For the last several years now there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding influencer marketing as a tactic. And with good reason, too. Working with influencers can help brands get in front of new audiences that trust said influencer. A whole ecosystem of software, technology and services have cropped up to help brands with their influencer endeavors, too. Add to that the uptick in quasi-celeb types on YouTube, Instagram and other platforms. There’s no shortage of opportunity to leverage influencers in marketing.
That said, there’s only three ways a brand can work with an influencer – hire them and make them an employee (owned media), pay them for their services (paid media), or convince them to collaborate for free (earned media).
It is easy to view influencer advertising as a smaller segment of the broader activity of marketing with influencers, but knowing how the two differ can actually be incredibly useful to a budding marketer. Which will work better for you and your brand? Well, here’s how we see it.
Broadly speaking, influencer marketing means brands working with influencers in order to market their products to a specific influencer’s audience (one which, as we all know, must align with the brand’s target customers). However, on a more specific level, it involves a brand and influencer relationship with mutual understanding, and both being striving towards the same end goals. Naturally, this will involve brands and influencers within the same vertical working together, and necessarily requires the two to believe in the journey of the other. It makes a lot of sense when you consider that the main aim of brands using influencer marketing, is to be showcased to an appropriate audience by a voice that said audience trusts.
Main benefits of Influencer Marketing
- Authenticity: The fact that influencer marketing involves such a close partnership and relationship between a brand and influencer(s) ensures that any promotion and/or content produced by the influencer will be a genuine and authentic endorsement of the brand. In today’s advert-hostile market, authentic publicity can get you a long, long way indeed.
- Secure relationships and more assured outcomes: Building a relationship with an influencer is not only beneficial in terms of publicity, but it also means that you will be able to trust that your influencer is representing you with integrity, leading to quality ROIs.
- Reduced risk of influencer gaffes: a strong brand-influencer relationship makes this kind of slip-up much less likely.
Whereas influencer marketing focuses on an influencer and brand working together with common interests, influencer advertising is a much more wham-bam-thank-you-maam deal. It involves brands paying high-profile personalities (both digital and otherwise) to mention and endorse their products. There is not a lot of relationship building, and not a lot of continuing contact. It’s a quick, easy and often expensive way for brands and influencers to do business, and has its roots in the traditional marketing sphere, where time is money, and money is everything.
Main benefits of Influencer Advertising
- Less labour intensive: Influencer advertising often comes at a price, particularly when working with the higher tier of influential figure, but it involves a lot less work than building
- More chance of attracting the big players: Celebrities and macro influencers (which are basically one and the same) are busy, busy people. They are much more likely to want to sign on the dotted line for an influencer deal that involves less work and more money. Often, pasting a line of pre-prepared copy into an Instagram post (provided it is the right copy) and collecting money for the troubles is more attractive than investing time and attention into a long-standing brand collaboration.
On the whole, larger companies short on time, but with sizeable budgets, are better placed to have success with influencer advertising, whilst smaller brands will reap the benefits when working with influencers on a more focused scale. However, there is significant research to suggest that smaller influencers often garner more trust and engagement than their macro counterparts.