Social media is the new frontier of advertising and marketing, with its massive expansion and global outreach. Consequently, small and large businesses are innovating novel ways to tap into this market and get their product out there. Using influencers (individuals with a prominent online following within a given field) to market products has proved to be extremely successful for promoting brand awareness, audience outreach and overall sales.
A prominent early example of this was observed in the rise of the 1.3 billion-dollar sportswear company ‘Gymshark’. They were arguably the first private business to successfully target fitness personalities with free merchandise. This led to the brand awareness and product demand skyrocketing and has been the foundation of their success.
Since then, thousands of companies have adopted this technique in an attempt to emulate their achievement. In this piece, we will explore how to utilise this powerful tool to your company’s advantage.
Finding the right individual
Finding the right influencer can generate a ‘make-or-break’ scenario when it comes to prospering in this successful, yet highly saturated market. At the basic level, it is just another form of networking. Firstly, the influencer should fit your company’s image, ethos and goals. They will be seen as an extension of your business and thus people will associate their opinions, mannerisms and brand with your product.
Next, the influencer must have a large and specific outreach. It will not be beneficial to use someone who cannot create an online stir within your target audience. However, do not act outside your means and try to connect a get a high-impact influencer with a large following if it’s not in your interests, or within the score of your business.
Online influencer databases (e.g. Modash)are also extremely useful for providing reach, engagement and analytics. This shows a more truthful and specific data spread and avoids pitfalls such as assessing viewers alone. Viewer statistics can be heavily skewed by bots and bought likes/ followers. Furthermore, get a deeper understanding of the individual, make sure they have no affiliations with rival companies and more importantly, no past damaging posts that contradict your ethos, or lead to them being outed or worse: cancelled.
Finally, be inventive and malleable when looking for the right person. Make sure to use hashtags and keywords, and explore different platforms. Influencer databases are a good start; however, LinkedIn has also been shown to be a useful avenue to contact a blogger, influencer or content producer and has proven successful due to the professionalism associated with the site.
How to create a win-win venture
To create a win-win situation, what you want the influencer to do versus what they want from you has to be mutually beneficial. There are multiple ways of doing this, highlighting the art of the deal; however, a few examples of what they can do for you:
· Use the product discreetly (or openly, if preferred)
· Give a review of the product
· Offer giveaways
· Collaborate with other influencers and your product
· Use handles/ hashtags, URLs etc. to promote the product.
In return, you could offer cash, free products, or give them a commission if anyone uses linked promotional codes. Youtuber Ali Abdaal and many others openly use these approaches to form collaborations with businesses and have been very successful from it. Most significantly, it is vital to have open communication with the individual to ensure each of your strategies is in step with each other and clearly set out how each of you will benefit.
Systematically build the collaboration
Rome was not built in a day, and the same can be said with creating waves across a social media platform. To get traction, so your videos, hashtags handles etc get seen, the site’s algorithm needs to be understood. To get put to the top of the pile, the influencer needs to produce new and exciting content and show elevated levels of engagement. The more this happens, the more likely the content will be seen and thus take off.
As such, it will most likely require a long-sustained effort of multiple pieces of varying approaches, until the right combination is formed. A means to streamline and objectify this process is to use the influencers analytical data. What worked and what failed can be visualised, then reinforced into future videos, in order to promote outreach and thus sales.
Being responsible when using social media to promote your company
Social media is a very powerful tool and is exceptionally hard to be regulated, even with the site’s best efforts. As such, it is extremely easy to mislead audiences into buying sham or harmful products. This was notable recently when Kim Kardashian promoted appetite-suppressing lollipops. It also can target impressionable audiences, such as children, with appealing age-restricted products such as nicotine and alcohol. For example, Juul’s predatory marketing of high nicotine vape pods aimed at children and adolescents.
Finally, it can over-inflate the hype around a product leading to immensely high expectations with little to no return to the customer. A prime example of this was seen with the aggressive marketing of ‘Fyre Festival’ by multiple high-impact influencers. It led to this exclusive, expensive island event being sold out in seconds; however, when the consumers arrived, they entered a quasi-refugee camp that led to a descent into anarchy and an exodus from the island. Consequently, you must avoid:
· Selling harmful products
· Using predatory tactics
· Creating a buzz for a product that you cannot be matched in the real world.
Overall, social media is an immensely powerful marketing tool that can exponentially increase the outreach, brand awareness and sales of your product. Finding the right influencer for the job is key and there are many avenues to achieve this. Once you have found the ideal candidate use your existing business skills to strike a win-win deal. Then systematically work on the partnership, aided by analytics, to create waves across online platforms. Finally, be aware of the pitfalls created by this method of advertising, to ensure a healthy, prosperous and collaborative venture.