Once considered a fad, influencer marketing is now an effective, lucrative marketing practice that’s here to stay. In fact, Bloomberg reports that $255 million is spent on influencer marketing monthly and that spending will continue to rise in the coming years.
Online influencers are revolutionizing future sales and marketing strategies. Digital marketing professionals must have a firm understanding of digital media advertising to stay relevant. For this reason, digital marketing is now a major element in the curricula of many Bachelor of Science in Marketing (BSM) programs.. Whether a marketing candidate is pursuing a digital marketing or public relations career, understanding how online influencers are shaping future practices will be essential to reach potential customers and deliver successful sales results.
Who Are Online Influencers?
Online influencers are social media users who have a large number of followers on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. These followers engage with the influencer by liking, sharing, and commenting on the content posted. Although many influencers are celebrities, politicians, and athletes, others are relatively unknown to the public when they first start out. They build a large social media presence by regularly posting content that their followers find educational or entertaining. The amount of credibility and authenticity an influencer has shapes their ability to persuade and gain trust.
Influencer marketing refers to leveraging an influencer’s clout and audience reach to promote a brand, increase product or service sales, or both. Savvy influencers not only post social media content but also negotiate partnerships with corporations and organizations that include compensation and other perks.
Online Influencers Are Shifting Future Sales and Marketing Strategies
A 2016 study by Linqia, an influencer marketing company, found that 86% of marketers have used influencer marketing, and 94% report effective results. Influencer marketing’s prominence means aspiring marketing professionals should understand how influencer marketing grew and what trends are on the horizon.
The Rise of the Online Influencer
Professional influencers break away from traditional marketing practices, such as scripted commercial advertisements. An online influencer’s allure is their sometimes outsized relatability. They earn their followers’ trust by showing that they share similar values and traits. Several other factors have contributed to the growing popularity of online influencers.
- Increasing distrust of traditional media. MuseFind, an influencer marketing platform, found that 92% of consumers place more trust in advertisements delivered by an influencer than a traditional advertisement or endorsement by a celebrity.
- Increasing popularity of ad blockers. MuseFind found that 47% of customers use ad blockers to prevent ads from being displayed. This technology prevents traditional digital advertising from reaching its target audiences. It does not prevent an influencer’s content from reaching that influencer’s audience.
- Increasing growth in social media spending. According to the 2018 CMO Survey, conducted by the American Marketing Association, corporate social media spending rose to a record high, averaging 13% of marketing budgets. This trend is expected to continue, rising to 22.9% of marketing budgets over the next five years. Such spending would certainly include money and incentives (for example, product samples and paid trips) for influencers – which in turn will continue to entice popular social media personalities to align with brands.
The Impact of Influencers on Future Sales Campaigns
Using online influencers can produce strong results for sales and marketing professionals. For future sales campaigns, it’s important to integrate influencer strategies to maximize return on investment. The following are some important considerations when developing a strategic partnership with an influencer:
- Select an influencer based on their complete portfolio. Total followers doesn’t always translate into strong sales results. While it may be tempting to evaluate an influencer based on follower count, other factors should be considered. For instance, a luxury brand may be better suited to partner with an influencer with fewer followers, but whose followers have higher disposable incomes.
- Set key performance indicators at the beginning of a campaign. It’s important to pinpoint the actual goal when establishing an influencer partnership. Is it to promote the brand and grow awareness, correct misinformation about the brand, or increase and generate sales? In an interview with Forbes, Jennifer Powell, a digital brand strategist and talent agent, said that rarely are influencers adept at being the face of a campaign and generating sales. The personal characteristics and traits displayed on an influencer’s social platform should be compatible with the campaign’s goals.
- Avoid conflicting messages. Other brands the prospective influencer currently partners with must be considered. People might be confused if the influencer also partners with a competing brand or a brand with conflicting values.
The Future of Online Influence
As the role of online influencers continues to evolve, it’s important for savvy sales and marketing professionals to stay current on new influencer marketing tactics that create brand awareness and generate company revenue. Here are some future trends in influencer marketing.
- Beyond online influencing. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s more to being an online influencer than posting on social media. Long-term partnerships with a brand or organization may include event appearances, meet and greets, and licensing deals for special collections or product lines.
- Leveraging the power of engagement. Online influencers can provide sales professionals with valuable feedback and customer insights. Influencers engage with users through the comments sections of their platforms. They can correct misinformation, answer questions, and report their findings to their sponsors.
- Virtual influencers. Virtual influencers are a less-common trend. Virtual influencers, as the name suggests, are computer-generated personas, such as Shudu Gram, the self-dubbed “world’s first digital supermodel,” with an Instagram profile that boasts several brand partnerships. These digital constructs can be attractive to brands wanting to avoid the erratic or unpredictable behavior of human influencers.
Sales and marketing practices continue to advance as consumer media consumption and advertising preferences evolve. Marketing professionals have an exciting opportunity to take part in this digital revolution by implementing effective influencer campaigns and other strategies at the forefront of the advertising field. If you aspire to become a future sales or marketing professional, the Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Marketing degree can help prepare you for this role.