Influencer marketing is more than a decade old, yet there's still much mystery around this "new" marketing form. Since influencer marketing doesn't really come with a handbook, brands are unclear on how it works and why they should invest in it. As a result, lots of myths have cropped up about its efficacy and scope.
As a seasoned influencer and influencer marketing guide, I've found most of the myths to be unfounded.
Influencers deliver value to brands in multiple ways, especially to small businesses that can't afford costly traditional marketing channels. Influencers can help grow your small business by building authentic relationships with customers, establishing domain authority and driving sales. All of this is possible because influencers inspire trust and goodwill from consumers, which reflects on their partner brands.
Still not convinced? Research proves that influencers have a sustaining effect on audiences. We can sum up the findings in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer thus:
- 63% of people find influencer recommendations more reliable than branded ads.
- 40% of people started trusting a brand because of its influencers.
- 58% of people actually purchased influencer-promoted products.
Despite these compelling facts, I still get asked questions about influencer marketing. In this article, I debunk three of the most common influencer marketing myths today. I'll also explain how small businesses can work around misconceptions and leverage influencers to grow their brands.
You might find it challenging to get company buy-in for a strategy like influencer marketing, which is perceived as risky. Even if you get the nod from all involved parties, you can't plan budgets and resources in advance if you have doubts about the strategy's efficacy.
To make your task easier, I've covered influencer marketing myths that can impact the bottom line of your business. Take a look.
Myth No. 1: Influencer marketing is a fad.
The fact is that influencer marketing is becoming more mainstream with each passing year. From Coca-Cola's Santa Claus to the Kardashian sisters, influencers have come a long way.
I expect 2020 to be a turning point for influencer marketing, with the industry becoming more regulated and accepted. The tide is in favor of influencer marketing, as 74% of people are actively avoiding traditional marketing channels like ads, according to the Edelman report. Why's that?
Customers are looking for authentic brand experiences. They find influencers at least two times more relatable than faceless brands.
People especially love the consistency and content quality of microinfluencers. For small businesses, this is good news. Micro and nano influencers are well within their budgets, which is why 36% of marketers collaborated with microinfluencers in 2019.
Influencer marketing scores in nearly all aspects. It's low in competition, costs and risks. That doesn't look like a fad that'll die down soon.
Pro tips to master this myth
To make your influencer campaigns more than a one-time hit, try building long-term relationships with influencers. The more invested your influencer, the harder they will work to build your brand.
While selecting influencers for collaboration, don't be swayed by vanity metrics like follower counts and number of likes, which can be faked. Look deeper at data like demographics, relevant experience, sponsored vs. organic post ratios, and volume of buying conversations (like product recommendations).
For efficient influencer research, you can use influencer marketing tools. These tools can drill down into influencer credentials and find influencers who match the needs of your business.
Build scalable influencer campaigns to eliminate the risk element. Start with influencer-led advertising or event marketing. Keep an eye on campaign analytics; if the results are satisfactory, extend to full-blown collaborations.
Need an example? Banza was a small-time pasta maker with a blink-and-miss-it appearance on Restaurant Startup. Its founder, Brian Rudolph, gave his brand new life by leveraging influencers. Rudolph reached out to food critics and journalists with free samples of his pasta and let them do the talking. As the influencers spread the word about Banza's yummy pasta, the brand was able to secure huge venture funding and expand globally.
Myth No. 2: Influencer marketing is costly.
Nothing could be further from the truth than this. With big brands entering the influencer marketing space, the stakes are rising. But still, influencer marketing gives great value for money, provided you approach it smartly.
There are celebrity influencers, like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who charge up to $65,000 to create one sponsored post. If you select such influencers, you could blow your annual marketing budget on one campaign.
There is no hard-and-fast rule that your influencers should be A-listers. You could work out a collaboration model with your high-profile customers or industry thought leaders, in which they promote your brand for free products or services, gated deals, or even shoutouts. Some brands even onboard employees to act as brand advocates.
What matters is how much value an influencer can provide and how much time they can devote to your brand. By these parameters, influencers with fewer collaborations and smaller, engaged audiences will be better partners.
That's why I say that microinfluencers are the best bet for small businesses. Not only are they affordable, but they also deliver a higher return on investment (ROI).
An Experticity survey states that microinfluencers are more direct in their recommendations, with 74% of them encouraging their followers to "try it or buy it," and 82% of their followers are "very likely" to follow their purchase advice. This means microinfluencers can actually drive sales and help you recover your investment in influencer marketing.
Overall, influencer marketing's return ROI is better or at least comparable to other marketing forms' returns, according to 89% of marketers.
After revenue, let's talk about marketing costs.
An influencer is like a one-person army. These expert storytellers can single-handedly manage all aspects of content marketing, from ideation to promotion. That's why influencer marketing costs brands much less than ads and direct marketing.
Pro tips to master this myth
Influencer selection and performance evaluation should be based on audience engagement rates. To compare influencer pricing, use metrics like cost per engagement or cost per conversion.
If your influencer prefers monetary compensation, you can work out an affiliate arrangement with them. They get you sales or leads, and you reward them with a commission.
This model sounds great, but it can get messy when you're dealing with multiple influencers on different key performance indicators (KPIs).
To do all the number crunching, you can use tools for managing affiliate accounts. These tools track each influencer's revenue and compute their commissions based on predefined algorithms. They also offer a visual comparison of influencer performance, both for a specific campaign and overall.
To control marketing costs, start with organic campaigns and then venture into paid advertising. Identify KPIs for each campaign and track performance rigorously from start to finish.
Your influencers' compensation should be proportionate to the effort they exert to promote your brand. For example, if you demand exclusivity from them, it's only fair that you bear opportunity costs. If they use sophisticated content-creation tools, you could foot the subscription bill.
No matter which influencer or collaboration model you pick, make sure that you compensate influencers fairly, which is what 30.4% of influencers expect from brands.
Myth No. 3: Influencer marketing has limited scope.
It's true that some niches – like fashion, travel and beauty – leverage influencers more avidly. However, it's baseless to claim that influencers are ineffective in other niches.
Yes, there are influencer-made apparel brands, like Daniel Wellington. But there are also automobile brands, like Subaru, that have carved a niche among millennials by teaming up with YouTube influencers.
And who can forget Microsoft's "Make What's Next" campaign to encourage girls to pursue STEM courses? The technology mega brand collaborated with National Geographic photographers on International Women's Day to post wildlife pictures on National Geographic's Instagram accounts. The posts got tons of engagement, and Microsoft's campaign was a hit.
Need more inspiration? This example is from a small e-commerce business: Casper, a mattress manufacturer, teamed up with 20 influencers (with a combined followership of 3.5 million pet lovers) to host a launch party for canine-friendly mattresses. The party was a major success, and so were Casper mattresses.
The takeaway? Your influencer marketing success is only limited by your imagination. Any brand from any industry can leverage influencers if they can come up with innovative influencer marketing ideas.
Pro tips to master this myth
If you're struggling with ideation for influencer campaigns, research use cases in your niche for inspiration. Pick brands that have the same scale as yours so that the ideas you come up with are feasible.
If your niche is uncommon in influencer marketing circles, you might find it challenging to find experienced influencers. In that case, you can hire agencies to help you with influencer discovery.
Once you find the right influencers, you might also have to help them craft a content strategy. Your industry knowledge can make your influencers' content more valuable and shareworthy.
Trust your influencers, since they have a pulse on their audience. While you need to be in the loop, you need to give your content creators a lot of creative freedom. Don't stifle them with rigid guidelines, which can impact their content's authenticity. Remember that influencers' authenticity is their biggest selling point.
Over to you
Influencer marketing has garnered a lot of bad press in the last few years. From hyper-real content to reality stars endorsing mismatched brands, influencer marketing has had a rough run. But that's typical for any industry in its formative years.
That doesn't mean you should feel insecure about influencer marketing. The right tools, strategy and mindset can help you ace this marketing strategy.
Do you have any other misconceptions about influencer marketing? Mention them in the comments. I'll be happy to clarify.