It seems like everyone on social media nowadays is an influencer. Every time I go on Instagram, I see new products and find out about new companies through promotional efforts by friends and celebrities who can all be considered “influencers.” So why are influencers and micro-influencers so common not just on my social media pages, but everyones? That’s because brands, through strategic implementation of “influencer marketing” are changing the way they are electing to showcase their products.
The concept of influencer marketing has been around since the 1920s, but within the last decade social media has changed the way that influencer marketing can be taken advantage of by small and large businesses alike. “At a fundamental level, influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche” (Chen, 2020). The reason why it works is because the “influencers-individuals” have built a great amount of trust between them and their social following. So, no wonder it’s more common for a brand to include influencer marketing than not — brands are always looking for ways to build greater trust between them and their social following too.
Aside from emphasizing brand trust, influencers can be beneficial to brands for a multitude of reasons. To name a few, influencers can raise brand awareness, enrich content strategy, and effectively help a brand reach their target audience. “The key to maximizing influencer strategy is ensuring that [brands are] providing valuable content that adds to their social media presence also, ensuring value on both sides” (Huff, 2017). The concept is a win-win situation if brands are effective in their influencer marketing efforts. The win-win situation is attractive to small and large companies, hence why big named brands like Nike and Adidas, continue to incorporate this strategy into their marketing campaigns year after year. Let’s take a look at how other brands have benefitted from influencers, and how those influencers benefited from the brands.
Bloggers and vloggers are key players in the influencer marketing scene. Bigelow Tea hit the nail on the head when they partnered with prominent influencers like Ashley Thurman, blogger of Cherished Bliss, for one of their campaigns. “Through her blog, Ashley provided readers with the recipe for iced tea that she used Bigelow Tea to make” (GRIN). “That article put Bigelow on the front page of Google for relevant and competitive search terms like “ice lemonade drink” and “ice cube iced tea,” and has been linked to by hundreds of other lifestyle blogs, expanding Bigelow’s reach even further than the Cherished Bliss audience” (Patel, 2020). “Through this campaign, Bigelow Tea was able to get more than 32,000 blog engagements. Their sales increased by 18.5% and their media value increased by 3 times as well” (GRIN).This partnership was just as great exposure for these influencers as it was for the tea company. Influencer marketing efforts like this, make companies like Bigelow prominent figures in their industry.
Along with bloggers, brands are turning to “normal” people to become micro-influencers and promote their products. Glossier is a perfect example of this mentality; They gave normal users the opportunity to become a Glossier Representative. The company started out as a small beauty blog that turned into a very successful beauty brand. Glossier “owes much of their seemingly overnight cult status to their ever-expanding network of super fans and micro-influencers — those people who may have high influence, but low individual reach. Instead of paying a few big names to promote their minimal skincare and cosmetics, the brand relies on “regular women” to spread the word” (Cook, 2019). The regular women don’t have a great following on social media, yet they promote the brand like they do in effort to get other regular women on board with the products. These reps are also given a discount code that they can share with their other regular friends to use at checkout when they shop online at Glossier. “With [over] 2.8 million Instagram followers, Glossier has built a large community of loyal supporters who serve as not only their primary customers but also their biggest salespeople. Glossier’s marketing is a digital-first word-of-mouth approach to skin care and beauty products. They’ve transformed into one of the most successful D2C beauty brands in the cosmetics industry today, with a $1.2 billion valuation” (Extole, 2020). The credit for their success has to be given to these micro-influencers that they call representatives. Brands like Glossier are paving the way for the the future of marketing on social media.
Based on the data, it’s clear that influencers and influencer marketing efforts are vital to the success of so many brands at the moment. Whether they are large stars who have hundreds-of-millions of followers, or they are a micro-influencer with a few hundred, brands will rely on the trust that these individuals have established with their following to build and showcase their products in a desirable and less invasive fashion than traditional advertising. The practice of influencer marketing is one that will continue to change over time, but one that will certainly remain as playing an ever increasing role in the way brands and their consumers interact.