As 2018 quickly comes to a close, many marketing teams are reflecting on everything that happened over the past year. Trends came and went, new technology emerged, and many brands taught us what to do (and what not to do) in today’s quickly changing marketing space.
Of course, one of the biggest trends that seems to only be getting more and more popular is influencer marketing. According to Linquia’s report on the State of Marketing in 2018, 39% of businesses increased their budget specifically for influencer campaigns this year, and the majority of teams ran more than five influencer programs per brand throughout the year.
We know that influencer marketing can boost your website traffic and increase the number of brand conversations happening on social media. But just because a lot of brands are using this type of strategy doesn’t mean that they are all getting it right. Being that social media has taken center stage of this tactic, and it’s changing at such a fast pace, there is a lot left to learn about how and why it works.
While 2018 hopefully taught you many things, there are three clearly valuable lessons that we can take from some of the year’s most successful influencer campaigns.
1. Cause marketing has never been more powerful
Today’s consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with not just what they are buying, but where their money is being spent. More and more customers are reporting they would be willing to switch to a brand that supports a good cause, such as a non-profit, one that uses sustainable manufacturing practices, or even one that takes a strong political or social stance. However, it is important to note that 58% of consumers agree that they want to see the tangible impact that the brand is making – rather than just being told that a percentage of their payment is going towards a charity.
Influencers play huge roles in shaping the perception that both businesses and consumers can work for something greater than themselves. They can provide this link between the brand and the consumer to show the actual positive effects that the business is making, and they can build audience awareness about specific campaigns or causes that the brand is supporting.
Pedigree’s “Buy a Bag, Give a Bowl” campaign did a great job of linking influencers to their good cause. Pedigree partnered with several micro-influencers including lifestyle blogger Amanda Blakeman who shared a blog post and Instagram picture talking about her work with local shelters and how Pedigree donated food supplies. The brand also encouraged shelters and dog owners to include the branded hashtag #PedigreeGives to share their own personal stories.
Creating a community around a cause marketing hashtag is an excellent way to get more Instagram followers and generate more engagement with your influencer campaigns. You can also follow in Paul Mitchell’s footsteps with their #GivingIsMyStyle campaign that donated $1 to a charity for every single Tweet that included the hashtag. They partnered with some style influencers to get the ball rolling, and the campaign resulted in $16,000 being donated.
2. Authenticity is EVERYTHING
Building trust with your customers is incredibly important, especially with increasingly skeptical consumers. Generally speaking, people are getting really good at spotting when brands are not being totally honest, especially on social media. However, consumers are far more likely to trust people who they can relate to, such as their friends, colleagues, or influencers that share similar interests and values.
Choice Hotels recently launched an influencer campaign revolving around authentic reactions to their brand. The hotel chain was re-branding to connect with younger travelers and wanted to focus more on how their hotels offered amenities that would make them stay fun and productive. Choice Hotels encouraged a number of known travel bloggers and lifestyle influencers to document their stays and offer a genuine review of their experiences. Lifestyle blogger Chelsea Foy shared her weekend getaway details with a vlog post and a special giveaway to her viewers. Overall, the campaign created 40 million impressions through this authentic influencer content.
When you use this tactic, it is very important that you are connecting with influencers that have a strong sense of authenticity in everything they tie their name to. They should actually be fans of the product (or at least have tried it for themselves) in order to make their promotion genuine. If possible, you may want to invite the influencer to write the copy for their post themselves, rather than giving them a script to follow.
3. The bond between brands and lifestyle is crucial
Social media has brought branding and lifestyle VERY close together. Many of us now look to Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for inspiration for outfits, hairstyles, home décor, fitness routines, and what we want to eat that day. Social influencers have been key elements in helping brands turn their products into strong symbols that embody lifestyles.
Marketers understand that they must show customers how their product or service will positively affect their everyday lives. Influencers are the perfect tool here to not just tell, but actively show how a specific product improves their daily lives and how easy it can be to use.
Lenovo did a great job of building this connection when they partnered with a well-known mommy blogger and influencer Kileen to promote their new YOGA PRO 3 Ultrabook laptop. Kileen had recently given birth and shared stories of how she was able to keep her blog and business running easily by using the Lenovo Ultrabook while balancing life with a newborn. She noted the features that she appreciated most, like its pivot mode that allowed her to use it handsfree while cooking, nursing, or doing yoga. She shared how this could be used practically by new moms so that they could try new recipes, answer emails, or start a new fitness routine with a small lightweight laptop that would easily slip into their diaper bag.
This campaign showcased the product’s versatility and practicality for this specific niche audience. As you look for opportunities to connect with influencers, make sure your product meshes with the lifestyle of both the influencer and their audience.
As 2019 rolls in, we can expect to see even more influencer campaigns from big and small brands alike. Clearly, this strategy is working to build amazing connections between businesses and their customers when executed correctly. Take these lessons into the new year and see what new trends will make your influencer campaigns even better.
Guest author: Manish Dudharejia is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.