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Opinion

Back to Basics: Word of Mouth 2.0

Influencer marketing is the modern-day word of mouth and influencers are the bridge between customers and your brand, so getting it right is essential for growth.

With influencer marketing expected to grow to $15 billion by 2022, brands will have to find innovative strategies within the field to stay ahead of savvy competitors.

The goal of an influencer marketing campaign isn’t to be featured in front of the most followers. The goal is to build word of mouth and with that in mind, there are a number of ways to achieve sustained growth in a fast-changing field.

Outside of your niche

One of the most popular subjects for Instagrammers is food. Restaurants often target popular local foodie Instagrammers during launch and promotions, intent on turning an influencer’s free meal into dozens of new customers.

While this strategy, when properly optimised and monitored, can work wonders, it’s simply not enough in an oversaturated market – and maybe that’s a good thing. Online buzz works the same way real-life recommendations do.

In a recent interview on influencer marketing in luxury hotels, one owner – speaking anonymously – pointed out something insightful:

“I’ve not yet seen any anecdotal evidence of someone picking my hotel because a travel blogger told them to. But I have seen them do it because a fashion influencer has.”

Expanding your web of influencers across industries may seem counterintuitive at first, especially if your goals are narrow. Yet by approaching influencers from a variety of loosely-connected fields, you create a greater buzz across industries. If a food Instagrammer loves your restaurant, you’re still one restaurant among many in their feed. If a fashion influencer eats there and posts about it, you’ve engaged an entirely new audience.

This works similarly in our personal lives; if your cinephile friend recommends a film, you might check it out but if your friend who rarely watches movies gives you a suggestion, the recommendation carries far more weight.

Focusing your efforts more diffusely to create buzz more widely, instead of focusing more narrowly on a single niche, can propel your influencer marketing strategy.

Influencer recommendations

Although 89% of millennials preferring recommendations from the people they follow over brands, the growth of influencer popularity can’t change one fact: we get most of our recommendations from people we know personally.

Influencers occupy a curious space between friends and family and ‘internet recommendations’ – reviews, comments, and suggestions from websites or strangers. These sorts of recommendations are much less effective and are part of the overall decline in ad revenue online in general.

Influencers aren’t a modern substitute for these older forms of recommendation. Rather, they’re a bridge between your customers, your friends and family, and your brand.

Pay-per-sale or pay-per-engagement compensation methods are an effective way to gauge campaign performance, however, they often focus on the short-term. Your brand’s strategy should be developed with long-term success in mind. You may know how many influencers you interact with directly but are you also tracking the posts their followers create based on your brand?

More and more brands are shifting to an engagement payment model that focuses not only on the posts or sales but on the likes, shares, and comments that come out of the campaign. If you provide an influencer with a free product, it may take some weeks for their followers to buy their own product via your shop link. Once they do, the effects continue to spiral, as these micro-influencers become enthusiastic ambassadors for your brand.

The metrics used to assess campaign effectiveness are still in their early stages, and the difficulty of tracking engagement is a notable challenge for many brands. There are some ways to track engagement, such as a unique hashtag, that can help show you the reach and growth of your online buzz. For long-term success, the entire attitude toward influencers must evolve.

From followers to partners

A great influencer partnership can reap a massive ROI – $6.50 for every dollar spent, on average, according to one study. Despite its popularity, influencer marketing still carries risk as 72% of consumers cite ‘disingenuous recommendations’ as a top reason for unfollowing certain Instagrammers.

You know your brand well enough to decide which influencers are worth your time. As influencer marketing continues to evolve, more and more brands are putting their efforts into creating partnerships over short-term promotional deals.

With an eye toward sustained growth, influencers aren’t just a means of getting your product out in front of more eyeballs. They’re an essential part of building brand trust – a conduit between you and your potential customers.

This attitude represents a shift in outlook, one that sees reach as less essential than quality and niche. It takes time to build these relationships, yet the rewards are massive. A strong brand partner can be as good as a personal recommendation – someone to sign off on your product or service just like a trusted friend or relative.

In a world oversaturated with internet recommendations, these kinds of approvals are what mean the most to an audience fed up with advertising. It may be a new world of marketing but it’s one built on creating consumer trust. The companies that thrive in this system will be the ones to see their long-term growth explode in the coming years.

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