Have you heard of the movie As Above, So Below? Maybe not. Have you heard of Youtuber Pewdiepie? Very Possibly. That is an operational premise of influencer marketing.
In 2014, Universal Pictures reached out to Felix Kjellberg and Marzia Bisognin to help promote their upcming horror flick, As Above, So Below. Kjellberg and Bisognin, a YouTube power couple known by their channel names, Pewdiepie and cutiepiemarzia, made 6 videos as part of their agreement with Universal Pictures, generating nearly 20 million views within four months of posting the first video. The combined views for the official trailers grossed 9.7 million views.
In 2014, influencer marketing was not the powerhouse marketing strategy it is today in 2018. A 2015 survey by Tomoson found that businesses make $6.50 per $1.00 spent on influencer marketing. Furthermore, the increase in influencer marketing 2014-2016 mirrors a decline in print advertising. Over 80 percent of marketers in the US used influencers last year, and that number is only going to increase. People’s appetites for digital media is increasing, and with that, so are their suspicions of anything that feels like a sales pitch.
If cost effectiveness isn’t a convincing enough reason to look into influencer marketing, here are four other reasons to do so.
1. Influencer vs Celebrity Marketing – Is There a Difference?
Yes and no. Look at Kjellberg and Bisognin. The two have made names for themselves on YouTube, and their fortunes across several platforms. As of today, Kjellberg has spent the better part of a decade growing his loyal followers to today’s audience of 64,018,045. By all accounts, he is a celebrity whose recognition came from internet platforms. Yet the distinction between influencer and celebrity is important, in large part because the behavior of their respective audiences is different.
Celebrities whose fame comes from legacy media have a different relationship with their fans than influencers, whose audience is hard won via social media. The lines have blurred, as influencers are increasingly entering Hollywood and Hollywood begins to act more like influencers online (and which are the Kardashians?). Yet influencer marketing is unique in that it can be useful even when partnering with influencers who have relatively low vanity metrics. In other words, the reach of an influencer is not contained in the number of likes they get, but in the depth of engagement.
Michael Jordan was the face of Hanes. He lent his face, his story, and his brand to the underwear company, and people presumably rushed to buy Hanes socks and undershirts in a bid to emulate a basketball giant. How is that different from Pewdiepie and CutiepieMarzia?
Michael Jordan’s fan base was built from media content that was generated by third party creators: television coverage, sports journalists, bloggers, fans. In other words, Hanes was benefitting primarily from Jordan’s name recognition. But, an influencer’s relationship with their audience is generally an interactive two-way street. An influencer is integrating a company’s brand, product, or service into their own content, which was the case with Pewdiepie and Universal Pictures. The stream and the videos were published on his and Marzia’s personal YouTube channels.
According to a Google’s consumer insights, 70 percent of teenage YouTube subscribers claim to relate more to YouTube creators than traditional celebrities and YouTube now has over a billion users. One defining characteristic of Generation Z is the dominance of new media over legacy media. Video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu subvert traditional ways of consuming television and film. For this population of youngsters, an internet connection is more important than cable. Enormously so. Their media habits influence those other generations, meaning that the upward penetration of new media into older demographics further consolidates the role of influencers to shape social values. The influencer is in a key strategic position to market, because they are in the business of marketing their personalities, their lives, their thoughts and ideas.
2. Influencer Marketing is Uniquely Equipped to Navigate Social Media
Social media continues to redefine how people communicate. User generated content is free to circulate without traditional gatekeeper constraints. These innovations created a digital landscape that quickly gave rise to influencer marketing. Influencers are uniquely equipped for digital branding because that is what their online persona was built on. Long-term, personal, and relatable branding is key to success as an internet presence.
Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.
Twitter partnered with Annalect, a leading data analysis firm, to study people’s receptivity to influencers on Twitter.
“Tip: Pair both brand and influencer Tweets to maximize the impact of a campaign. Engage as a brand on the same level as your influencer, and invite others to join in. It’s the type of word-of-mouth marketing that has a positive effect throughout the entire funnel — and it converts. Campaigns that combined brand and influencer Tweets saw nearly a 5x lift in brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent over traditional digital ad formats”.
This really speaks to the nature of social media users’ online interactions. Word-of-mouth is a digital mainstay, and the credence of Twitter marketing is built on its ability to build its model on smaller-scale exchanges.
3. Ad-Blocking Continues to Stymy Traditional Ads
“Business problems for many publishers have worsened with the rise of ad-blocking, which is running at between 10% (Japan) and 38% (Poland) but much higher amongst under-35s and people who use news the most. The vast majority of those who have ever downloaded a blocker are using them regularly, suggesting that once downloaded people rarely go back.”
This is a finding published in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report of 2016. The report also says that while only 8 percent of smartphone users deploy ad blocking on their devices, approximately one third of respondents said that they planned to install one within the next year. Ad-blocking means that even digital ads will underperform compared to a native ad created as a cohesive part of an influencer’s preexisting brand. Digital banner and sidebar ads will be at a structural disadvantage if they are stopped by blocking extensions before a potential consumer can view them.
4. Authenticity is the new social currency
And boy, does it have a lot of buying power. An oversaturation of digital, print, and billboard advertising has left people jaded. The cheekily smiling stock-photo of a woman brandishing a curling iron is an image that leaves most unmoved. The marketing of here-and-now calls for subversion of established archetypes, and for relatable, vulnerable, and authentic personalities. What sells a car? It used to be a picture of said car in the paper, accompanied with a swanky headline. What sells a car now? Creativity. Compassion. Authenticity. For example: Mossy Nissan San Diego donated a 2017 Nissan Titan to the Oceanside Police Department. This was documented by AMS on Instagram and the local news and it is one of the most shared and liked posts of the year and continues to get shared and liked. This type of connecting to consumers is priceless!
“Social media, as it turns out, isn’t about aggregating audiences so you can yell at them about the junk you want to sell. Social media, in fact, is a basic human need, revealed digitally online. We want to be connected, to make a difference, to matter, to be missed. We want to belong, and yes, we want to be led.” -Seth Godin
According to a Bloglovin’ survey, the majority of influencers have never used paid promotion to gain followers or otherwise widen their reach. Less than 10 percent have paid for Instagram native ads, despite the fact that Instagram proves time and again to be the platform with the heaviest concentration of influencers and micro-influencers.
Going back to the YouTube example with Pewdiepie and Marzia, we see that authenticity is a major key to their success, and the success of so many other YouTube personalities. The Vlog, or a “video blog” is a way of filming a video that is frequently taken on a smartphone and that invites the viewer to participate in the story. The tone, camera angle, and editing all facilitate a conversational tone. The viewer must feel that the exchange is authentic, or else the creator loses out on a subscriber. Being that their audience of subscribers follow and believe in these creators, they are also receptive to products and companies that sponsor the content. So long as it doesn’t feel disingenuous. So long as authenticity is maintained.
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