The Wild West is a romantic notion. On one hand, it could be a lawless, savage place. On the other, the sense of freedom that led to this lawlessness also inspires creativity and wonder that is difficult to match in other cultural icons. The west was wild, but that wasn’t a problem all the time. In the same way, emerging marketing channels often bring a sort of lawlessness of their own, but it is that very openness that can inspire new ideas and give organizations an opportunity to grow.
Influencer marketing, particular on Instagram, is a prime example of a growing trend that may be a bit unstructured now, but has considerable potential.
“The marketing industry is often dominated by rules.”
Marketing freedom shouldn’t be ignored
The marketing industry is often dominated by rules. If you want to do search engineering, you must balance out keyword phrases to get just enough attention, but not be thought of as trying to game the system and have your rankings punished accordingly. If you want to leverage YouTube, you must keep video within tight confines for length and subject matter to keep users engaged and give them what they expect on the channel. Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter fall into similar patterns, all with fairly rigid strategies that reside under the social marketing umbrella. Influencer marketing is changing the mold, and while the trend is most prominent on Instagram, it is edging its way into other social channels as well.
The freedom to operate without rigid, pre-existing expectations for marketing content can empower companies to try new strategies and engage audiences that may not gravitate toward traditional content types, and influencer marketing is a prime example of the value of flexibility and freedom within messaging.
Influencer marketing basics
At its core, influencer marketing is about identifying individuals who already have an audience relevant to your brand and leveraging those relationships – particularly the influencer at the center – in order to further business goals. Imagine the person with thousands of followers on Instagram: That individual may take pictures focusing on a specific subject area and occasionally highlight products as part of the social channel. That individual is an influencer. Followers may be swayed to purchase – or avoid – goods based on what the Instagram poster highlights. Partnering with influencers can be invaluable, but organizations must be careful to:
- Avoid overwhelming the personal identity of influencers with brand messaging.
- Build strong relationships to ensure influencers represent you in positive ways.
- Stay engaged with the influencers’ audiences to maintain a voice in the discussion, but avoid dominating the discourse.
Essentially, influencer marketing takes grassroots, word-of-mouth advertising and injects a bit of brand control into it. Therefore, it’s essential to avoid becoming so structured and brand-aware that the influencer’s identity gets lost. Maintaining some of that Wild West feel is essential, and it is also invaluable.
“Influencers can create a sense of intimacy with their audiences.”
Influencers shouldn’t be too popular
Imagine a public figure. Who is the first person to pop into your head? Does that individual seem to have a clear public brand or persona? In today’s world, that is probably the case. Celebrities, politicians and star athletes alike will use social media to engage audiences, but they also do it to build a brand. That may be part of why they aren’t always the best influencers. A recent Bloglovin’ study found that consumers are increasingly moving away from celebrities and following mid-sized influencers with smaller, but more engaged audiences instead, the Social Times reported.
Influencers can create a sense of intimacy with their audiences, but only if their persona comes across as genuine and real, not a carefully cultivated brand. This may also be part of why Instagram is so popular, as the image-focused channel is conducive to simple, personal storytelling instead of more careful communication. Approximately 60 percent of respondents to the Bloglovin’ survey identified Instagram as the best influencer channel.
Influencer marketing gaining maturity
Bloglovin’ isn’t the only source pointing to Instagram’s popularity. A SheSpeaks study found that Facebook and Instagram are widely considered the most prominent destinations for influencer marketing as the channels are conducive to using images and video. What’s more, the survey – which was published as part of an eMarketer report – found that 96 percent of influencers felt they had a positive or very positive experience when working with brands.
The value of video and images combines with the strong relationships between influencers and brands to show that influencer marketing may be maturing beyond its initial Wild West stage, but there is still plenty of room for experimentation. Because influencer marketing is so heavily reliant on unifying brand and influencer identities to create unique messages, it offers exciting opportunities for creativity that many traditional forms of marketing may struggle to match.
Moving beyond carefully cultivated facades can be powerful, and the Wild West-like nature of influencer marketing can give businesses a chance to reach customers in new, more intuitive ways. Find out how!