Is there a marketing tactic that generates more sales than traditional paid advertising? Yes! Influencer marketing may be the answer for many brands. According to a study by McKinsey, marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.
Influencer marketing is defined as “engagement with people who are influential online to share brand messaging with audiences in the form of sponsored content.” While the concept of influencer marketing is not entirely new, it is growing more viable every day with the addition of social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. The approach is generally word-of-mouth advertising using brand advocates, and it can greatly increase marketing ROI.
At a panel during the #NRF16 Big Show, industry experts discussed the benefits and best practices of influencer marketing. Speakers included:
- Kristy Sammis, Founder, COO, CCO of Clever Girls Collective, Inc.;
- Kris Mulkey, Brand Marketing Director at Pottery Barn;
- Kelly Donlin, Blogger, Sparkles & Shoes; and
- Jaclyn Ruelle, SVP, Account Director at Mullen Lowe.
Sammis shared statistics that highlight the reasons why retailers should consider implementing an influencer marketing strategy:
- 81% of consumers make purchase decisions based on friends’ social media posts (Marketforce);
- 43% of social media users buy a product after sharing it on social platforms (Branderati);
- Conversions are four to 10 times higher from offers shared by trusted advocates than brands (Branderati); and
- 70% of Internet users want to learn about a product through content rather than through traditional advertising (MGD Advertising).
Small Budget, Large Influence
One of the biggest perks of influencer marketing is that you don’t need a lot of money to get started. Keep in mind that you don’t have to focus on top-tier influencers who are asking for $50,000 per Instagram post. According to Sammis, those with a smaller fan base can generate just as much revenue with a more engaged audience.
For example, in a recent Zappos influencer marketing campaign, Ruelle enlisted 10 fashion and style bloggers, and gave them each $300 in Zappos shopping credit to pick an outfit and style it. A simple gift card helped motivate influencers to deliver a positive ROI.
“The blogger with the most revenue after four months of posting generated over $9,000 of revenue from her readers actually clicking and buying the product on the Zappos site,” said Ruelle. “We essentially spent $1,200 on gift cards; she’s generated $9,000 in revenue.”
Authenticity And Trust Are Critical
Ruelle emphasizes getting to know the potential influencer as a means to make your campaign authentic. Do your research or invest in a team to do the work for you. That same team can maintain the relationship long after the campaign ends, which the influencer will appreciate.
Once you’ve established a relationship, use the initial meeting to communicate your mission statement and goals without micro-managing their creativity and content.
“You are working with influencers who’ve spent years and thousands of dollars building their readership, so allow us to be authentic,” said Donlin. “Readers come to influencers and engage on a daily basis because they want to hear what they have to say, not be fed a corporate message. You’re adding influencer marketing to your mix to get original, creative, authentic content that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. So find that good balance.”
Tracking Influencer Success
The most efficient way to keep tabs on an influencer’s success is by providing him or her with tracking URLs to embed in their posts. The URLs can provide ongoing updates of how much revenue is being brought in by each influencer.
“Every time [the influencer creates] a custom post — no matter what channel they’re putting it on — unique tracking links enable us to gauge how engaged their users are,” said Ruelle. “At the end of the day, these people are creating great content for you, but you want to see if it’s affecting your bottom line.”