The evolution of social media has given rise to a new kind of celebrity: the influencer. Influencer marketing campaigns are the hottest thing in the marketing world, and with good reason: they work.

Designsensory has had exciting results with influencer programs for several clients and projects, including Remastered, Tennessee Valley Uncharted, Bristol and McMinnville, Tennessee, and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. We have used influencer tactics in a variety of ways. Some were paid and produced content, while others were co-created or influencer-generated with little to no remuneration. 

For Remastered, episodic videos tell the stories behind great Tennessee brands such as Prophetik haute couture clothing, Lodge Cast Iron, Jack Daniels Distillery, Saint Blues Guitars and Barrett Firearms. Both influencers and the brands themselves promoted the series, generating 2.3+ million views, $1.8 million value in earned media, more than 20,000 posts, shares and views through direct brand interaction, and more than 3,000 click-throughs from targeted executives.

We’ve just begun a branded content campaign for others, and we’re excited to show those to you soon!

What It Is

Influencer marketing is a modern hybrid of the old-fashioned celebrity endorsement with contemporary storytelling across various media. Influencer marketing goes far beyond the implications of the 30-second celebrity TV commercial.

Within every industry and every special interest area, there are well known influencers who speak directly to businesses and consumers in their area of expertise. From Instagram fashionistas to YouTube travel gurus, from sports bloggers to corporate leaders, influencers have targeted audiences that number in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions.

Influencers are powerful ambassadors for your brand, people who have spent time, thought and energy patiently building their followings. Their followers know that they are more than pitchmen paid to sell products; they are defined by the choices they make and perceived as authentic storytellers with a strong point of view.

Influencer marketing is about credibility, leadership and imagination. It’s a people-to-people approach, human and accessible.

The spectrum of influence runs from celebrity endorser at one end to brand avatar, household influencer, handheld influencer, and, finally, micro influencer.

Creating an influencer campaign is more than turning a social media star loose to talk about your product. Research, strategy, planning and careful matching of product with influencer are key.

Among the various ways to activate an influencer are: Conversation and collaboration; product or experience reviews; live content; unboxing; contests/giveaways; and cross-promotion.

Layering tactics with a variety of influencers can raise the level of your success. influencers and micro-influencers can participate in different ways to drive different responses within the engagement “funnel.” 

Loeffler Randall, a high-end accessories and footwear brand, has achieved a strong following with artists, fashionistas and bloggers by leveraging the creativity and personality of its team of ambassadors. These ambassadors are “cool girls doing cool things,” a creative and diverse group of women leading interesting lives, featured front and center on the company’s blog with the hashtag #LRambassador.

What It Isn’t

Influencer marketing is not about paying a celebrity to talk about your product. Influencers are, as a rule, not about the quick payoff. They are storytellers who immerse themselves in the experience they bring to their audiences.

Even when a company chooses to go with a traditional celebrity, the approach is usually very different—and very targeted. For example, Lagavulin Whiskey had a very niche audience in mind when the company made a 45-minute video featuring Parks and Rec star Nick Offerman. Offerman’s silly-but-serious demeanor and cult appeal were perfect for this offbeat video of him sitting by the fire, slowly sipping the whiskey. It was a quirky choice that paid huge dividends, with 2 million views in a single week and a jump in the brand’s channel subscribers from 5,500 to 23,000.

Why It Matters

Influencer marketing is so much more than the next big thing. It’s about the biggest bang you can get for your marketing bucks. According to Statista, in 2016, each dollar spent on influencer marketing returned an average earned media of $11.69 (across all industries).

Timing can be a crucial element of an influencer marketing campaign. For example, the online shopping app Wish launched its #timeonyourhands campaign in the run up to the wildly popular FIFA World Cup. Humorous spots featured famous soccer stars whose teams didn’t qualify; players posted the videos on their own social media accounts and interacted with each other as they found ways to pass the time not playing. Superstar Neymar’s video alone generated more than 2 million views on Instagram—in just two hours.

How to Choose Your Influencer

Who are these influencers, anyway? Most of them are just regular people with a passion—for travel, fashion, science, pop culture or anything else. But they speak with a level of authority that gives them credibility with large numbers of followers. Some influencers are the brands themselves. Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents have indicated they follow brands on Twitter. Of those, 60 percent said that they followed brands to learn about products as opposed to entertainment.

What makes an influencer influential? In a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, the authors’ research shows that credibility is based on “trustworthiness, expertise, similarity and attractiveness.”

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in influencer marketing. It’s crucial to choose the influencers who match your targeted demographic and your brand values. They are more than popular people on social media. And sometimes, they aren’t exactly people. Mercedes turned to Loki the wolfdog for some beautiful, immersive and authentic storytelling about traveling snowy mountains in a Mercedes.

Regardless of whether your influencer has four legs or two, it’s important to choose someone who uses the same channels your target audience frequents, has the same fan base and is relatable to that specific audience.

Once you’ve chosen the influencers for your campaign, don’t try to put a round peg in a square hole. Be sure to tie the campaign’s structure, tone and details to the specific skills, personality and style of the influencers. 

Final Thoughts

Influencer marketing is simply a smarter, more authentic way to market your product within your audience segments. Be sure to qualify your efforts with key performance indicators: for influencer marketing, we look at three things: engagement (likes/shares/follows); sentiment (changes in end-user brand affinity/attitude); and conversion (economic behavior). For more information on influencer marketing, reach out to us directly. Happy days!