Recent studies have counted more than half a million active social media influencers on Instagram alone. That’s a lot of niche-specific clout. So, how should a marketing department choose to leverage the potential for brand enhancement offered by this myriad of influencers? The first question brand managers should answer is “which sort of social media influencer should I hire?”
To answer this question, we need to take a look at several different ways influencers operate on social media. This will give savvy brand managers the information they need to determine which kind of social media influencer will work best for their campaign. Here are some examples to consider:
Bloggers and video bloggers (vloggers) work well as influencers within niche-specific campaigns, because those content producers are already connected with a market niche. People consume their content for a specific reason, so brands with products that fit that niche can work with the niche-specific influence the blogger has already built.
Bloggers who work on a specific schedule also bring a sense of immediacy that allows brands to track response. If they see an uptick in interest or purchases that coincides with the blogger publishing content, they know the influencer campaign has some traction.
Social media influencers do not necessarily have to create original content like bloggers. Some just offer fans a glimpse into their day-to-day lives. These influencers work on consistent engagement with their fans to build rapport and deepen trust. They may have some interesting knowledge to share, or they may just lead a compelling life. Either way, they have eyes on them.
One of the biggest differences between paid celebrity endorsers and these social connectors is the perception of the fans that these are, in general, “regular people,” rather than manufactured celebrities. Because of this dynamic, fan trust tends to run very high.
While many brands have misfired when trying to connect with consumers through social or political causes, others – Patagonia for example – have built their brands around these issues. For brands interested in leveraging a cause to build brand awareness or engagement, connecting with an activist influencer can be a good move.
This can be a dicey proposition. The key is to know going in exactly what the message is, and maintain creative control of that message, as well as an “out” if the activist goes off-script while promoting the brand. This way, the brand manager reaps the benefits while distancing themselves from the potential blowback.
Brands that want to connect with the cutting edge of a specific industry or niche would be well-advised to look for thought leaders in that industry to be influencers for their brand. Fans do not follow these thought leaders because of their preferences but because of their vision. Brand managers could position their product or service as part of that greater vision, creating a connection with the vision of the thought leader. Who better to make that connection than the thought leader themselves?
Hiring a thought leader to help define a brand as part of the overall vision, helps define the mission and vision of the brand for the consumer. When the consumer is already connected with that social or political ideal, they gain respect for the brand because of the perceived connection.
The niche-splitting that can be done with influencers is nearly endless. Brand managers should consider influencers that would work for single campaigns as well as those who might work across multiple campaigns.