Is Your Selling Under the Influence?

The other night, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed before bed. It was filled with travel destinations, trending foodie hot spots in Orange County, and the latest in women’s fashion. After engaging with the first 10 posts, I realized that I did not actually know the people in my feed. Shocked by this realization, I wondered, Are the days where our feeds are filled with our closest family and friends really gone? It felt like I knew these people, though. I see them every day (in my feed), I shop where they shop, I listen to their advice on where to eat and where to book vacations. Sounds like a friend to me? Well, not exactly – this is influencer marketing at work.

Social media has personified the “Simon” in Simon Says, and we are all playing the game. Social media gives your everyday, average “Simon” an opportunity to become a mini-celebrity within his or her online community. The phenomenon of following influencers on social media works because it gives us a chance to connect with like-minded individuals and, put simply, people like to be associated with people who are like them. In fact, Nielson reports that over 90% of people trust other people over brands, even if they don’t know them personally. This explains why influencers have been the winning “Simon” in Simon Says, telling their open-eared followers what to do, with brands pulling the strings and reaping the benefits.

With more and more marketers funneling additional dollars into influencer marketing, the results are supporting the statistic. In fact, 41% of marketers said they have seen more success in influencer campaigns than in more traditional advertising efforts. And now other marketers are joining in, with 84% of marketers planning to execute at least one influencer marketing campaign in the next 12 months.

But where do you start? The great thing about influencer marketing is that your potential customers and their influencers are already online. All you need to do is connect the dots. The influencer has already done most of the heavy lifting, creating cool content and building trust with their growing follower base. To find these influencers, start by researching relevant hashtags specific to your product and/or industry. You can hashtag search on relevant platforms, like Instagram and even on Google, to create your list of potential influencers. There are also designated online tools that can help you find relevant influencers.

Consider the basics first, including the influencer’s audience size and engagement levels, location and content topics. After analyzing the essentials, the most important question to ask is if the influencer aligns with your brand’s culture and values. Take a closer look at the  influencer’s posts – the tone, word choice and the audience’s responses. Are these the types of conversations you want to be a part of? Does the voice and personality of the individual align with your brand and your customers? If you answered yes, you may have a winning influencer. With the right association, your brand can achieve targeted exposure to the right prospective customers.

With every great tactic, comes its hurdles. The last piece of the puzzle once you’ve found the perfect influencer to collaborate with is ensuring that the influencer themselves abides by the FTC’s requirements. New guidelines as of September 2017 state that an individual that is endorsing any company’s product requires a clear disclosure of the partnership. There are specific rules including how soon in an Instagram post that the influencer must disclose the partnership and indicate that the influencer received goods or payment for the post. It basically must be as easy as possible for audiences to know that there was some sort of agreement between the influencer and the brand – i.e., you can’t make your audience “click more” to see the disclaimer, rather it must be visible within the first three lines of visible copy in the feed. If you are worried about possible repercussions, you can have your influencer send their post copy to you for your legal department to review before it is pushed live in their feeds.

No one really wants to admit that they’re a “follower,” but social media has made it more than okay. Audiences are trusting these mini-celebrity influencers and the phenomenon is not going anywhere anytime soon. So, what’re you waiting for? Simon Says do Influencer Marketing.

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