Business tips

Influencer marketing series, part 1: Why your business needs to leverage the power of influencers

In the digital age, recommendations through influencers are a great way to promote your brand to an online audience. Jeff Bullas outlines how small to medium businesses (SMBs) can benefit from influencer marketing.

When LinkedIn approached a group of hyper-connected marketing experts to share their tips in a 2014 e-book called The Sophisticated Marketers Guide to LinkedIn, it proved to be an influential move. The thought leaders shared the e-book with their dedicated followers, which resulted in thousands of shares and countless new LinkedIn members. It was a clear demonstration of the power of influencer marketing.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing involves marketing products and services to people who have a sway over the things we buy and support. In the digital age, influential authority can come from many places due to the power of peer recommendations. Brands are now reaching out to influencers with a large social media following and readership in their related industries to review and feature their products. The hope is that their audience will take notice.

Influencer marketing taps into the positive perception of word of mouth at a time when many consumers are becoming cynical about traditional advertising. A report from McKinsey and Company shows that word of mouth is now the key influence behind 20 to 50 per cent of all purchasing decisions.

Bloggers and YouTube personalities can guide the purchasing behaviour of their followers by simply mentioning a product or service in their posts. L’Oréal has taken advantage of this, partnering with influential beauty blogger and one of Inc Magazine’s “30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs of 2015”, Michelle Phan, who endorses their beauty products to her seven million subscribers on YouTube.

Popular Twitter users and Instagram photographers can also be highly influential. Luxury British clothing brand Ted Baker recently engaged six popular Instagram photographers for its North American-specific campaign, “Ted Baker’s Explorer Club”. The photographers shared their photos on Instagram with the hashtag #TedBakerAW15. The idea was to increase brand engagement in the US market.

A powerful influence

The splintering of media, along with the growth the digital eco-system, has also had an impact on the growth of influencer marketing. Social Media Today recently reported that 74 per cent of global marketers will use influencer marketing as part of their marketing strategy in the next 12 months.

Jeff Bullas, author of Blogging the Smart Way – How to Create and Market a Killer Blog with Social Media and one of Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers 2013, says influencer marketing is an effective way to promote a brand. “To reach your niche audience in 2015 and beyond, you need to find a digital path to your target market. One of the fastest ways to do that is to fish where the fish are,” he says. “So you need to reach out to those bloggers and online publishers that are already speaking to your prospects and have built trust and credibility on a social web. This has been achieved through years of content creation and marketing.”

Gaining an influence

Businesses leading the way in influencer marketing are large, established brands as well as those that operate in the digital marketing space. “This is due to their in-depth understanding of how the digital eco-system works and their access to advanced technology and budgets,” says Bullas. “They typically have the resources, the perspective and the money to engage the influencers.”

But Bullas says small to medium businesses can also benefit from influencer marketing. “The benefit of engaging an influencer is that you can accelerate your web attention and digital traffic by accessing their audience.”

The internet is a competitive and noisy space. Building an audience online takes persistent and consistent effort. Bullas adds that influencer marketing can help you cut through the clutter. “The key here is to think digital,” he says. “You need to also think long term and treat your investment in digital marketing as an asset build [strategy] and not an expense.”

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