With a renewed focus on the way brands are promoting their products, the use of social media influencers is increasing in popularity.
Social media influencers educate and entertain followers in their particular space about specific products, services and topics. From stars to bloggers, social media influencers are attractive for brands that want to engage with customers on an authentic footing.
According to TapInfluence, word-of-mouth marketing is an effective way to reach customers, particularly when attributed to social media influencers. In fact, 92 percent of customers are more likely to trust and respond to user-generated content over ads, and 71 percent of customers are more likely to purchase a product or a service based on a social media referral.
There are multiple brand benefits in working with social media influencers. Alongside directly delivering the message straight to the consumer, the partnership can humanize a company, making it relatable and part of a consumer’s daily routine. Additionally, influencers can help brands market new products and services, as well as identify new audience segments to target.
Ingredient and dietary supplement companies are consistently working with athletes, celebrity trainers, fitness gurus, the natural community and Millennial moms as part of their marketing strategies. Assuming there is ample education from the brand to the influencer, influencers can educate consumers about the benefits of ingredients in layman terms, while still adhering to strict language surrounding FDA-compliant structure/function claims.
For brands looking to invest their time and money with an influencer, they should focus on the types of media consumed by their target demographic. Which social media channels do they use to check out new products and get their news? Which types of content do they respond well to? Which influencers do they follow and trust?
Celebrity endorsements can be an expensive investment that does not reap immediate rewards. Influencers, on the other hand, provide a highly focused approach. Companies like MusclePharm are shifting their marketing strategies to work solely with social media influencers in the fitness and training spaces, and target the growing Millennial and Gen X markets. With niche demographic followings, online influencers are influential targets for brands that want to place products in front of a dedicated audience with spending power.
Turning the typical sampling model on its head, MusclePharm is bringing influencers directly into its Burbank headquarters. With a state-of-the-art gym and mixed martial arts ring, the company has made it more convenient for influencers to use their products embedded in a lifestyle setting. This move has encouraged targeted, word-of-mouth marketing about their new product lines, as well as educating influencers on fitness improvements that can be passed on to their large fan following.
Social media influencers should be creating high-quality, authentic content, and engage with their audience regularly. They should also have a multi-platform presence, using networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to create attractive content delivered in a way that reaches their followers at their favorite digital destination.
For brands looking to work with social media influencers, what are the key points to consider?
Reflecting brand values: Influencers must reflect the values of a brand and not just be there to push a product. Savvy consumers will know if a relationship is just based on money. Brands should work with influencers who have an interesting story that aligns with their company vision, and a genuine integration of the product into their daily life.
Fee structure: Whether it is affiliate marketing, a product, a retainer fee or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, find what works best for the brand and incentivizes the influencer. Each influencer is different! As the marketer, be sure to obtain rights to the content developed by the influencer to use for international distributors and have full rights to repurpose as content for advertising campaigns.
How success will be measured: It’s important to measure the success and engagement the influencer is creating. This can be monitored through impressions, social sharing, direct product sales, website traffic or sign-ups. Be sure to determine the influencer’s engagement percentage with their audience. This is a valuable metric, as opposed to focusing only on their total impressions based on reach via their combined social media audiences.
FTC guidelines: Working with bloggers and social media influencers brings with it a specific set of guidelines. Under FTC rules, the influencer must disclose if they have received free product or if they are being paid to post. It is vital brands comply with these rules; otherwise, they could face hefty penalties. And for influencers, failure to disclose a paid partnership could lead to an erosion of trust and fewer brand opportunities in the future. Using hashtags and other forms of post tagging to clearly state a paid partnership is best practice (i.e., #advertisement, #sponsored, etc.), and platforms like Instagram provide users with the option to declare a partnership directly on the post’s tagging system. This disclosure must be visible to the consumer immediately upon first glance of the post, without having to click “more” to see further down in the post.
Types of content: Which is the best type of content to create with an influencer? Whether it is a sponsored post, product review, a vlog or a tweet, determine content that appeals to the target audience on the right platform. Instagram, for example, is ideal for providing a behind-the-scenes post or a before-and-after update, showing how a product works to maximum impact. Consider integrating multiple posts into a package with an influencer. For example, two static Instagram posts and one Instagram “story" or a YouTube video, which is all content that can be repurposed, can make a good package of content with one influencer, assuming the content type and number of posts over a pre-specified duration of time has been clarified in the agreement.
Long-term: For the greatest consumer engagement and biggest impact, an influencer relationship should be a long-term investment. Brands should look at how it fits into the bigger marketing picture, and work with influencers over several months to achieve goals.
Working with social media influencers provides brands with a whole new way to communicate with target consumers. Delivering their message direct to the source can help them create an authentic relationship, with the influencer generating trust and reliability through the content they create. The influencer can help a brand to confidently and expertly reach its marketing and sales goals, with a long-term view to maximize reach and expand a brand. In an age where social media influencers are more trusted than ads, this is one direction all health and fitness brands should be investing in.
Lindsey Carnett is CEO and president of Marketing Maven, named a 2018 Top Social Media Influencer Agency by Influence Digest+. Her integrated marketing firm is ranked nationally in the healthcare category by third-party ranking company O’Dwyer’s PR. She is a is noted for launching consumer brands with substantiated ingredients over the last 15 years. Lindsey@marketingmaven.com
Looking for insights on social media marketing regulations, effective messaging or audience engagement? Join us for the "Marketing Effectively & Legally via Social Media" workshop on Thursday, Nov. 8, at SupplySide West 2018.