Influencer marketing has seen steady growth in recent years. Between 2019 and 2020, the percentage of US marketers using influencers grew from 55.4% to 62.3%, and is projected to increase to 67.9% in 2021.
In an age when consumers are increasingly wary of being “sold to,” influencers offer brands a way to create authentic human connections and build trust. But the brands who want to get the most out of influencer marketing have to be strategic.
2020 has changed social media marketing in many ways, and that includes influencer marketing. After a year of growing anxiety over COVID-19 and the resulting economic hardships, brands had to be careful of posting content that could be labelled as “tone-deaf.” Brands and influencers had to quickly pivot to at-home content, such as home renovations and practicing self-care. Then, the racial violence that sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the globe underlined a growing need for influencers and brands to take a stand.
The hardships and reckonings in the past year accelerated the trend of consumers, particularly Gen Z, expecting more from brands in terms of social responsibility. More than ever, the brands that will see the most success are the ones that present a consistent value message across all types of content, including influencer content.
To make influencer marketing work for your brand, keep these key points in mind:
Know your audience
The beauty of influencer marketing is being able to form relationships with an already engaged and captive audience. When choosing an influencer to partner with, think about whether their audience is who your brand is designed for.
When vetting influencers, their follower count matters less than whether their message aligns with your brand. By choosing authenticity over reach, you’ll be able to solidify your brand image and reach relevant customers.
Lean into your values
A recent study found that 52% of U.S. consumers factor values into their purchase choices, preferring brands that take a stand on issues that are important to them. Influencer and consumer behavior are closely aligned in this way; for instance, there were several instances where influencers severed ties with brands that haven’t done enough to promote anti-racism.
To attract influencer and customer evangelists alike, assess your brand values and proactively take a stand. Whether that’s increasing supply chain transparency or advocating for LGBTQ rights, make your brand values clear across all channels.
Encourage authentic content
Brands have to keep in mind that influencer marketing is a two-way street. Influencers want to promote products that they themselves would use and that they’re excited by. Likewise, consumers can sniff out when a post is purely promotional, and will eventually lose trust in that influencer.
If your product already aligns with an influencer’s existing content, it’ll be so much easier for them to get excited about your brand and show their followers why they love it.
The key to influencer marketing is to see it less like earning a spot on a high-traffic billboard and more like asking a friend to tell others what they like about your brand. Like any type of social media, influencer marketing is most effective when you use it to make real connections with the right audience.