Instagram Influencers: Do you REALLY need a lot of followers to be successful?
Gone are the days when marketers relied solely on established celebrities such as famous athletes or actors to provide product or brand endorsements. In the past few years, the arrival of key influencers on social media, particularly Instagram, blogs and YouTube, have revolutionised the way in which companies, particularly in the health/wellness and beauty/fashion industries, design their marketing campaigns to reach their target audiences.
These influencers are considered ‘everyday people,’ not professional models or actors, but individuals who are considered more aspirational and relatable, thus having more perceived credibility amongst audiences than more traditional celebrities. They have become increasingly attractive to marketers, with their potential huge reach due to their followers, who consist of highly desired, specific target markets.
Some Instagram influencers have revolutionised the fashion industry. For example, Instagram influencer and winner of reality TV show The Block, Elyse Knowles has recently replaced model Jennifer Hawkins as the official brand ambassador for Myer.
Influencers are divided into the following three categories:
Mega-influencers: Traditional celebrities, such as athletes, artists and actors who have over 500,000 followers, and drive 2% to 5% audience engagement per post. Although they have the highest reach due to their celebrity, they also have the lowest resonance when it comes to a consumer ‘conversion rate,’ ie, actually influencing consumers’ behaviour enough to convert the engagement into a measurable action (such as a purchase of the marketed product). Mega-influences earn a living outside from social media. They also monetize their influence as another source of income. For example, actor Hugh Jackman and model Jennifer Hawkins.
Macro-influencers: Bloggers and/or YouTubers who of 50,000 to 500,000 followers and drive 5% to 20% engagement per post. They have the highest relevance on the scale, since their posts are category based in terms of their influence, such as fashion, health/lifestyle or business. Macro-influencers earn a living from being an influencer (blogger, journalist or creator), for example, beauty blogger Chloe Morello and brand ambassador Stephanie Smith
Micro-influencers: These are ‘everyday’ consumers who have between 1000 and 100,000 followers and are able to drive 25% to 50% engagement per post. These influencers have the highest resonance and brand relevance on the scale, with their influence created by their personal experience with a brand and the strong relationship they maintain with their networks. Micro-influencers are consumers who have relevant influence and may aspire to become a macro-influencer.
In addition to influencers, there are Brand Advocates. These are consumers, who although are passionate and willing to share about their experiences with products/services, have little influence on consumer behaviour.
Influencers as Opinion Leaders
Audience’s behaviours are influenced by opinion leaders. Consumers have always relied on Word Of Mouth, and thus they can now receive tips, recommendations and advice from influencers. The appeal of using social influencers in marketing campaigns for many brands is reach. Some influencers might have up to a million followers.
Thus, influencer marketing has became part of social media marketing and content marketing mix for connecting directly with consumers. However, it is important that marketers select influencers that are relevant to their brand, and don’t overuse influencers. The content must also be of high quality and relevant to the audience. The youth demographic, consisting largely of Generation Y, which advertisers call the ‘selfie generation’, is considered to be a highly desired target market, as they are more likely to relate to Instagram influencers who exhibit similar exhibitionistic behaviours, showcase aspirational lifestyles, and subsequently purchase related lifestyle products/services
There are several factors involved when creating an Influencer Marketing Campaign:
Quality Content Marketing
In Australia, influencers should post content that is interactive and engaging, natural and new, that is well-suited to the brand and influencer, and shareable. The content should also encompass a ‘call-to-action’ to reach wide network of the target market and produce results which are positive. Consequently, if brands invest in creating quality content, they will have a competitive advantage over their rivals.
Consumer-focused Influencer Marketing
Brands should become more focused on the target audience when creating influencer marketing campaigns. Companies need listen to consumer demand, and provide what consumers desire. They should also explain how purchasing their service/product will create value to their lifestyle. This audience-focused strategy will also give a competitive advantage over rivals.
Influencers as part of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing
As Australian consumers are considered to be ‘risk-adverse,’ in that they are increasingly relying upon the advice of influencers, reviews and word of mouth, when it comes to decision making, regarding purchases. This is a valuable opportunity for companies to use influencers to drive increased sales online. Influencer marketing can provide reassurance for consumers, and bring a positive impact for a brand’s ROI (Return On Investment).
However, there have been some downsides to Instagram Influencer marketing strategies. Although, according to a recent report by Ad News, 40% of marketers are seeking to increase their spending on influencer marketing, there have been issues with fraudulent Instagram accounts, with users creating fake profiles, buying followers, and not revealing when their posts are in fact paid endorsements. These factors all undermine the concept of Instagram Influencer Marketing.
In June of last year, Instagram announced that influencers need to disclose that their posts were paid promotions, with a ‘paid partnership’ tag, to “increase transparency across the board.” This helps communicate to Instagram users that are working in a paid collaboration with a business. It was a timely move, as the launch came after the Australian association of National Advertisers (ANAA) introduced guidelines that brands must fully disclose paid posts, with the use of hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored.
However, according to PR experts, these paid promotions can be seen to create an image of inauthenticity for the influencer. Indeed, consumers often see traditional celebrity endorsements with a cynical view, as celebrities are obviously paid for their endorsements. The appeal of influencers was that their endorsements of products/services were seen to be more genuine. Certainly, obvious paid endorsements can defeat the purpose of an influencer’s credibility that they enjoyed through a valuable form of Word of Mouth marketing towards their audience.
When it comes to counteracting fake accounts, companies such as Tribe use technology to scan influencer accounts to determine any fake activity. Instagram has also taken steps to close down fake influencer activity, by shutting down a third party service which allows users to pay in return for fake ‘liking and commenting’ on pictures. However, with over 700 million users, it is questionable whether Instagram can monitor all fake activity.
In order to capitalise on the trend of influencer marketing, there has been the emergence of actual businesses specialising in the field, such as Gravitas. However, many experts in the field believe that many of these businesses will struggle to prevail in such a competitive market. For example, the influencer marketing business Nuffnang announced last year that it would be exiting the Australian market.
Nevertheless, the influencer marketing business Tribe is expanding globally with offices in the UK. And We Are Social MD expects that influencers may even be the cause of traditional media companies to reinvent themselves.
Indeed, despite its limitations, it appears the use of Instagram influencers will continue to be an important part of marketing campaigns, particularly towards the younger demographic, well into the future.