How Important Are Online Influencers in 2018?

Originally published in 2018, I explore the concept of influencers and their importance in the market.

How Important Are Online Influencers in 2018?
How Important Are Online Influencers in 2018?

Originally published on LinkedIn on April 4, 2018.

Unless you are a complete technophobe and haven’t switched on a computer or smart phone in the last ten years, you will probably have heard about or seen online influencers – even if you didn’t realise it at the time. If you have any social media accounts, then it’s practically a guarantee.

Influencer marketing sees companies team up with people on social media who have large and engaged followings to promote a product or service; these people are known as online (or digital/social media) “influencers”. For example, an up and coming beauty brand might partner with a well-known Instagram model, sending trial products to the model to be reviewed and praised on her Instagram account.

Countless brands and companies are now turning to influencer marketing as the new and trendiest way to connect with (and sell to) their target market. Of course, the idea of using influential people at the centre of an advertising or marketing campaign isn’t really a new idea at all. Think of all those celebrities posing for perfume brands, clothing lines, insurance companies and innumerable other products, using their sway over the general public to convince people to buy a product endorsed by their favourite actor/sportsperson/reality TV star.

Online influencers can roughly be split into three categories, depending on the size of their following: micro-influencers, macro-influencers, and mega-influencers. Don’t be fooled though – the size of a following is nowhere near as important as the amount of engagement an account receives. If you compare someone who has 250,000 followers but only gets 1% engagement on their average post to someone with 60,000 followers who has a 5% engagement rate, then you’re actually reaching and engaging with more people by using the micro-influencer.

It is undeniable that we are now in the era of social media; more than 3 billion people are on social media worldwide, and over 42 million of those users are in the UK. It’s not surprising then that brands are turning to this wildly popular form of media to promote their companies, products, and services. The stats around the subject speak for themselves, with 71% of consumers being more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. More and more, people are relying on recommendations from other people before committing to a product, and are turning to social media to find these recommendations.

Online influencers are an ideal way for companies to tap into this change in the way people shop. Of course, brands should be promoting themselves online and creating original and engaging content too, but research shows that even this is often not as effective as getting the word out through influencers. 86% of the most-viewed beauty videos on YouTube were made by influencers, with only 14% by the beauty brands themselves. Consumers are actually preferring to get their information about a product from online influencers rather than the brand itself.

Working with influencers is a fantastic way to get your brand noticed, and get people talking about your product or service. It’s obvious that people are not only taking notice of what influencers have to say but are actually seeking them out for an opinion when making purchasing decisions. And it’s not difficult to understand why influencers are so effective. They are able to be far more personable and authentic than a large corporation, and therefore feel more trustworthy to the consumer – people feel like they’re getting advice from someone they know.

There are so many benefits to using online influencers. Since people visiting an influencer’s social media channels will be people who have actively chosen to follow them online, as long as a brand chooses their influencer wisely they can rest assured that any promotional posts will be seen exclusively by people with a genuine interest in that field. This means that the marketing budget won’t be wasted on getting the word out to a bunch of people who were never going to be interested in your product!

Obviously, influencers’ friendly and authentic feel is appealing to your audience, but it has a more practical value as well. Online marketing is getting more and more difficult, with most people using ad blockers in their browsers and social media platforms coming down hard on obviously promotional posts by brands. Since influencers are using their personal social media accounts, they can promote a product or service in a far more organic manner – such as offering a review or “spontaneous” recommendation – which won’t be targeted by the new, stricter social media algorithms.

It is clear that in this ever-evolving world of online marketing, influencers are one of the most important assets around at the moment. They allow you to promote your brand to your target audience (no matter how niche – there’s a hashtag for everything!) in an organic-feeling way, which lets people feel comfortable and confident about your product or service, having read a review that is presented in a natural, word-of-mouth manner.