When it comes to your social strategy, out-of-the-box thinking can work. One idea that quickly caught the attention of marketing gurus across the net was influencer marketing.

The ability to tap into a ready-made audience, to remove the stigma often associated with marketing directly, and to lend your brand a new voice and perspective is a highly valuable one. As such, influence marketing has become a staple, one that some brands are able to make excellent use of.

But, is it the right move for your social strategy? Here, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of working with the influencer, and what the real ROI of influencer marketing could be for your business.

What is the real ROI of influencer marketing?

Claims on the return on investment of influencer marketing can differ depending on where you look and who you ask. There’s no denying that some brands have been able to find excellent success in this field. Multiple agencies have cited research claiming that it can be as high as 11x the ROI of banner ads when done right, which is staggering if it’s the case.

The success of brands such as Lagavulin Whiskey with their Nick Offerman campaign can show the power of getting the right name on your online marketing material. Sperry’s work with multiple micro-influencers on Instagram, showing off their shoes, highlights the success of a different (albeit more common) approach.

Statistics of best-case scenarios are all well and good, but it’s important to know what’s driving that high ROI, as well. Here, we’re going to look at some of the advantages that can make it a particularly effective approach.

1)    Increasing brand awareness

The concept is simple. You’re going to make more people aware of your brand if it’s able to cover more ground. One of the benefits of influencer marketing is that you’re likely to gain access to an audience that has already been built up, already trusts in the message’s deliverer, and should have an interest in your product.

Of course, that depends on whether you’re able to pick the right influencers. A more recognizable brand means that, even if they don’t convert immediately, your audience is likely to convert in future as they grow more familiar with it.

2)    A better brand reputation

A lot of the return on investment of social media marketing comes from the relationships you’re able to form with your audience. Stay engaged, be responsive, and be authentic and you can develop a brand reputation and perception that can come with a higher lifetime value per customer.

With influencer marketing, that relationship is already partway built for you. Their audiences tend to have that positive relationship with them already, and are more likely to trust their seal of approval than a direct marketing message. You still have to follow up by living up to that perception to capitalize on the reputation, but having the legwork done for you already is a significant benefit.

3)    Get a more engaged audience

As mentioned, audiences are not as quick to trust direct branded messaging. Even if they love your value proposition and everything they hear about your product, you have that initial barrier to break through.

People are skeptical when being marketed to, so getting traffic and engagement on your posts, so getting them to click that link or to reply to your posts can be difficult until you break that barrier. Influencers step around that barrier entirely. If they’re using affiliate links or social media tags, they can lead their audience to engage directly with your brand.

4)    Better and more varied content

Influencer marketing allows you to play with the kind of content associated with your brand, as well. Successful influencers already know what engages their audience, so incorporating them means you get some new insights on types of content to consider.

It also allows you to publish or share content that’s a little off brand, helping you stay consistent with your own branded content. You can find multiple successful messages while still staying true to the brand that your own audience knows you for.

5)    Builds positive social proof

Sections of your audience may love the idea of your product, but they might not be willing to make a move until they can see a demonstration of its value.

An influencer showing off your products, praising your services, or giving a testimonial to your site builds the positive social proof that your brand is worth supporting. Their needs are likely to be in-line with the needs of your market, since the best influencers are often part of the market of the brand that they’re working with. They lend evidence to your claims, which is an essential part of the sales funnel.

6)    Potential for long-term valuable partnerships

We’ve mentioned how influencers can increase your lifetime value per customer, but what about lifetime value per influencer? They can open up all kinds of avenues by building long-term partnerships that can continue to pay off.

Opportunities such as joint ventures, live events, official sponsorships and more can all result from an excellent influencer relationship. These partnerships have to form organically, but finding the right kind of influencers for your brand is a key first step.

What are the risks of influencer marketing?

Every marketing strategy has its pros and its cons, no matter what anyone wants to tell you. Email marketing campaigns can be spammy and annoying when they’re not handled with tact. Social media marketing can be time-consuming without the right tools to automate and manage your content strategy. The same goes for influencer marketing.

Not every influencer marketing campaign works, and they do have some specific demands that ought to be considered when you’re thinking about implementing one. Here, we’re going to look at some of the drawbacks of influencer marketing, as well as what you might be able to do to mitigate them.

1)    It requires a lot of research

Influencer marketing agencies can do the leg work of finding influencers for you to work with. However, even if you do partner with them, you still need to do some research into their posts, their audience, and their “voice” to make sure they’re a good fit for the brand. It’s also wise to see if there’s any lingering controversy or drama attached to their name. The internet can move on quickly, but you don’t want a toxic name associated with your brand.

2)    The wrong influencer can do more harm than good

The reason that research is so important is that a bad choice of influencer can be worse than throwing money down a hole. They can waste your time, resources, and effort, and it can lead to backlash for both you and the influencer if you’re not a great fit. Similarly, if they’re not used to influencer marketing, their posts can come off looking inauthentic, which is the exact opposite of what you’re hoping for.

3)    Less control of your marketing message

Good influencers will work with the brands they associate with to craft strategies that are adjacent to your brand’s value proposition. Some will let you control their posts directly, but that does lose some of the value of having another authentic voice on your side.

However, with all influencers, there is some risk of the message getting away from you. They can take their own spin on how they platform your products or services and you may not necessarily like it. Simply put, there are no guarantees. While this flexibility can help diversify the appeal your product has, it can also sometimes result in messaging that’s directly juxtaposed with your own.

owever, with all influencers, there is some risk of the message getting away from you. They can take their own spin on how they platform your products or services and you may not necessarily like it. Simply put, there are no guarantees. While this flexibility can help diversify the appeal your product has, it can also sometimes result in messaging that’s directly juxtaposed with your own.

4)    The results can be slow

One of the reasons that the real ROI of influencer marketing can be hard to divine is that it can take some time for the results to show. It’s a more organic method of marketing, rather than directly advertising. Tracking the results of the campaign can be difficult unless you’re directly using affiliate links or social media prompts, as well.

To a degree, it can feel like leaving things up to fate, which is why it’s important to spend time preparing, finding the right influencers, and discussing strategy for them. You want to do whatever you can to make sure the coin lands in your favor.

Is influencer marketing worth the investment?

Influencer marketing can undoubtedly be successful. However, it’s an approach that needs to be strategy driven. Getting your brand on the lips and social media feeds of influencers alone isn’t enough, they need to be incorporated as part of a cooperative effort to show what makes your brand so worthy of being shared.

If you can get past the drawbacks of influencer marketing, mitigate the risks, and find the right strategy, there’s no reason to doubt that magical 11x figure that you’ll see everywhere you look. It’s all about finding how to connect influencers to your brand believably, and highlighting what’s so influential about your product, to begin with.

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