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Under the influence

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Influencers have been gracing our screens through social media for some time. It seems as though, almost overnight, someone who was once considered a popular blogger or Instagrammer is now so much more – they are an influencer.

The rise of the influencer

Each sector has them. Many sectors wouldn’t be without them. Influencers are now a vital part of the digital space for many consumers, with 59 percent of marketing departments stating that they expect to expand their influencer marketing budgets this year.

Part of the reason for influencer spend increasing is down to influencer numbers increasing. The process of setting up a blog or social account has become easier and more accessible to people around the world and, as a result, the number of accounts and blogs has risen, as has the number that are considered virally popular.

Influencers have become a vital tool in the marketeers’ arsenal. Word of mouth is still, even in our digital-focused environment, the most successful form of marketing with 92 percent of consumers believing recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Influencers bridge this gap.

That’s before you get onto the search marketing benefit. In many ways today’s influencer marketing is an extension of what SEOs have been doing for years. When done organically, establishing a genuine relationship with a blogger whose audience matches yours, has a benefit for your brand beyond links and reach but also in terms of brand image.

By acting as another, often impartial, form of recommendation or endorsement, influencers have become another form of industry voice that speaks directly to the consumer.

With great power comes great responsibility

It may seem obvious, but this level of influence comes with a huge amount of responsibility. Influencers on social media and through blogs have the power to influence and sway public opinion. Whether they realise it or not, that’s why they’re an increasingly important part of many brands’ marketing strategies.

They have the power to introduce the consumer to your brand and influence their opinion of your products. In most instances this is a perfectly acceptable form of marketing and no different to product placement in a TV series or website advertisement, but never forget the audience. Should the brand be relevant to the influencer, their content and audience then it makes for a fitting customer journey. But if there’s a mismatch, you not only run the risk of irrelevance but also inappropriate advertising.

Many of the most popular and successful influencers have a young audience base as a result of the uptake of social media. YouTube stars such as Zoella have demonstrated both the sheer power of their presence and their potential reach with a young audience. This is another risk you run as a brand by putting your name with an influencer, it is vital to check that they understand the level of influence they have and, like any traditional celebrity, the impact of this influence on how they are seen or shown to be seen in the media.

The recent controversies in sport sponsorship illustrate this point to great effect. You must be sure that the individual and their beliefs fit your brand values and that they understand the weight this bears.

We spoke to food and travel blogger Urvashi Roe, author of The Botanical Kitchen blog. Urvashi was selected by Eurostar for their #wheninparis campaign because of the niche following of her blog and social media accounts. She only works with brands she trusts and respects. With this in mind, she summed up the subject of influencer responsibility perfectly stating, ‘The minute you set up a Twitter account and start tweeting about a brand you’re an influencer with responsibility.”

Influencer responsibility is a big topic, especially within the food and fitness sectors. Influencers have a duty to their followers to promote a truly healthy lifestyle and with that they must be careful about which brands they align themselves to, as well as any posts they themselves put out in the public domain.

Internet bravado

Different sectors have different views on influencers and bloggers, however, there is one element that rings true throughout; they stand as a testament to the change in the way brands communicate.

Social media has brought forth a change in brand bravado, with an increase in the number of brands communicating openly with the consumer. This is something that brands learn from influencers and use influencers to do for them in many cases.

Sally Prosser, of My Custard Pie food and travel blog, also kindly commented on the subject saying, “True influencers have built such trust with their audience that their word and opinion is more powerful than brands; what they say causes followers to take action.” Sally also has a huge Instagram following at @mycustardpie, Sally has achieved this follower reach organically through her stunning photography and stands as a great example of the impact of influencers on the social network.

Instagram takeovers are just one example of a new form of marketing developed as a result of the rise of influencers. Beauty subscription service Birchbox is a great example of a brand excelling at Instagram takeovers and utilising the influencer epidemic through recognising the respect high profile beauty bloggers have with their target audience.

While there are risks that come with associating your brand with a rising influencer, the benefits can be tremendous. When done well, you can single-handedly establish a valuable relationship that can impact on brand awareness, image and sales.

Want to talk influence? Get in touch.