Influencer Marketing Essentials Part 1 of 5: What is influencer marketing?

Simon Elliott avatar

Simon Elliott

In this five part bite-sized series, we’re going to explore world of influencer marketing – what it means, how it’s used and how you can best incorporate it into your brand strategy.

Who doing what where?

First – what’s in a name? What IS an influencer, exactly? It’s certainly a term that comes with a bit of baggage, a piece of marketing vocabulary like ‘reach’ or ‘content’ that has become mainstream and lately, if we’re honest, disliked by many people. The term influencer often appears with scare-quotes or with a qualifier like ‘so-called’ (or worse) in front of it. But what and who are influencers exactly?

The term influencer, broadly speaking, applies to anyone who exerts influence, both practically and usually speaking, over their online channels such as YouTube, Twitter or Instagram. It goes beyond a typical celebrity endorsement by having an online personality, though of course a traditional  celebrity like an actor or a footballer, can have influence over an audience online, however for the purpose of this series we are going to focus on those who first found their audience online. They could be a slice of life vlogger or a makeup artist or movie reviewer – these later two types can sometimes be more accurately be called ‘content creators,’ as that describes what they do most of the time on their channel. The line certainly blurs when reality TV stars may cultivate a large online following before, during or after, a stint on TV, as online marketability has become a calculated part of the process.

No matter how they draw them in, the fact remains that these influencers can have millions of followers giving them their attention, which has of course created an opportunity for marketers.  It’s estimated that global adspend on influencer marketing will reach $5 -10 billion by 2022.

Analytics have certainly helped us reach that point – we can make extremely accurate guesses as to who our target is watching on YouTube, whose stories they watch on Instagram and which podcasts they’re subscribing to. And, those content creators not only realise the power of their influencer, but also how valuable it is to brands. 

You can think of influencer marketing like your new improved casting agencies – some in fact operate through agents or have assistants dedicated to managing their brand partnerships.  However, it isn’t as simple as just finding an influencer who engages with the audience you’re interested and paying them to tack a call-to-action at the end of their videos. You can’t think of an influencer simply as a megaphone to shout your message at a certain group of people; rather they can lend an authentic voice to your brand and relay it to their audience – most effectively, we might add, if it can seem like they’re doing so in an natural way.  That means selecting influencers carefully, with your objectives clearly in mind.

This is where the payoff lies. As part of our strategy to build a digital presence for 1001, one of England’s oldest and most trusted household cleaning brands, strategic influencer partnerships proved critical for finding the 1001 audience.

One Instagram giveaway which involved an influencer partnership brought 1,600 new followers to the 1001 account in the first 24 hours. And more importantly, this swell in audience wasn’t made up of passive social media fans, but rather people who are excited to engage with the brand based on an influencer’s endorsement.

With results like that, it’s easy to see why brands are so quick to make influencer partnerships part of their strategy – but does that mean you should too?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Influencer Series, which helps you answer the question, ‘Should an influencer form part of my brand strategy?’

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