How influencer marketing is reshaping brand strategy

Oluwatosin Jegede

Imagine a world where capturing the breathtaking hues of a sunset with just a mobile phone can lead to a surge in sales for a brand. Welcome to the world of influencer marketing. Once, the influential figures were the sophisticated ladies in pink Cadillacs endorsing Mary Kay cosmetics. Now, it’s the fitness enthusiast promoting green protein powders or the beauty guru sharing hair growth gummy vitamins.

Throughout history, the charismatic and stylish among us have swayed public aspirations, shaping lifestyle goals and the purchases that accompany those dreams. Yet, it was only in the age of social media that ‘influencing’ transformed into an actual profession. These digital tastemakers, with their varied followership, collaborate with brands, propelling products and services into the limelight. The evolution has been so rapid that by 2021, the influencer marketing industry amassed a staggering value of $21.1 billion.

But what makes someone an influencer? How does influencer marketing truly function? Dive in as we unravel the intricacies of this booming sector and its trajectory in the digital age.

What is an influencer?

An influencer is someone who has a significant following on social media platforms, using their online presence to shape their followers’ consumer behaviors. They utilize the reach of digital platforms to establish trust and influence over a large audience.

While many might assume that influencers are primarily famous personalities or celebrities, that’s only part of the story. In fact, browsing through the list of the top 50 social-media influencers of 2021 will reveal plenty of familiar celebrity faces.

However, the world of influencers isn’t limited to just humans. The digital world is vast and diverse. From charming pets pulling at heartstrings to digital personas like Lil Miquela, an AI influencer forever aged 19 with three million followers, the definition of an influencer continues to evolve. This variety underscores the broad spectrum of what an influencer can be in today’s digital age.

What does an influencer marketing deal look like?

An influencer marketing deal is a partnership between influencers and brands to promote products or services. These collaborations can take on two main forms:

  1. Brand deals: Here, the influencer gets paid a predetermined flat rate for every post showcasing a brand’s product or service. Even influencers without worldwide fame or millions of followers can command rates ranging from three to five figures for a single post. On the other hand, well-known celebrities might charge a whopping six figures or even more for just one post;
  2. Affiliate partnerships: In this model, influencers share content about a product or service and include a link to a purchasing platform or a unique promo code. When their followers make a purchase using this link or code, the influencer receives a commission for each sale.

In both scenarios, the aim is mutual benefit: brands gain exposure and credibility, while influencers earn compensation for their promotional efforts.

How much are influencers paid

The influencer landscape is diverse, with payments ranging widely based on an influencer’s audience size, engagement rates, and niche. Alexa Collins, a swimsuit model with over two million followers, demands at least $1,000 for a single sponsored story on her Instagram. On the other hand, Tyler Chanel, a micro sustainability influencer boasting over 13,000 followers, sets her rate at a minimum of $100 for a sponsored story.

A popular benchmark some influencers follow is charging $100 per 10,000 followers. But remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Earnings can be lucrative: an influencer with 275,000 followers reported raking in $700,000 in just half a year solely from brand deals.

What are the differences between influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements?

While both leverage fame to promote products, they’re not the same. Celebrity endorsements have been around for decades; think of famous faces on cereal boxes. These collaborations often involve significant investments in renowned personalities, but quantifying the exact return can be murky.

Influencer marketing, on the other hand, offers clearer insights. Brands can precisely track ROI by monitoring metrics like likes, shares, and online engagements.

What is a micro-influencer

To grasp what a micro-influencer is, let’s first understand the influencer spectrum:

  • Nano Influencers: Less than 10,000 followers;
  • Micro-Influencers: 10,000 to 50,000 followers;
  • Medium Influencers: 50,000 to 100,000 followers;
  • Macro Influencers: More than 500,000 followers;
  • Mega Influencers: Over a whopping one million followers.

One might think brands would solely want to collaborate with macro influencers due to their massive reach. However, often, the magic lies with micro-influencers. While macro-influencers might present a glamorous, sometimes unattainable lifestyle, micro-influencers resonate more with authenticity.

Their content can feel more relatable, often free from the polished touch of professional photoshoots. They represent approachability, making their endorsements seem more genuine and trustworthy. Still, there’s no denying the vast reach macro influencers offer, granting brands access to potentially millions of eyes.

The most popular platform for influencer marketing

In recent years, the influencer marketing landscape has seen dramatic changes in platform popularity. Instagram tops the chart, with about 80% of global brands leveraging it for influencer campaigns in 2022. Hot on its heels is TikTok, with 56% of brands embracing it by 2023.

While Instagram and TikTok are reigning supreme, brands shouldn’t sideline other platforms. Some influencers might have significant clout on YouTube or other networks. The key is knowing your audience and choosing the platform where they hang out most. Interestingly, platform preferences can also vary by influencer size.

Research indicates that micro and medium influencers often lean towards Instagram, while the larger macro and mega influencers are flocking to TikTok.

Opportunities and challenges of influencer marketing

Opportunities:

  1. Trust Building: Well-established brands can enhance trust among their consumers. Collaborating with influencers adds a personal touch to their outreach;
  2. Authenticity: Smaller and less-known brands can appear more genuine when recommended by an influencer. It often feels like a sincere endorsement rather than a paid promotion.

Challenges:

  1. Authenticity Issues: While influencers can lend credibility, big brands might struggle with appearing genuine. When an influencer’s endorsement is visibly sponsored, its authenticity can be questioned;
  2. Market Saturation: As influencer marketing rises, the digital landscape is getting crowded. For smaller brands, making a distinct mark can become challenging;
  3. Management Hurdles: Managing a vast network of influencers can be daunting for big businesses. Ensuring all influencers uphold the brand’s ethos and maintain professionalism can be tough;
  4. Reputation Risks: Collaborating with influencers can sometimes backfire. If an influencer behaves controversially online, it might tarnish the brand’s image.

Read also: Tailoring marketing strategies: all about generational marketing in the digital era

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