3 Key lessons from my dissertation on social media influencer marketing

My post-graduate degree comes to a close with a 15,000 word dissertation on influencer marketing. With the pressure of getting that word count in, I was at risk of losing sight of what I was actually trying to find out. But upon reflecting on all of the things I’ve learned throughout the process, I was surprised how many practical lessons I’ve learned. I interviewed 6 marketers that have dabbled in social media influencer marketing, and there are a few things that kept coming up again and again with each interviewee. So here are 3 key things that I think every marketer interested in utilising social media influencers should keep in mind.

  1. The audience won’t buy into the brand if the influencer doesn’t believe in it

When searching for the right social media influencer for your client’s brand, it’s worth looking for influencers who are already interested in the products or services the brand provides. Paying an influencer to promote a product they don’t use, or have any interest in using, will result in mediocre content that lacks any enthusiasm. It also means that the audience will struggle to perceive the content as authentic and believable. When the audience believes that the influencer truly likes the product they’re endorsing, it won’t matter if they know the influencer is being paid to talk about it. The relationship of trust between the creator and audience is what makes them so lucrative for brands. But if you’re looking to meet KPIs – whether that’s raising awareness, getting clicks on a landing page, or generating sales, the influencer has to truly be an advocate of the brand. They have to believe in it, use it and love it.

  1. The creation of content should be an equal partnership between the brand and the influencer

If relinquishing creative control is not something your client is interested in, influencer marketing is not the way to go. Influencers are influencers because they have been able to produce content that resonates with people to an extent where they have garnered dedicated audiences. In other words, they know what messages will be relatable to their audience. The integration of the endorsed product or service into the influencer’s content (whether it’s an Instagram picture, a tweet or a YouTube video) has to be seamless, and make sense to the audience. The only way to do that is to involve the influencer in the content process as early as possible.

  1. Long-term partnership with an influencer is the way to go for brands

Utilising SMIs for brand promotions isn’t about a one-off exchange. Changing purchase behaviour and creating desirable associations for the brand are things that happen over time. So influencer marketing campaigns are about long-standing relationships between the influencer and the brand. Every time the influencer talks about the product on their social channels, connections will be made in the minds of the audience: “the influencer I trust/look up to/relate to = the brand”. Therefore, ongoing relationships with influencers are more likely to make a real impact.

So to sum up, pick an influencer who’s already a fan of the brand, involve them in the content making process, and develop a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

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