It isn’t a stretch to say that social influencers are more valuable to brands today than ever before. Their role in marketing campaigns isn’t new – generating word of mouth has always been an advertising priority – but modern influencers have an amplified voice that can be heard around the world. Their soapbox is the Internet, their bullhorn social media.
When they talk, consumers listen.
Today’s influencers take many forms, which may be why brands sometimes struggle to connect with them and gain their trust. Some influencers are experts in their field, with a fan base and social follower count that rival those of minor celebrities. Others are bloggers and YouTube entrepreneurs. Still others are activists and academics. What do they all have in common? They’re opinion leaders. What they say online can affect brand perceptions and the purchase decisions of others. It’s for this reason that marketers are currently embracing social influencers so heartily.
Collaborate With Bloggers
Working with ad network Burst Media, brands like McDonald’s and Bisquick use social influencer programs to identify and connect with influential bloggers online. Both blog-based native posts and rich media ads that incorporate blogger-generated content allow advertisers to reach loyal blog audiences with interesting and useful product ideas.
The key word here is useful: this approach to influencer marketing puts content front and center. In a post for Payless ShoeSource, a fashion blogger specializing in styles for moms offered tips for wearing a new line of Payless shoes. Another program for discount variety store Dollar Tree saw Hoosier Homemade bloggers show readers how to create a candy corn paper craft for Halloween (labeling at the top and bottom of the page identified both posts as sponsored content).
Also working with Burst, Betty Crocker opted for a display ad that linked to birthday recipes on various blogs. Through a single rich media banner, consumers quadrupled their available content – content produced by bloggers with a reputation for their appealing cooking and baking ideas.
Harness Internal Expertise
IBM is taking a similar approach, but instead of tapping third-party content producers it found its social influencers closer to home. As Contently explained earlier this year, IBM’s corporate site links to some 45 employees blogs, all of which are independently maintained. The staff blogs cover everything from social networking to storage networks and supply chains, producing pages upon pages of relevant tech content. In essence, this content marketing strategy crowdsources internal business knowledge to enhance the value of IBM’s site for its customers.
See Value in the Visual Web
One of the anticipated digital marketing trends for 2015 is the rise of visual influencers: niche content creators on Instagram and YouTube who are increasingly demonstrating interest in partnering with brands. This tactic is particularly valuable to brands targeting Millennials, the primary audience for many of these influencers’ feeds.
New services like FameBit are making it easier for brands to collaborate with YouTube influencers; brands set a budget, choose a YouTube star from among multiple relevant profiles and channels, and enlist them to create product reviews and mentions that reach the influencers’ fans.
On Instagram, consumers are using their online clout as currency, trading custom-posts for goods and services. As The New York Times reports, Mercedes is among the brands that has teamed with Instagrammers to create a photo series and generate hashtag mentions that resonate with the community’s bounty of millennial consumers.
Is content generated by social influencers the new consumer-generated media? It’s equal in authenticity, but comes with far greater reach and impact than the average consumer post.
As you head into 2015, consider the ways in which social influencers can benefit your brand. Word of mouth, or mouse, is sounding more and more like the future of digital marketing.
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