Influencer partnerships have been steadily increasing in popularity as more and more businesses reap the benefits of working with personalities known to their audiences. Regardless of how lucrative this type of marketing may seem, however, it's important not to simply view influencers as living/breathing advertising platforms.
Instead, businesses should regard influencers as potential partners with the intention of nurturing mutually beneficial relationships. When partnered with businesses, influencers become valuable brand ambassadors but these kinds of relationships don't just develop overnight. Before you even consider inviting an influencer to become a brand ambassador you must first have an understanding of what an influencer actually is.
An influencer is an individual who has a significant impact on a certain audience or market. Whilst celebrities can be influencers, most influencers are regular people who command an audience that correlates with a business' or brands' target market. Examples of influencers include YouTubers, writers, bloggers, and academics.
A 2016 study by Twitter and analytics company Annalect concluded that social media users trust influencers acting as brand ambassadors almost as much as they trust their friends. According to the study, 56% of Twitter users rely on recommendations from friends when making purchasing decisions, whilst an almost equal number of users (49%) rely on recommendations from brand ambassadors.
Accessibility and authenticity are the qualities that make influencers more trust worthy than their celebrity counterparts. Whilst it can be argued that many influencers command some kind of celebrity status, influencer fame is generally considered more organic and is seen as the result of hard work and audience cultivation. Because of this, consumers find it easier to identify with influencers and consider their favourite YouTubers, bloggers, and personalities more relatable than movie stars and music icons.
Influencer lifestyles are generally seen as more attainable than those of celebrities and this is exemplified when consumers see influencers actively engaging with familiar brands. Whilst celebrities such as Eva Longoria advertise and endorse affordable products such as hair dye and cat food it is hard for consumers to imagine them actually using these products. Influencers tend to engage with brands and products more indirectly and inject their personalities into their endorsements which make them more believable. In, addition, there’s a culture of transparency with influencer recommendations, especially with bloggers and YouTubers, who are usually upfront about whether or not they’ve been paid to promote a product or brand.
Audience demographics should be taken into account when it comes to identifying suitable brand ambassadors. The average age, income, gender, and even education level of an audience will inform which influencer demographic they fall under.
Demographics identify consumers’ internet habits, the kind of content they respond to, and the platforms they engage with. Generational demographics should also be taken into account. The kind of potential ambassadors millennials engage with will vastly differ from the kind of ambassador that would appeal to a Baby Boomer. You can read about the social network habits of different generations in our social media marketing guide.
Look closely at your audience and try to identify which social networks they spend the most time on, what social and political issues resonate the most with them, and how they like to absorb information (newspapers, television, radio, web) – all of this will help you identify your audience’s influencers.
Business owners often wonder how influencer orientated campaigns stack up against traditional marketing tools (such as digital and print advertising, advertorial content, and even celebrity endorsement). The short answer to that is simply: they don’t. It’s impossible to compare the two and influencers shouldn’t be treated as just another set of marketing tools.
As ambassadors, influencers act as advocates for your business; engaging with and endorsing the products and brands they believe in. It’s likely that the kind of ambassadors your audience favours all started out as members of that audience themselves. This is what gives their reach the edge: your ambassadors are well-known within the wider community because they are part of it. Their endorsement is the closest thing to word-of-mouth recommendation available to businesses and brands at such a large scale.
One of the biggest advantages of partnering with brand ambassadors is that they are prolific content creators and, in a world of ad blockers, it is highly beneficial to be part of this content instead of the advert interrupting it. Brands have identities, aesthetics, and guidelines that all pose restrictions to the kind of content they can create for themselves and the platforms they use. Ambassador created content is perfect for bridging that gap.
You may have a very strong brand identity but wish to expand your audience. Consider footwear brand Doc Martens. Years ago the brand was associated with the punk scene and commanded a highly masculine, nationalist identity. Brand ambassadors such as models Agyness Deyn and Kendall Jenner and have allowed the brand develop a more feminine and international appeal.
Pictured: Dr Martens Britsh Boot Co Ambassadors, circa 2011 (left) & Agyness Deyn modelling her Dr Martens Summer Range, 2013 (right).
It’s important to remember that relationships between brands and influencers are two way streets built on creativity and compromise. By providing each other with the best of what they can offer, brands and influencers can enjoy mutually beneficial relationships that live on long after a campaign has ended.
Nobody knows the ins and outs of working with influencers more than Jelly. Our partnership building expertise will help you identify your influencers and make that all important introduction. If you'd like help developing an influencer led campaign or just want to find out more then contact us.