Influencer Marketing: Everything you need to know

If you’re active on social media, you’ve almost surely been influenced in some way by influencer marketing content; purposefully designed to convince you to buy something, take action, get involved or become aware of a campaign, product or message.

Influencer marketing can be defined as a type of marketing based on the recommendations of “influential” people on social media. Brands provide influencers with a product/service, and in turn they post about it on their social media profiles. The goal is for an influencer to provide their followers with their own unique take on the product or service, and endorse it in an authentic way, despite often being paid to produce the content.

This trend was first seen on social media a few years ago; but not everyone realises that actually influencer marketing arose way before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook…actually, a long time before he was even born!

A Short History of Influencer Marketing

The very first influencer marketing activity dates back to 1890, when Nancy Green was hired by R.T. Davis Milling Company to become Aunt Jemima, the face of the famous ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour. Her talent as a cook, accompanied by her amiable personality, influenced a generation of buyers.

Sometimes influencers are not even fans of the products they’re asked to promote or are not keen to use them themselves; this was the case when Roscoe Arbuckle, back in 1905, was asked to promote a Turkish brand of cigarettes.

He refused to smoke the cigarettes on stage, but decided to put his face towards promoting them in print: “You can make me praise them in print but don’t make me smoke ’em. I gotta career to think of and it’s a live show. What if I cough? They’ll stop the money for sure. And those things make me cough.”

Every year, at Christmas time, Coca-Cola’s ads featuring Santa are promoted and extremely visible across media. Santa Claus’ image was first used by the brand in 1931 – they thought “If people loved the person promoting a product, they love the product too”. And who doesn’t like Santa?

From 1950 to 1999, influencer marketing was used for cigarettes. Marlboro employed tough looking actors and referred to them as the Marlboro Man to endorse their product.

In 2010, influencer marketing on social media (as we know it) began to rise. The big jump happened when Airbnb offered Mariah Carey multiple stays at luxurious properties, which she talked about on her social media accounts. Since then, this practice has grown dramatically, with more and more brands getting on board, as well as connecting with influencers with smaller followings as well.

Trouble on the horizon?

With the rise of influencer marketing, there have been questions raised about authenticity and trust. Some influencers have been found out to have produced inauthentic content (See a recent example here) whilst others have been exposed as having fake followers, with little to no real activity taking place on their profiles.

The Fyre Festival is a now well-known example of a massive influencer marketing campaign gone wrong; those who got on board pushed out incorrect messaging, driving people to purchase tickets for a festival that was not as advertised (see here). Two documentaries have been produced on this fiasco, with many people to blame for innocent people losing a lot of money, time as well as their pride for having been duped.

Controls will have to be put in place with tighter guidelines and regulations to ensure the industry doesn’t fall further into disrepute. Many brands are getting smarter about how they find their influencers, with extensive checks into followers as well as ensuring their content truly aligns with brand values.

When working with influencers, it is really important to ensure fluidity across brand messaging. When brands consider which influencers to work with, looking deeper into the influencer’s audience is essential towards making sure their followers are not only real, but engaged as an audience.

What are our favourite influencer marketing platforms?

The most popular platforms for influencer marketing right now are Instagram and Facebook.

Both offer brands a stunning visual environment, a range of creative features and opportunities for paid partnerships.

When we think of influencers, Instagram comes to mind as the platform to use. It is extremely visual and offers great opportunity for influencers to create feed content as well as short-lived content on their stories.

We find Instagram is the stronger influencer marketing platform: it’s more visual, you can use short form videos plus IGTV, and there are more formats such as Stories and features that are valuable to influencers, including the Swipe Up function to learn more.

One of the drawbacks on Instagram is the inability to post links (other than in the profile and on Stories) so conversion is a bit more difficult to drive on this platform.

What is it best for? If you’re looking to build brand awareness and increase engagement through influencer marketing, find your influencers on Instagram.

Our second favourite influencer marketing platform is Facebook. It’s best for conversion campaigns as it allows influencers to add links to their posts. However, it offers less formats and is less optimal to reach a younger audience. Traditionally, audiences on Facebook are older, but trends show that they are moving to Instagram and are therefore becoming easier to reach on this platform.

The Influencer Marketing Landscape today

Nowadays, with a market overwhelmed with an abundance of products, brands need to find ways to be considered in the purchasing process. They need to make sure that they’re being seen, people are talking about their products and, most importantly, their customers trust who these recommendations come from.

That’s why brands don’t rely just on big known celebrities to support their marketing activities. You can find influencers of all types and sizes out there! Micro-influencers, for example, have around 10K followers and most brands prefer collaborating with them because most of their audience is really interested in their opinion on the products they’re promoting.

Find out how to run a successful influencer marketing campaign with our informative blog post here.

If you’re interested in our influencer marketing services or you want to know more about our campaigns, contact us.