For many years, television, radio and magazine advertisements were the primary source of brand marketing. Nowadays, people consume content in a variety of different ways and with the rise of social media, brands are turning their attention to the new, modern era and are moving away from the more traditional forms of marketing.There is no doubt that social media influencers are just one of the many attributes causing influencer marketing to soar. The intensity and passion provided by influencers promoting their own ranges, lines and creations is a clear indicator of the buzz they can make surrounding the brands they promote, partner with or simply mention in passing.During 2014-2016, statistics highlight that consumers were beginning to be influenced by influencer marketing. At the time,

40% of people

said they had purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube;

70% of influencers

felt that the most effective way to collaborate with brands is through an influencer marketing platform, and

74% of people

turned to social networks for guidance on purchase decisions.Since then, the industry has come on in leaps and bounds, becoming one of the most impactful forms of digital marketing. With influencers turning their social media status into a brand within its own right, let’s take a look at how they are taking branding to a whole new level.

Influencers boosting brand awareness

Many brands have experienced an increase in sales and brand awareness with the help of influencer marketing, but how exactly can influencer marketing boost brand awareness? Influencer marketing is no longer just a shout-out on social media. Instead, It takes on a more strategic approach with clear aims, goals and targets to be reached. When brands use a credible influencer as a brand ambassador, it can aid consumer sales, spread positivity about the brand as well as raise brand awareness. Paving the way for potential future relationships between them and the brand, influencers act as the face of a brand, helping them to grow and develop across social media. Brand ambassadors also humanise a brand, making them appear personable and friendly as opposed to being a faceless company. They also help to protect a brand’s reputation, defending them against any negative press and sharing only positive and real experiences.Brands supplying influencers with a referral or promo code is a simple and cost-effective way to work with influencers, which in turn could provide brands with a much greater return on investment. The same applies for affiliate links. Affiliate links allow influencers to receive a small percentage of commission for each product sold via their link. This encourages influencers to share these links with their followers, which will drive traffic to the brand’s site, therefore increasing product sales.An influencer marketing campaign may also consist of a social media takeover. Having an influencer take over a brand’s social media platforms such as Instagram can lead to a huge increase in followers. By announcing on their own channels that they will be doing a social media takeover, this will draw the attention of their followers towards the brand, successfully boosting brand awareness.Amelia Neate, senior manager of Influencer Matchmaker says: “When selecting the right influencer, you need to ensure your values align and they are going to reach the right audience. The number of followers they have can be deceptive and often irrelevant. The key is understanding who is following and, more importantly, engaging with them. Are the people engaging with them the kind of people you ultimately want to reach?”

Just how influential are they?

Fans of social media influencers trust their judgement completely and are inspired to follow in the footsteps of their idols, purchasing the products they discuss in masses. Whether it’s a new beauty product or a trendy new gadget, influencers appear to have the power to completely influence consumer shopping decisions with just a few words or a snap on Instagram.According to research carried out by Tamba, 84% of consumers turn to reviews as a trusted source of information when it comes to a purchasing decision. This consists of social media influencer reviews, as well as sponsored posts having the same effect on shopping habits as a friend or relative suggesting a product. 63% of consumers aged between 13-24 said that they would try a brand or product that had been recommended by a YouTube content creator or influencer.Here are a few examples proving just how influential these social media stars are:American beauty influencer Jeffree Star spoke about the Elf Cosmetics Poreless Putty Primer causing it to sell out worldwide and over 100,00 signed up to waiting list.Cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch regularly beams about her favourite selection of cleaning products to her 2.8+ million Instagram followers, in particular, Zoflora. Her followers, also known as ‘Hinchers’, led to the disinfectant brand having a 28% increase in sales and causing them to double their production in order to meet the heightened demand.Proving just how powerful influencers are, Kylie Jenner led social media platform Snapchat to lose an estimated $1.3 billion in shares by posting about how little she uses the platform.

How effective is it?

Influencer marketing is a digital and online form of traditional ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing and is no longer a numbers game in terms of followers. Although an influencers follower count is important, the levels of engagement with their audience is arguably more important. This is why many brands are now opting to work with micro-influencers as opposed to macro-influencers as they have a much more loyal following and higher engagement rates. When executed correctly and with the right strategy, influencer marketing is extremely effective. So much so that according to MediaKix, 89% of marketers get comparable, if not a better ROI than more traditional forms of marketing.Amelia explains some of the crucial aspects to create a successful and effective influencer marketing campaign: “Identifying your objectives and goals early on is key to understanding and measuring your return on investment – what is it you are hoping to achieve? Brand awareness or direct sales? There needs to be a balance of the influencer having creative control but also making sure they get across the right brand messaging.”

Influencers are now becoming their own brand

Influencers are becoming increasingly popular with audiences of all ages and backgrounds, and recent years have seen them create and launch their very own brands and product ranges. These ranges are often huge hits with their loyal fan base, as well as attracting the attention of consumers outside of their usual following.Brands are realising that influencers are becoming brands within their own right and are starting to collaborate with them as a brand rather than just an influencer.For example, as the OG social media influencer, Zoe Sugg started out as Zoella before rebranding her total online persona and is now the ‘founder’ of the brand, Zoella. Zoe has launched an array of product ranges and umbrella brands, including Zoella Beauty and Zoella Lifestyle. Brands now pay to work with Zoella as opposed to Zoe Sugg and are opting to work on long-term collaborations instead of one-off sponsored posts. At the beginning of 2019, American beauty giant ColourPop collaborated with Zoella on an entire makeup range, consisting of an eyeshadow palette, lip bundles and a makeup bag. The Zoella brand has recently teamed up with LED neon art brand Bag and Bones on a range of neon lights, with the aim to raise money for charity. By teaming up with the world-renowned Zoella brand, Bag and Bones are reaching a much wider audience which will in turn boost brand awareness, sales and generate traffic to their site.

Influencers launching their own side projects

Many influencers are now following suit, realising just how influential they are and creating their very own side projects to go hand in hand with their online careers. Here are just a few examples:
  • Sisters Sam and Nicola Chapman found fame when they combined their passion and profession as makeup artists with the popular social media platform YouTube. With over 2.1 million loyal followers, Sam and Nic founded Real Techniques – an affordable yet professional makeup brush brand.
  • Fitness influencer Grace Beverley has recently launched her own fitness app alongside a range of resistance bands. To promote her brand, Grace has collaborated with fellow social media influencer, Jordyn Woods. It isn’t just brands working with influencers, but they are now teaming up with one another to promote products, causes and campaigns.
  • World-renowned YouTube personality, PewDiePie has an online clothing brand which is completely unrelated to his social media accounts and channels. His wife Marzia launched Mai – a jewellery, pottery and home interiors brand. 

What is next for influencer marketing?

With the influencer marketing industry continuing to soar, many brands are beginning to jump on board, with 65% of businesses having planned to increase their marketing budget to spend on influencer marketing this year. The influencer industry is set to be worth an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion by 2020, suggesting a further increase of brands taking advantage of this creative, innovative form of marketing. It looks like influencer marketing is here to stay.
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