For the last decade, influencer marketing has been a vital strategy for marketers offering benefits like raising awareness with target audiences, building trust and creating customer loyalty. Whilst it’s widely established that influencer marketing is a great tool for awareness, many marketing professionals still struggle to convincingly demonstrate ROI. When evaluating the question of where influencers sit in the marketing funnel, most would suggest the awareness phase. Influencers have become synonymous with debuting new products and services to the market and campaigns are normally measured with ‘softer’ KPIs such as reach and engagement. Whilst influencers are indeed excellent for awareness, they can also be used to successfully generate sales. With so many stages and touchpoints in today’s consumer decision-making process, there is no single best time or method to use influencer marketing successfully.

Influencers in the awareness phase

In the recent 2020 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report from IMH, 40% of surveyed participants listed awareness as the main objective for running influencer campaigns, a trend that has remained unchanged. So, why are influencers so great for building awareness? One answer is that they provide brands access to their ready-made audience. Not only are these audiences often substantial but they are also often made up of groups that share specific characteristics or interests, making them highly targetable. Japanese multinational imaging company Ricoh gained recognition for its 360° THETA camera range with a European audience through effective use of influencer marketing. By activating a network of influencers they managed to reach new audiences in France, the UK, and Germany. This is clearly demonstrated by the adoption of their branded hashtag #LifeIs360 by the community, which now has over 39K shares on Instagram, all thanks to influencer promotion.Other major brands like Daniel Wellington can attribute their success to influencer marketing. What started as an experimental network of influencers sharing content in exchange for free products has now transformed into one of the most successful studies of influencer marketing of our time. In 2018, the brand received the most influencer mentions out of any brand on Instagram and today boasts 4.9M followers and more than 2.3M uses of their branded hashtag on Instagram. In the current Covid-19 crisis, influencer marketing has been essential in highlighting topical issues and boosting the awareness of charities and frontline workers. Many influencers have taken to their personal networks recently to spread the #StayHome message or declare their support for essential workers. The Red Cross has recently signed up a global network of influencers to help battle the spread of misinformation linked to Covid-19 and share potentially-lifesaving content.

Influencers in the consideration phase

Influencers are also highly useful to activate mid-funnel. One major benefit is their ability to generate audience engagement. Influencer campaigns that are designed to spark user debate through comments tend to be the most successful for consideration as users now form opinions about brands based on peer feedback with a massive 91% reported to trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.The consideration phase is all about repeated exposure to a product, brand, concept, or event and influencers are useful for this. One method is the growing trend to work with influencers less for ‘one shot’ campaigns and instead activate them as brand ambassadors sharing a series of content over a period of time. Consumers who are presented with the same product or service more than once are far more likely to keep this top-of-mind once a purchasing decision arises.An influencer promotion followed by a well-timed brand ad to the same audience has proven to be extremely successful in moving prospective customers further along the funnel. Baby brand Beaba recently activated influencers to help sway consumers during their purchasing journey. Users who had been first exposed to influencer content were then targeted with a follow-up ad containing a link to the product website. This strategy resulted in a substantially higher conversion rate than the audience group that had not been exposed to the influencer promotion first. 

Influencers in the conversion phase

More brands and agencies are now becoming aware of the power influencers hold for conversions. Hubspot reports that 71% of consumers are more likely to make purchases based on social media referrals, which is the influencer marketing sweet spot. As influencers blur the line between direct advertising and peer recommendation, their recommendations are regarded as more trusted than direct brand promotions.There are several ways to measure the conversions of influencer campaigns. Creating unique discount codes that can be inputted on site is perhaps the most straightforward. Discount codes also offer an additional benefit in that they can be personalised per influencer, allowing brands to easily measure each individual’s sales success. Providing influencers with tracked URLs is another simple way to measure conversions, however, they will only capture direct sales made from a single browsing session. If a consumer follows a tracked link to a product page and then clicks away, only to return later though a separate untracked link, the resulting sale would not be captured. Marketers must bear this in mind when considering the best tracking options for influencer activations, particularly when promoting more expensive products that are unlikely to be purchased without significant consideration.

Influencer activation

Influencer marketing has evolved beyond an initiation technique and offers flexibility and agility to activate consumers at multiple stages of their purchasing journey. It is the marketers job to guide their clients through the best influencer activations depending on their objectives and where the need for action lies. Working with influencers can bring great success either as a standalone strategy or when combined with other techniques such as media buying to reach new audiences, turn them into prospective buyers and entice them to action. 
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