The popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok have paved the way for the arrival of a novel type of digital marketing activity and a specific subset of social media marketing: influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing centers primarily on tapping individuals called “influencers” who have a sizeable and suitable social media following or have relevant and established expertise or social influence in their respective fields to promote products or endorse a particular cause.
This subset of social media marketing shares similarities with celebrity endorsements and testimonial marketing promotion. It can also utilize different marketing tactics and techniques to include product placement, digital advertising, and public relations.
Pros of Influencer Marketing: Advantages and Effectiveness
A major advantage of influencer marketing is that it can influence the decisions and shape the perception of the target audience. For example, promoting a product by tapping social media influencers can help in influencing the purchasing decisions of consumers. The same is true for getting an idea across like-minded individuals.
Targeted or Niche-Specific Distribution of Marketing Messages
One of the more specific advantages of influencer marketing is that it can help in the distribution of marketing messages aimed at building and increasing brand awareness and product recognition or specific ideas related to a particular cause to a refined or targeted audience.
Using influencers in marketing can be a form of niche marketing. A number of influencers have an audience or following composed of individuals who share the same influence. Examples include technology vloggers and beauty vloggers.
Having a beauty vlogger promote a beauty brand can help in reaching a niche market composed of consumers who are into using skincare products. It is safe to assume that an established beauty influencer has followers composed of these beauty enthusiasts.
The review study of A. Chopra, V. Avhad, and S. Jaju concluded that influencers should be judiciously used to target a niche market. The effectiveness of influencer marketing depends on identifying and choosing the right type of influencer.
Helpful in Building and Gaining Audience or Consumer Trust
Influencer marketing takes advantage of the established relationship between an influencer and his or her followers. Note that an influencer appeals to his or her followers. These followers also have a considerable level of loyalty toward a particular influencer
Tapping an established influencer to deliver marketing messages to include product testimonials on behalf of a brand or endorsement of a particular idea on behalf of a cause allows marketers to possibly build and gain the trust of his or her followers.
Researchers K. Y. Koay, C. W. Teoh, and P. C. Soh investigated how Instagram influencers affect online impulse buying. Their study revealed that the trustworthiness of these influencers has a significant positive impact on online impulse buying.
Further results of the study revealed that the attractiveness and trustworthiness of these influencers serve as mediating factors in the relationship between perceived social media marketing activities and online impulse buying.
Humanizing a Brand or Product Through Narratives
The contents made and published by influencers are somewhat personal. Marketing messages channeled through these individuals are more relatable than celebrity endorsements seen in traditional advertising or product placements.
Note that when a social media influencer promotes a product on his or her social media channels, he or she is using his or her authority as an expert on a particular field while also integrating personal anecdotes and opinions on his or her presentation.
Influencers are essentially storytellers. It is for this reason that another notable advantage of influencer marketing is that it can be a good marketing tactic to help humanize a brand or product for it to become more relatable to the target audience.
A study by Zhou et al. involving the Chinese luxury market showed that the narrative strategies of social media influencers help in creating high-value electronic word-of-mouth content, thereby making it a defining factor in influencer marketing effectiveness.
Leveraging Herd Instinct Through Influencer Marketing
Herding is a phenomenon in which individuals in a group act collectively without centralized direction. The theory of herd behavior or her mentality is a theory that essentially suggests that people do not act autonomously most of the time.
Note that herd mentality is a basic human instinct that represents an innate attempt to fit in and be accepted. The phenomenon has been applied in marketing. Marketers believe that consumers do not act autonomously by default and marketing can influence their decisions.
Tapping social media influencers can be part of a specific marketing strategy aimed at capitalizing on the instinctive need of individuals to fit in. Remember that established influencers already have a sizeable audience of loyal followers.
Similar to using celebrities as endorsers, the prominent status of influencers and the influence they have over their audience can be used as a catalyst to trigger the natural tendency of their followers to act as a collective like-minded group.
Complements Other Digital and Social Media Marketing Activities
Remember that influencer marketing is a subset of social media marketing and a specific activity within the overall realm of digital marketing. Part of an effective marketing strategy is the inclusion of all relevant tactics, activities, techniques, and channels.
Commissioning social media influencers can support specific marketing goals and objectives. As an example, these individuals can be tapped to promote further the social media presence of a brand or increase its own social media following.
These influencers can also help in moment marketing and viral marketing activities aimed at increasing brand awareness or achieving more specific goals such as new product launch, rebranding and product relaunch, and sales promotion.
Digital marketing strategies such as online-enabled affiliate marketing, direct selling, and content marketing are also compatible with influencer marketing. Social media influencers can essentially sell products on behalf of a brand or help in the creation of marketing content.
Cons of Influencer Marketing: Disadvantages and Issues
Of course, despite the advantages mentioned above, tapping social media influencers to promote a brand, product, or cause will not guarantee success in meeting marketing goals and objectives. The inherent disadvantages of influencer marketing can affect not only the aspired results of an overall marketing strategy but also the integrity of a brand.
The Need to Qualify the Most Suitable Social Media Influencers
A key disadvantage of social media marketing is that digital marketers need to choose the most fitting social media platforms to ensure that their overall marketing campaign and specific social media marketing strategy are both effective and efficient.
The same is true for influencer marketing. Marketers need to select individuals who can best represent their brands and deliver the marketing messages they intend to convey. This can be challenging because there are a lot of influencers out there.
Some individuals cater to a particular niche market. Some can reach a specific geographical location. However, there are social media influencers with diverse followers coming from different demographical and geographic backgrounds.
It is important to align the collective profile of the followers of a particular influencer with the identified target market of a brand to ensure targeted reach. Furthermore, it is also critical to choose an influencer whose public image aligns with the brand image.
Risk of Negative Publicity Due to the Public Image of an Influencer
Another disadvantage of influencer marketing is that it exposes a particular brand to risks associated with the public image of a social media influencer. Remember that there should be an alignment between a prospective influencer and the brand.
The study of S. M. Choi and N. J. Rifon showed that consumers indirectly considered prominent individuals as their role models. An earlier study by McCracken also mentioned that individuals obtained self-concept when using the products endorsed by their idols.
Note that the studies referenced above illustrate the one-way relationship between celebrated public figures and their loyal followers. These prominent individuals strongly influence not only the decisions but also the identities of their supporters.
However, controversies can ruin how the public perceives a celebrated individual. By extension, it can ruin the image of the brand they are representing. Using celebrity endorsers and social media influencers to promote a brand comes with this risk.
Measuring the Potential and Effectiveness of Influencer Marketing
Collecting and analyzing data are critical in making the right marketing decisions, as well as in evaluating the success of a specific marketing campaign or the overall marketing strategy. However, measurement is one of the major issues in influencer marketing.
Remember that it is essential for marketers to choose the most suitable influencers. But this requires being able to use the right analytical tools. Tapping an individual with a sizeable number of followers in one of his or her platforms does not guarantee results.
Marketers must secure the needed data and audience insights to help them understand the collective profile and quality of a particular set of followers of an influencer they are eyeing. Influencer selection depends on a set of metrics.
Furthermore, the effectiveness of a social media influencer in meeting specific marketing goals and objectives can only be determined through measurement. Marketers need to utilize tools and techniques needed to evaluate the performance of the influencers they have hired.
A Tendency Toward the Standardization of Shared Contents
Contents are the main product of social media influencers. Marketers tap these individuals to capitalize not only on their appeal and influencer over their followers but also on their capabilities to produce engaging and impactful contents.
The so-called “professionalization” of these prominent social media personalities is starting to become an emerging disadvantage of influencer marketing. Researchers Loes van Driel and Delia Dumitrica investigate the impact of this phenomenon.
A main argument of their study states that successful social media influencers are determined by their capacity to negotiate a tension: the need to appear authentic while strategically approaching their followers to remain appealing to advertisers.
However, due to the professionalization of the entire practice, the tension experienced by these influencers have resulted in the standardization of the contents they share, thereby affecting their authenticity and appearing as mere channels for marketing brands.
Others Issues and Drawbacks of Influencer Marketing
Another disadvantage of influencer marketing is cost. It is still cheaper than placing advertisements on traditional mediums to include television, print, and outdoors. But the cost of tapping influencers can vary depending on their status and prominence.
Upstart influencers are less expensive. Some are free or can be commissioned through exchange deals. However, an established influencer can cost between USD 1000 to USD 3000 per month or per campaign. It is more ideal to tap more than one influencer.
There is also the problem concerning so-called influencer fraud. Some social media users have artificially inflated their number of followers by hiring service provides that can give them dummy social media accounts, as well as inorganic reach and engagement.
A 2018 article that appeared on PRWeek mentioned that an analysis of over 7000 influencers in the United Kingdom showed that half of their followers are considered low-quality. Influencer fraud had an estimated cost of USD 1.3 billion in 2018.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Choi, S.M. and Rifon, N. J. 2012. “It Is A Match: The Impact Of Congruence Between Celebrity Image And Consumer Ideal Self On Endorsement Effectiveness.” Psychology and Marketing. 29(9): 639-650. DOI: 1002/mar.20550
- Chopra, A., Avhad, V., and Jaju, S. 2020. “Influencer Marketing: An Exploratory Study to Identify Antecedents of Consumer Behavior of Millennials.” Business Perspectives of Research. 9(1). DOI: 1177/2278533720923486
- Koay, K. Y., Teoh, C. W., and Soh, P. C. 2021. “Instagram Influencer Marketing: Perceived Social Media Marketing Activities and Online Impulse Buying.” First Monday. 26(9). DOI: 5210/fm.v26i9.11598
- McCracken, G. 1989. “Who Is The Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations Of The Endorsement Process.” Journal of Consumer Research. 16: 310-321. DOI: 1086/209217
- J. 2018. “Blurred Lines – Closing in On the Influencer Frauds.” PRWeek. Available online
- Van Driel, L. and Dumitrica, D. 2020. “Selling Brands While Staying ‘Authentic’: The Professionalization of Instagram Influencers. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 27(1): 66-84. DOI: 1177/1354856520902136
- Zhou, S., Blazquez, M., McCormick, H., and Barnes, L. 2021. “How Social Media Influencers’ Narrative Strategies Benefit Cultivating Influencer Marketing: Tackling Issues of Cultural Barriers, Commercialized Content, and Sponsorship Disclosure.” Journal of Business Research. 134: 122-142. DOI: 1016/j.jbusres.2021.05.011