Marketers have leveraged influencers for a long time, from athletes on the Wheaties box to celebrity chefs endorsing cookware. With the advent of social media, influencer marketing has quickly trended toward helping brands expand their reach and connect with new customers. Influencers can be highly effective when they’re knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your industry and products, especially when attracting a new audience.
But influencers are not one-size-fits-all. Relationships between influencers and brands work best when tailored. Having Brad Pitt promote sports bras may not make sense, but it does if you’re Serena Williams. The collaboration needs to feel as natural as user generated content.
There are many different types of influencers and ways brands can work with them across the many avenues of today’s digital landscape. Ranging from the “everyday user” who rates their favorite product and writes a review to a celebrity endorser with hundreds of thousands of followers.
The original category of influencers, celebrities have been endorsing brands well before social media. Pepsi is a notable brand that uses major celebrities as the face of their commercials, including everyone from Michael Jackson to Madonna. At its core, the idea is that consumers will be more interested in buying products that they see “cool” people using it. They often have the most reach in numbers, but they’re not always best for customer engagement, or most effective for your bank account.
The price tag that comes with celebrity influencer endorsements is a high one. Hopper HQ’s Instagram Rich List of 2018 features the top and no surprise, the Kardashian-Jenner family leads this with Kylie Jenner securing the top spot charging $1 million per post. Selena Gomez is a close second, charging $800K for a single Instagram post. However, monetary payment isn’t the only way celebrities are paid for their endorsements. Free product, services and luxury experiences tend to come along with the package too. After all, the celebrities need to be seen using or experiencing the product. Airbnb was an early adopter of this in 2015, working with Mariah Carey to document her experiences staying in some of their most luxurious properties.
Similar to celebrities, thought leaders often have a wide reach to industry-specific followers – with an extra layer of clout generated from many years of being a leader in their respective field. The line can blur between the two. For example, Richard Branson is inarguably both a celebrity and a thought leader in business. But when industry leaders endorse a brand in line with their expertise, many perceive their influence as carrying more weight and legitimacy; aka an endorsement that doesn’t scream “sell-out” or “spon-con.” Other great examples include Warren Buffett, Arianna Huffington, and Tony Robbins.
These days, it can seem like anyone and everyone is an influencer on social media – but there may be something to that. One strategy that’s been quickly on the rise is brands shifting their focus away from big name influencers and developing their relationships with “micro-influencers” instead. Unlike celebrity influencers, micro-influencers tend to develop a social media presence specific to a niche, with followers ranging from 1-50K+. Don’t write them off on initial glance though – what they lack in quantity, their followers often make up for in quality.
Even the smallest micro-influencers can be social media advocates who produce great UGC. Micro-influencers can often have highly-engaged followings, with loyalty built up by consistently delivering authenticity and quality content. If you can find and target ones who authentically align with your product, the trust between micro-influencers and their followers can be extremely powerful for brands. And these quality endorsements usually come at a much lower cost in comparison to celebrity influencers.
Content creators are typically influencers who specialize in producing beautiful visual assets, such as photographers and videographers. Like micro-influencers and bloggers, they often focus on a specific niche with a signature style – whether that’s pop art product photography, landscape drone footage, first-person travel vlog, etc.
In addition to having a strong social media presence, successful creators must also have their own platform that hosts their content and voice. An Instagram micro-influencer might have quality reach across their posts and stories, but bloggers can go a step further in providing endorsements, testimonials and content.
Writers can also be effective promoters for brands that may not have quite as visual of products or services. A picture may say a thousand words, but a 500-word honest review from a blogger with strong engagement can often go even further. Plus, backlinks from bloggers are great for SEO and converting site visits into sales.
Working with content creators that align with and understand your brand can produce amazing results. Customers and smaller micro-influencers are excellent for UGC, but content creators can deliver much higher quality content to use more extensively across platforms. Bonus if you target the right ones, content creators often have loyal followings who may already have interest in your industry and appreciate your branding.
Don’t forget how far the influence of your satisfied customers can go as the communities built on brand love can go a long way. Your customers are also a perfect resource for UGC and are important promoters of your products or services. Running social media campaigns, product giveaway contests, holiday sales, limited-edition runs, and even just asking for customer reviews are all ways to spur customer engagement, endorsement and grassroots content.
Since its early days, UGC has proved itself to be valuable for brands of all sizes. The greek yogurt favorite Chobani attributed their 225.9% increase in revenue between 2009 and 2010 to their marketing campaign centered on using UGC across websites, billboards, and social media. Since then, countless brands have caught on to just how far UGC can really go. As the quality of UGC continues to increase, we’ll be seeing more and more brands use customer and influencer content more beyond the bounds of social media and across email, product-display pages, advertising, and higher-level marketing campaigns.
Managing influencers can feel like an overwhelming task, and without the right system in place it can be. And it only gets harder as you scale. Annex Cloud’s Influencer Marketing Management streamlines the process. From keeping track of campaigns to monitoring revenue attribution numbers, our influencer management feature ensures your influencer marketing program is performing at its peak. Managing digital assets can also be daunting, but Annex Cloud’s influencer feature works in tandem with the User Generated Content Cloud, which solves the challenges around soliciting, collecting and managing UGC from customers. Try Annex Cloud today and see how our platform can help you leverage both influencers and UGC to optimize your marketing efforts and increase customer conversion.