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Social media platforms have exploded with popularity in societies across the world. As a result, a new type of marketing has been born – the social media influencer. A number of brands have adopted influencers to promote and sell products online, to their thousands (if not millions) of followers. Using this tool correctly has seen brands thrive, increasing their awareness amongst consumers and growing in popularity. However, there has also been some negative backlash for brands using social media influencers to help gain authority in the market. So which is it, are social media influencers a blessing or a curse to a marketing strategy?
If you have social media, in particular – Instagram, then you will have noticed an increase in hashtags such as #ad, #gifted, #sponsored or even statements that clearly state ‘paid partnership’. These small clues indicate that online personalities featuring a particular brand in a post are doing so because they have either been paid or sent the product for free, making them a social media influencer. These influencers will generally have a large following and it is this high number of engagement that makes them valuable to brands.
When used correctly, the effects of social media influencers can be tremendous. With these individuals gaining the attention of thousands of potential customers online, it seems only logical that brands use this to their advantage. This special relationship, between a brand and social media influencer, can work incredibly well for both parties. For brands, in particular, there are many reasons that using this type of online marketing has worked so well.
Unlike some forms of targeted marketing, the use of social media influencers is not so forceful or invasive. The individuals who decide to follow these social media ‘celebrities’ have chosen to do so because they want to be kept up to date with every detail of their lives. This includes knowing about the brands and products they are using. If a social media influencer has something new that they then promote, it begins an ‘if they have it, I need to have it too’ response. This is where brands can really harness the large effect influence has on individuals around the world. If you, as a brand, form a partnership with an influencer who is a good representation of someone you believe would buy and enjoy your products, then, it is likely that their engaged fans will invest in the same products once they have been exposed via social media.
Another reason brands can use the relationship between social media influencers and their followers to their advantage is because followers trust the information these online personalities put out into the world. It might seem crazy to think people can be so gullible as to believe the words of influencers as gospel, but it’s true. Successful influencers spend considerable time and effort building up their following and winning the trust of new people to their page. These long-lasting relationships between influencers and followers instils loyalty, with followers trusting their advice and recommendations. As a brand, trust in your consumers is something you could spend years trying to gain. However, using social media influencers as a tool will provide you with a chance of leveraging an already loyal audience.
Brand awareness is very important for growth and success. If we look at some of the biggest brands in the world (e.g. Coca Cola) their names are instantly known and easily recognisable amongst consumers. Using social media influencers in your marketing strategy can significantly help you increase your brand awareness and reach. After all, social media is just another platform you should be using to get your name out there. With 1 billion people using Instagram every month it is the perfect place to target a strategy to promote brand awareness. Using social media influencers will allow your brand’s name and products to be right there when consumers are scrolling through their news feed. Even if followers do not buy the promoted product straight away, your brand name is now known. This awareness will inevitably help you later down the consumer funnel, placing you ahead of competitors.
Despite the benefits, the use of social media influencers has not always worked well for brands. With backlash falling not just on influencers but also brands for failed marketing attempts, it has become more apparent that this tool needs to be handled with care and caution. Although there could be many issues to blame for influencer failure, there are a select few that should be carefully considered when planning a marketing strategy.
Return on investment (ROI) and cost-effectiveness are often very important when planning out a marketing strategy. It is important that the money spent to promote or grow a brand can be seen to have made a difference, bring in more sales and not be more than that revenue it returns. With this in mind, the growth in popularity of social media influencers has meant that they can now come with a pretty big price tag. For example, it has been claimed that the Kardashian family can now expect to be paid six-figure sums for social media promotions and even influencers not quite on that level can still request a relatively high price. Investing this level of money into social media marketing can be risky as, like many other marketing ideas and techniques, you cannot be certain it will definitely work. For this reason, smaller brands and those that are new to the social media market might not see online influencers as a tool they can confidently use.
Brands have faced negativity from using social media influencers because their products have not been promoted well. If an influencer does not take care when planning how to incorporate a promoted product in social content it can very quickly look forced or overly staged. Followers do not receive bad product placement well and it is, therefore, important that influencers are chosen carefully by brands to partner with. Influencers should not be chosen because they have the highest number of followers, but because they suit the brand and are believe to represent an audience who would enjoy the products. If a brand cannot commit the time to carefully pick and consider the right social media influencer for them it is likely it will not be a tool that will work successfully for either party.
With so many users now using social platforms this ‘world’ can be easily disrupted and opinions spread quick! Although this can be advantageous, brands have unfortunately seen its negative effects while using social influencers. As a brand, you do not ‘own’ an influencers social page and because of this you cannot regulate or control the type of interaction or comments left on a promoted post. If a product is not liked by consumers and a post is received badly, negative comments can quickly rise which can then be seen by the thousands of followers a social media influencer has. In this instance, using popular influencers can have the reverse effect – their wide social reach can result in more consumers seeing a negative brand perception. If a brand is planning to adopt influencers as a marketing strategy it should be considered carefully due to the unreliable nature of both social media and online consumers. When planning this strategy, brands need to put steps in place that can be used if a promoted product is not received well, which will turn the negative feed into a positive one.
Using social media influencers as a marketing tool is a highly debated topic. When used carefully, the incredible success influencers can have on a brands growth cannot be ignored. However, social influencers should not be used for the sake of it, and a strategy to incorporate them should always be planned. Not taking the time to assess posts and influencers can result in more negative effects than positive gains. As a result, social media influencers should be approached with caution. A thorough strategy should be in place and a strong partnership between brand and influencer is incredibly important to ensure success. The social media world is a marketing avenue all brands (big or small) should be tackling, whether this is with influencers or social ads – there is a large audience waiting and ready to make use of!
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