Influencer marketing. The words conjure up images of YouTube wannabe celebrities showing off the latest make-up trends to gullible teenagers, and the concept is something at which “serious” businesses still have a tendency to turn up their noses. However, to do so is to make a serious marketing blunder. For one thing, influencer marketing is so much more than that. For another, it is hugely powerful, especially when combined with parallel strategies like referral marketing.
The Influencer marketing phenomenon came about as an extension to a basic marketing truth. No marketing strategy can match the power and influence of a trusted recommendation. Whether you need a pair of shoes, a plumber or a divorce lawyer, a tip from a friend or family member will carry more weight than even the cleverest advertising campaign.
Influencer marketing is nothing new, but its reach and potential has increased dramatically in the internet age. Prior to Facebook and YouTube, influencers were typically celebrities in TV ads. Understandably, the public was cynical about a movie star or footballer talking about a particular grocery store or skin cream. But when the endorser is a regular person like you or me? Now that can really resonate.
Back in 2015, a study by Tomoson showed that companies tend to generate $6.50 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing. That’s a stunning return on investment, and it made businesses sit up and take notice. The influencer marketing sector is one that is still maturing, but its growth has been remarkable, from a little over $1 billion at the time of the study to an estimated $9.7 billion in 2020.
Having a trusted influencer explaining the benefits of your product or service works, whether it is a YouTuber with a million followers or your mother over a pot of tea. However, that alone won’t boost your bottom line. Combining influencer marketing with a referral program is like slotting in the final piece of the marketing jigsaw, as it provides the mechanism by which the “influenced” party is guided into the sales funnel.
You might well have an existing referral program in place, whereby customers can introduce a friend to your business. If so that’s great, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. What you might consider, however, is to create specific custom coupons for the influencer, or perhaps their own referral page. It will still be part of your overall referral program, but will have that extra exclusivity to leverage the partnership between you and the influencer.
As we mentioned earlier, influencer marketing is too powerful a tool to ignore, and soon it will be an essential component of every business’s marketing toolbox. Right now, however, the influencer marketing scene is still dominated by the early movers while other industries wake up and smell the coffee.
Yes, of course beauty and fashion are among those industries, as they were the first to fully embrace influencer marketing. Amanda Cerny is a prime example of how the sector is gathering pace. Probably the biggest social media influencer of them all with almost 25 million followers, she is an influencer who became a movie star, as opposed to the other way around.
Gaming is another sector that has embraced a combination of influencer and referral marketing. As platforms like Twitch have grown in popularity, more and more people have started to live stream their gaming, and as their followers have grown, they’ve found ways to monetize this popularity.
That doesn’t just apply to eSport players like Ninja. There are also casino gamers like Casinodaddy or Blackcatseven. They need only play at a certain casino for the platform to see a huge influx of new gamers arriving to try their luck after watching them. It creates a buzz around the brand and this in turn leads to worldwide third party comparison sites constantly reviewing them, driving yet more publicity.
In the food and drink sector, there are influencers who can resonate with every niche, from steak lovers to those following strict “free from” dietary regimes. Natasha Kravchuk provides an interesting case study here. Ukrainian and Russian cuisine might not be as famous as Italian or Indian. Yet she has focused on what she knows to become one of the most powerful social media influencers in the food and drink sector since starting her personal blog way back in 2009.
John Pearson is a serial entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping small businesses launch and grow. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.