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By Paige GrahamTempesta Media Senior Manager, Marketing and Strategic Alliances

First and foremost, it’s an incredibly exciting and compelling time to be a digital marketer. New trends are arising as tried-and-true methods are falling out of the marketing funnel. As social media continues to rise to increasing dominance, a new trend has arrived at the forefront of the digital marketing lexicon: influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing emphasizes the individual rather than the target market as a whole by identifying key influencers who hold clout over potential buyers. Rather than rely on companies as they did in the past, today’s ordinary consumers look to each other’s experiences to gauge the reliability of a product or service. In addition, consumers also look at the choices and habits of their favorite personalities, who have incredible followings on different social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.

For this reason, many believe that influencer marketing the next big trend in digital marketing. At its simplest, influencer marketing refers to promoting a product through an influential person. Its popularity continues to grow, with a 2015 Tomoson marketer survey showing it as the fastest growing marketing channel.

Influencer marketing is grounded in old theory

Although influencer marketing is still relatively new in the grand scheme of digital marketing, the concept is actually based on a relatively established theory of communication called the Two-step Flow of Communication. The theory suggests that media information, before reaching mass audiences, first passes through “opinion leaders” or “thought leaders,” who actively consume, interpret and disseminate media information.

Though this theory is decades old, influencer marketing is especially relevant today and an incredibly effective way to reach the average consumer.

Influencers help build authority

Collaborating with influential figures is one way of building awareness and authority. By leveraging an influencer’s clout and reputation, marketers can build their brand’s credibility, establishing themselves as reliable and worthy of their customers’ trust.

A simple brand or product mention by an influencer—especially if it is an organic mention—is powerful enough to generate thousands of clicks to that brand’s website.

This strategy is how Squarespace marketed the company online, using the influence of prominent YouTubers and YouTube channels such as Philip DeFranco, Unboxed Therapy and Screen Junkies, among many others.

Influencer marketing builds an audience

Because influencer marketing allows brands to tap an influencer’s followers, thereby establishing the brand’s authority, it also makes it easier for brands to rank on search engines like Google.

Although the methodology of how search engines calculate authority is one of the best-hidden secrets of the 21st century, it is generally understood that factors such as engagement, popularity and references from popular accounts (i.e. influencers) among others all come together as a primary signal for ranking websites.

In other words, building authority through influencer marketing is one of the fastest ways to improve a site’s rankings on Google and other search engines.

Influencer marketing appeals to human emotion

Many marketers tend to focus on quantitative metrics like web analytics, conversions and click-through rates to understand the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Though this numeric approach provides a compelling rationale for marketing campaigns, effective communication and marketing often boil down to human emotion. And influencer marketing cpaitalizes on this human emotion, appealing to a variety of feelings held by consumers.

Take ashion,for example. Fashion is an industry that is rooted in trendsetting as its bread and butter. When retailer Lord & Taylor collaborated with 50 fashion influencers on Instagram to post pictures wearing the same dress on the same day, this campaign promptly caused the dress to sell out that weekend.

The effect is simple: consumers listen to people that influence them and promptly follow their actions when possible. Perhaps one could chalk it up to a desire to be trendy or keep up. Nonetheless, the appeal is certainly there.

Influencer marketing looks organic

Although paid advertising continues to have its place in digital marketing, the reality is that ad blockers are making it increasingly more difficult to reach audiences through traditional ads. An Ad Blocking Report in 2015 commissioned by Adobe and PageFair found that more than 190 million internet users around the world use ad blocking software.

Simply put, the growing distrust of traditional ads is rendering many former marketing methods ineffective. Influencer marketing allows marketers to bypass this barrier through influencer and celebrity endorsements, all in a manner that appears organic. As the Lord & Taylor campaign showed, consumers trust people they consider influencers more than they do the company itself.

Conclusion

It is easy to understand how and why influencer marketing is quickly growing in popularity. As online users become overloaded by online ads, brands have to find alternative ways to push messages to their respective markets. Influencers offer a potential shortcut for this problem, one that, while effective, does not usually come cheap.

Influencer marketing, currently a complicated and often expensive proposition, involves a still-evolving branch of marketing research. It’s important to understand the ideal influencer that a company’s target audience will identify with the most; simply approaching random celebrities and paying them for an endorsement will only yield results if that influencer is someone your potential customers trust. Tempesta Media will soon be releasing its own targeted influencer marketing program that takes out much of the legwork for companies. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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