Over the past few years, influencer marketing has become a necessity for marketers around the world. These days, it isn’t a question of if you should use influencers to promote your brand but rather how to do it. Bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers have all become critical sources of guidance and information to their loyal fan bases. Following a rapid trajectory from complete strangers to respected opinion leaders, their similarities and shared interests with their followers are their main advantage against traditional advertisement or even celebrity endorsement.
Thanks to the internet’s massive reach, some of these influencers have become digital super stars with social accounts boasting millions of followers. These social celebrities are very interesting for communications professionals due to the fact that, thanks to their large fan bases, any content these influencers share is guaranteed to reach a large, yet targeted, audience. With celebrity influencers, on the other hand, while many people may see your product, how many of them will really remember your brand, trust your message and—most importantly—engage with it?
Star influencer’s legitimacy in question
One issue with influencer “starification” is that the very foundation of influence marketing is the influencer’s authenticity in the eye of the audience. This authenticity demands a certain freedom of speech when promoting a brand.
Influencer marketing is not celebrity endorsement, the goal is not to build awareness and desire around a celebrity’s perceived fame by staging his or her interaction with the brand.
When a social celebrity is paid thousands of dollars to appear in a heavily branded promotional video or a clearly staged Instagram post, the very rationale for using an influencer is lost, thus diminishing their audience’s acceptance and, down the line, the return on investment.
Contrary to popular belief, the main selection criteria for the selection of influencers should be the relevance of the influencer in questions as opposed to the extent of their online popularity. Potential customers—and especially young customers—are looking for reasons to trust brands again after decades of product-centric advertising strategies. Millennials are not as averse to advertisement marketers might believe. Indeed, what they’re looking for is promotional content that answers to their needs and speaks their language in an apparently authentic context.
When using star influencers, you have to be willing to give your chosen ambassador a modicum of control over the type of content they create. Odds are that if the influencer has chosen to work with you, he or she has some sort of natural affinity with your brand and is willing to negotiate on the creative process. Remember that their job is first and foremost to engage their audience. In fact, you might learn a thing or two by collaborating closely on projects with influencers.
A good influencer knows that in order to stay relevant to the public, they need to protect their identity and reputation by limiting their endorsement deals while creating content that engages both the brand’s target and their own followers. The influencer’s tone of voice and identity need to be clearlyrecognizable, and blend with the brand’s identity for the process to be a success.
Unfortunately, a growing amount of influencers are choosing money over quality, damaging both their reputation and their endorsement’s value for your brand in the process.
Another issue emerges when we take into account that while star influencers with very large fan bases have a significant reach, they might not be targeted enough to engage with more educated key consumers.
The rise of the micro influencers
As a result of this decrease in trust toward social celebrities, a new kind of influencer became a key asset for brands: micro-influencers.
While they may not have huge fan bases, they are recognized as experts by their communities and thus are well trusted by their fans. More often than not they are working in their field-of-interest, and want to share their passion and knowledge. They are recognized as authorities within their niche communities, and are generally perceived as genuine and trustworthy when it comes to promoting products and brands ,which they tend not to do very often.
Needless to say, micro-influencers have a smaller reach, but their engagement potential is far greater. They generate conversations with genuinely interested individuals that are influencers in their own small networks, and might be future brand ambassadors themselves. Micro-influencers amplify the word-of-moutheffect towards a very specific target of high profile buyers.
A recent study conducted by the Keller Fey group reported that 73% of people are highly inclined to follow advice given by micro-influencers. The main reason? They trust that the reviews given by these influencers are unbiased and created to help their community of followers.
Trust is Influence
The metric that any marketer implementing an influencer marketing strategy—or any marketing strategy—should take into account is trust. The beginning of the century was basically a playground for communication agencies, where customers where seduced by any creative advertisement or shiny new product. The overconsumption of advertisement has worn off, however, and those same individuals who were previously eager to engage with your brand, are not so easily charmed. Overall customer trust toward brand messaging has suffered a great deal as a result.
The digital trust index conducted by JIN reports an alarmingly low trust rate of 48/100 towards digital use in both information gathering (3.4/5 in France and 3.6 in the UK), and online purchasing (3.1 in France and 3.4 in the UK). Digital users are wary of what brands and social icons are telling them, and are turning to new advisers to help direct their buying decisions.
These customers would rather trust passionate expert users that take the time to genuinely engage with their followers and use the product themselves, than blindly trust brand content.
What you need to think about before implementing your influencer campaign is whether you are merely hoping to raise brand awareness in the moment, or to start building customer relations based on trust.