Everyone talks about it, but no one really knows whatInfluencer Marketing is. Shall we name Chiara Ferragni right away? Done. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can proceed.
1. Influence marketing: what it is and how it has evolved over the years
Influencer marketing is a new tool that conveys commercial messages. Started from the bottom, now the paradigm has been reversed. It used to be that (future) influencers would advertise against a brand through more or less detailed product reviews on their social channels. This procedure established a mechanism of public trust in these pioneers, a trust that perhaps consumers had lost: they no longer identified with the faces and bodies of perfect models, but preferred to make their purchasing decisions based on the actual experience of ordinary people.
Influencer marketing is not only born on social. It was already a common practice, for example, to start a cooking blog and later, when users following it grew and became loyal, to host banner ads on the blog. Or include food products in recipes more or less blatantly.
Meanwhile, the matter has evolved. Now it is the brands themselves who are pursuing this path, seeking out influencers with the largest following to gain a showcase of visibility on their social channels. There are influencers for every industry: from video games to fashion, from culture to technology. For example, if I am a hardcore gamer, I will follow a video game expert on social media. What does it mean? That I will wait anxiously for each of his new videos, that I will participate in discussions about him with great attention, and that, whether I want to or not, I will end up buying the joypad, console, or chair that my influencer of the heart uses. Why? Because if he does it who is so good, there will be a reason: the product will be quality and with the right purchase I will experience firsthand the passion I share with my favorite celebrity.
2. Influencers and digital marketing: why the combination works
For one simple reason: the numbers. There are influencers with millions of followers. Brands may invest sums of money in advertising, but they may not actually appreciate an increase in sales of their products. The reason? Influencer marketing targets highly loyal users.
Anyone can look at a giant billboard in the center of a city, anyone can happen upon an online advertisement while doing something else. But the real strength of influencer marketing is that it targets an audience that is actively interested in its content, an audience that is attentive, loyal, and eventually committed to spreading the word about the brand they value. After all, it is the simplest of marketing rules: identify the typical customer, the one most likely to be interested in buying the advertised product. The visibility that influencers have among their audience is impressive, but it is not enough. What also plays a key role in this world is the involvement of an influencer’s followers.
3. Doing influencer marketing: what are the benefits…
As we have already said, the advantage is the merely venal one: an investment in an active audience yields more than an investment in a casual audience. Second, it is also useful to point out that the costs of online advertising, due to increasing competition, are perhaps no longer attractive to small brands. But not only that, it is now a common practice for big brands to rely on influencers to leverage their user base, their social capital. Because this is what we are talking about, the great strength of a good influencer lies in his or her ability to engage his or her audience, remaining a figure who inspires confidence. Without distorting or even appearing distant and “fictitious,” the influential person represents a role model who never lapses into the metaphysical: a neighbor with mind-blowing ideas.
4. … and dangers to be avoided?
Wrong influencer. An organic food brand, for example, is unlikely to do well by hiring a fast-food influencer. The intercepted audience will naturally not be interested. Even if this influencer will have millions of fans, these fans will not be interested in the sponsored product, resulting in the brand wasting the campaign budget. There are many other mistakes that can be made, many are also ones that we cannot even imagine yet, because influencer marketing is in constant flux. What we can avoid doing, in principle, is to ignore it.