencer marketing: the development of advertising via influential people and thought leaders, rather than directly through the brand itself.

Marketing strategies that utilize the reach of a social media influencer have grown in recent years, especially as marketing teams realise that even influencers with a smaller reach can have a significant impact on a brand. Moreover, studies have shown that millennials have little trust in traditional advertising, and are seeking out more authentic brands instead.

Enter influencer marketing. According to research, some 94% of marketers who use influencer marketing find it to be an effective practice, with returns on investment (ROI) up to 11 times that of traditional advertising.

A big part of why influencer marketing works is the fact that it circumvents many of the weaknesses of other channels. “We see so much advertising that we unconsciously learn to ignore it. This is called ‘banner blindness,’” writes Misha Talavera, the founder of NeoReach. “The digital advertising platform Infolinks found that only 14% of respondents could recall the last viewed ad and determine what was advertised there.”

Amid an onslaught of traditional marketing, deemed untrustworthy by most consumers, recommendations from trustworthy individuals has the most power. Celebrities and media personalities, too, have come to form a major part of people’s lives, so it makes sense that the activities they take part in, the food they eat, and the opinions they hold have a huge influence on consumers.

At the same time, influencer marketing complies with a popular law of business that states the marketplace will always abide by the opinion of an influencer without any rejection, making influencers a key asset to brands. Influencers today play the role of content writers, entertainers, advisers, journalists and product testers; buoying their influence is the fact that they are often tied to a network of other well-known individuals considered to be influential.

Better yet, almost anyone with an internet connection can be an influencer. According to the G2 Crowd influencer marketing guide, “character is an insanely important aspect of influencer marketing,” though brands often prefer to work with an individual who can prove to be knowledgeable. A vegan health influencer is unlikely to be chosen to work with a mainstream beauty brand, for example.

Influencer marketing is not a new concept, and it builds on the already time-tested tradition of word-of-mouth marketing. That said, the online influencer market is only projected to grow in the coming years – and rapidly so. Brands today should adopt influencer marketing plans into their overall strategies.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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