Why influencer marketing isn't going anywhere

Jaime Netzer

Editor's Note: This post was originally created by Spredfast before Spredfast and Lithium merged and became Khoros.

Anyone who doubts the enduring force of social media influencers might finally be swayed by a recent survey from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). The ANA found that 75% of companies are currently using influencers and 43% of those companies plan to increase influencer spending in the next 12 months. Furthermore, the ANA found that 27% of survey respondents who aren’t yet using influencers plan to within the next 12 months. Influencer marketing, it seems, isn’t going anywhere and will only increase in importance. All of this means that now is the time to build and strengthen your brand’s influencer relationships.

The increasing reach of social media has propelled the importance of influencers. Marketers, of course, want to meet their audiences where they are and, increasingly, their audiences (no matter to which demographics they belong) are on social. We’ve long been fans of influencer marketing because, done well, it takes advantage of the best parts of social media: with influencers, brands can reach new customers via a trusted source which, in today’s skeptical environment, is crucial. Plus, when a trusted influencer posts about your brand to their followers, it’s like a friend making a recommendation. Rather than having to say how great your brand is yourself, letting an influencer do it for you builds your credibility.

Rather than having to say how great your brand is yourself, letting an influencer do it for you builds your credibility.

So, how exactly does influencer marketing help you reach your audience and grow your social media recognition, what are the risks involved, and how can you mitigate those risks? We’ll explore all of that in what follows, with easy-to-use brand takeaways:

How influencers can help your brand reach your audience

Influencers allow marketers to work within the confines of social media and play to the medium’s strengths. Social media platforms were designed first and foremost for individual users to connect with their social network and brands have therefore had to create content for social that feels like something a friend would share, rather than, say, a high-production glossy ad that would have worked for television. (Some brands, unfortunately, are still learning this lesson in designing content for a medium, rather than around it.) Influencers are a ready-made way for brands to connect with their audiences using authentic content from a trusted source. Increasingly, platforms like Instagram and Facebook are altering their algorithms so that content from brands are downplayed in favor of content from user’s friends (which usually includes influencers) and influencers are a natural way brands can combat ad blocking.

Brand Takeaway: Influencers can add value to your marketing strategy in a number of ways, and you don’t have to work with macro-level influencers (commonly understood as influencers with more than 100,000 followers) to benefit. In fact, the ANA found that mid-level (25,001 to 100,000 followers) and micro influencers (50 to 25,000 followers) can actually be more effective than macro-level influencers if their followers trust them.

How influencers can grow your brand’s social media recognition

The spending power of millennials and Gen Z is undeniable: combined, their buying power is nearly $700 billion per year and growing. Audiences from these cohorts (who range in age from 20 to 36) use social to connect with friends and family, but they also use it to find new products and services. These audiences “avidly follow and genuinely trust social media celebrities,” notes the ANA, creating a big opportunity for brands. Letting an influencer put their own spin on your product or service can help your brand be seen in a new light, and it can help new audiences learn about what your brand has to offer. Take this Instagram post for example:

Brand Takeaway: Influencers can help you reach new audiences and increase your social media recognition in unexpected and beneficial ways.

The risks of influencer relationships

The other side of the incredible opportunity influencer relationships offer brands—like the benefit of an outside voice touting your brand in their own words—is the risk inherent in linking your brand’s reputation with that of someone outside the brand—someone whose messaging you cannot fully control. Influencer relationships can be ended, of course, but if damaging statements or actions take place during the relationship, your brand will be in damage control mode, so it’s crucial to choose influencer relationships wisely.

However, it’s interesting to note that tides have shifted somewhat. Depending on the situation, brands now have a little more leeway with their influencers and can distance themselves from certain actions without severing ties completely. Take the recent example of Kanye West and Adidas. After a series of controversial social media posts from the singer, there were calls for the sports apparel brand to cut ties with West, but instead, the CEO of Adidas issued the following statement:

“We neither comment nor speculate on every single comment that our external creators are making,” Rorsted said. “Kanye has been and is a very important part of our strategy and has been a fantastic creator, and that’s where I’m going to leave it. I’m not going to comment on every comment that he or somebody else are making.”

Brand Takeaway: Handing the keys to your social media castle to an outsider is always a risk, but you can mitigate harm to your brand in a few important ways. First of all, don’t ever literally give an influencer unmonitored access to credentials to your brand’s social accounts—any content posted by influencers on your brand’s accounts should be carefully monitored and credentials should only be given for a short amount of time (we just launched a product that can make these efforts simple). Also, choose your influencer partners carefully—don’t just pick the person with the most followers, choose someone whose values align with your brand’s values.

We can’t wait to see what influencer relationships you build.

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