Why do brands work with influencers? Does influencer marketing really work or is it just a trend that doesn’t actually deliver results?

Brands collaborating with social media influencers is a growing trend. Today’s social media celebrities are creating attractive and engaging content for Instagram, YouTube and other social networks with the aim of engaging audiences with certain characteristics, lifestyles, tastes and preferences, similar to theirs.

Influencers are so important today that brands are now working with them to drive their commercial messages and share their value propositions with their followers whose profiles are admired by hundreds, thousands and even millions of online users.

As a result, influencers are taking on a significant role in the commercial world as well as the business and marketing sectors, effectively influencing their followers purchasing and decision making processes.

Why is this happening? Brands need to get closer and connect with their audiences in a more subtle way. Consumers are looking for recommendations from people they trust, from friends, family or other social media users they follow.

Influencers can help brands achieve many marketing objectives, but it’s all about selecting the right profiles to collaborate with and ensuring that their public is a close match with the brand’s target audience.

Influencer marketing can help to achieve credibility, awareness, branding and loyalty. Brands that tend to work more with influencers include those in fashion, food and lifestyle sectors. Influencers can be segmented based on their followers and their average reach, meaning brands can choose between “big” influencers or micro-influencers.

One of the main benefits of carrying out these campaigns is the increased engagement rate. Engagement is related to a brand’s ability to establish solid and long-lasting relationships with their consumers and potential buyers.

But is influencer marketing worth the hype? What is it that is driving brands to use key content creators to showcase what they’re all about?

Savvy consumers, and particularly those from Gen Y and Gen Z, don’t always respond to hard-sell marketing techniques. Brands have turned to creating a more personal and transparent way of connecting with their audience. Who better to get cut through to consumers than consumers themselves.

And this is where influencers can have a clear role to play.

In a highly saturated market it’s not just about the sale for brands, it’s about building trust within targeted communities and tribes to develop life-long customers. This is where influencers make the biggest impact. They know exactly how to speak to their audience, and when they speak their followers listen. 

Of course there is another perspective. Some would argue that marketers appear to be blindly shifting money into a channel beset with challenges.

And there is no doubt the medium has recently grown up, addressing some of their problems threatening to derail it, after industry leaders called out nefarious practices like influencers buying fake followers and bot fraud.

People still buy people and the emergence of new storytelling platforms over the last five years means that word of mouth marketing is now achievable at scale.

Despite the rapid growth of influencer marketing as a brand tool, challenges remain. In order to earn its place as part of an integrated programme, they need to be addressed.

Identifying the right influencers to work with your brand remains the one of the most important considerations.

Of course sales aren’t the only way that influencer marketing is used and often objectives are more holistic; concerned with a brand’s long-term goals rather than just short-term sales and is where the true sweet spot of influencer marketing lies.

These goals, such as brand awareness and perception, or even content collaboration, are less straightforward to prove ROI, but should be set as bespoke KPIs and a cost per achievement.

To have a successful relationship with a brand, influencers should also be more willing to share data and insights from their side. Media outlets are regulated to provide their readership figures; bloggers should provide proof of visitor stats and post viewing figures. Instagrammers should give evidence of data not visible to the public, such as performance of Stories and enquiries via DMs. With the recent news that Instagram is trialing removing visible ‘likes’ it’s crucial for influencers to be more transparent with the brands they work with.

It’s also important to be crystal clear with what the objectives are for the campaign, and that both the brand and influencer fully understand what’s expected.

Influencer marketing has become a key marketing channel that can no longer be overlooked, with equal rigour applied as that of the more established channels. When done properly, it has a real power to transform a brand.