Micro-influencer. Middle-influencer. Brand ambassador. Brand advocate. Catchy titles and buzzwords aside, these branding models are all driven by the currency of social capital and they continue to reach a growing audience.
At Ideas That Evoke, we’re declaring 2017 the year of the influencer. As a social agency, we always have a finger on the pulse of authentic content creation and have had to think beyond traditional media channels — and much of our success working with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies has been due to a leverage in content from a base of social influencers.
As savvy consumers, we can agree that today, audiences do not connect with logos — they connect with humans. Before selling a product, your brand is selling trust. Content from an influencer’s non-branded advocacy base is authentic and relatable, allowing an audience to connect with a brand on an identifiable level. Consumers value that personal touch in their highly digitized day-to-day lives, but the inclusion of influencer marketing strategies returns more than just a feel-good connection: It delivers results.
Influencer marketing is the real-time personalization of a brand.
Audiences have shifted from TV, radio and print media to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. And with influencer marketing, brands can meet the consumer where they are. When the brand interacts and engages with a consumer on a social platform, they begin a conversation that transforms a purchase into an experience. These interactions elevate the brand connection and grow brand loyalty.
The key to wrapping your mind around this concept is to consider the economy of attention. Attention is a valuable resource and a growing commodity in the modern market. Consumers selectively choose where they spend their attention, and brands are adjusting their marketing investments to the channels where consumers are measured to invest their attention.
Influencer marketing is showing an unprecedented ROI.
According to recent Nielsen data, influencer marketing is currently more effective than traditional advertising. Nielsen cited two contributing factors: true user engagement and the halo effect — the endorsement of a product acting as a word-of-mouth endorsement of the brand.
Influencers can also provide shareable, branded user-generated content (UGC.) Influencer content and UGC are immune to ad-blocking software, which means they’re reaching more of an audience than standard display ads.
To maximize ROI, identify the right branding model for your needs.
While brands are quickly catching on to the influencer market, influencers, in turn, are responding. That increase in demand for influencer channels has some increasing costs — sometimes outweighing a brand’s ROI. But like any other self-regulating marketplace, when inflation hits, differentiation creates sustainability.
Brands have the option to work across the influencer market to meet audiences. Working with influencers requires developing relationships, and the scale of influencer marketing is broad enough to be compatible with any size business.
Tapping into this growing market is possible using a scalable model. By identifying a branding model that suits the needs and culture of your company, you’ll be able to integrate influencers into your marketing strategies across social channels.
Here is a breakdown of common branding models:
- Brand Ambassadors: These are contractually bound experts, superstars or up-and-comers in your market. The brand ambassadors we work with are typically small groups of between 20 and 25 contractually bound professionals who have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers across their platforms. Ambassadors are a fantastic extension of your brand, as loyal experts who can test new products, attend your events and curate conversations that lead to raging fans and increased engagement with your organization or product.
- Brand Advocates: Think of your brand advocates as super fans who can’t stop talking about your product. While they may not have the followings or professional reputation of your ambassadors, advocates are influencers who you must engage with on a semi-regular basis and occasionally send products to in an effort to re-energize their channels and brand loyalty.
- Micro-Influencers: When talking about the influencer bullseye, this group is it. Micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers, making them the golden goose for content that maximizes engagement and impact, according to a recent study by the influencer marketing platform Markerly. The best part? Oftentimes, the only cost to working with micro-influencers is the cost of offering your product or service to trial.
- “Power Middle” Influencers: If you have the budget to spend on a high-impact influencer program, you’ll be looking to “power middle” influencers to move the needle. These are folks with a large reach of up to 250,000 followers that have been carefully cultivated through relationships and two-way communication over a long period. In the eyes of consumers, there is weight to these relationships and, unlike celebrities, consumers see “power middle” influencers as relatable, which only increases their impact to drive decision-making and consumer psychology.
Consider your brand’s resources and which value you’re seeking before implementing one (or more) of these influencer programs. There is a program for every brand; if you want to incorporate this into your strategy, seek out ways to include it in your marketing mix – both B2B and B2C. Today’s audiences demand authenticity from a brand and influencers deliver. The influencer market is still growing, and now is the time to implement these innovative strategies. The numbers don’t lie: 2017 is the year of the influencer.
A version of this post originally appeared here.