Last year, Forbes.com published an article that said word of mouth was the most important form of social media for marketers. The idea was simple: having 100 customers who are passionate about your brand and willing to share it with their network was better than having 10,000 unengaged fans on Facebook. As consumers, we see hundreds of ads per day. And, brands are trying to find new ways to get our attention and increase customer engagement. Word of mouth marketing is still important. But, as we learned last week, our individual social networks are only so big and our close friends are largely comprised of people who have similar tastes and interests. With the rise of social media, marketers have found a new approach to reaching the masses: social media influencers.
This marketing strategy has been on my mind since I saw recent news of Michelle Phan’s makeup subscription service, Ipsy, hit the $500M mark. Phan is a native of Boston and just a few months older than me. She was widely unknown until 2009 when Buzzfeed ran a feature on her YouTube makeup tutorials, which made her go viral. Today, she has nearly 8 million subscribers on YouTube; 3.1 million likes on Facebook; 2 million followers on Instagram; and, 669,000 followers on Twitter. All of this online success has led to Phan’s net worth being estimated at $3M.
I follow a number of social media influencers who “help me” make better decisions around which products I want to buy. From makeup products to vitamins and supplements, I turn to these social media influencers whenever I need an honest opinion. My influencers, who are largely women’s lifestyle and fitness insta-celebs, post their opinions and reviews regularly on various social media outlets. They have essentially become an extension of my trusted network of “friends.” I engage with their accounts daily and have tried many of the products they have recommended.
Social media influencers have huge followings who trust their opinions. Combined with on-demand access and fresh content being posted daily, using influencers in marketing strategy creates a win/win for companies and influencers alike. From Instagram takeovers to contests/giveaways to sponsored reviews, influencers have access to thousands of their “closest friends” who are ready to listen, share, and buy.
Companies in every industry are capitalizing on the rise of social media influencers. The most important part of a creating a successful campaign with a social media influencer is identifying the right influencer for the intended target audience and approaching them with the right “ask.” Companies not only have to understand their customers but they have to understand how the influencer engages with his/her audience. CapitalOne ran a successful social media takeover where popular bloggers shared artifacts found inside their wallets. This campaign prompted users to submit their own #walletstories, increased ad recall by 16%, and increased brand favorability amongst 21-24 year olds. Similarly, Banana Republic partners with Boston-based fashion blogger Jean Wang of Extra Petite for Instagram takeovers and mini-campaigns. Fashion influencers can post a photo of themselves wearing the latest trends and drive traffic directly to the retailer by using affiliate networks such as rstyle.me and liketoknow.it. The influencer receives a percentage of commission from the click-through and the retailer can put a dollar sign on the success of their influencer campaigns.
Influencers are all around us. You don’t need to have millions of followers to become an influencer. You just need to be actively engaged online and have influence within your networks. This is most easily measured through Klout scores, which companies use to find individuals who are already engaging with their brand. This allows average people to connect with like-minded individuals and share their passion with the world. The more Klout you have, the more impact you have online. You’re probably already posting about your favorite brands online… so, what are you waiting for? After all, even Michelle Phan had to start somewhere.