Critics may dismiss social media influence as superficial with no real staying power but companies large and small are employing them in droves. What makes influencer marketing such big business? Read on to find out why influencers are so successful at reaching audiences and learn how to use them to give your small business a boost.
The verdict is in: social media influencers are worth it, but successful influencer marketing doesn’t look like what you think. Gone are the days where social media stars with huge followings command top dollar to shill products and services online, these days micro-influencers are all the rage.
The conventional wisdom around choosing influencers purely based on their number of followers no longer rings true. Businesses that place greater value on brand alignment and engagement are now choosing from a growing cohort of nano influencers with followers numbering between 1,000 and 5,000.
Evidence shows nano influencers tend to have the strongest connection with their audience and are more responsive and accessible. Nano-influencers are perceived as more genuine to their followers, which is a huge advantage to building trust among target groups. As a rule of thumb the smaller the following, the higher the engagement.
The case for diversifying to include nano-influencers in the marketing mix is already bearing fruit for brands that have previously struggled to elicit a strong consumer response.
“Being a nano influencer is a more direct and personal approach,” says Astrid Montague, 27-year-old with an Instagram following of 1500. “I’m more than happy to respond to DMs [direct messages] and tell people what the recipe for something is, where a top is from, what beach I was at, [or] what skincare I use.”
Social media influencer stats
But why should small businesses use social media influencers in the first place? When it comes to getting the most out of your marketing budget, engaging influencers is incredibly cost-effective dollar-for-dollar, especially when you budget for the less expensive nano influencers. HypeAuditor’s State of Instagram Influencer Marketing in Australia reports that around 46.1% of influencers are micro or mid-tier influencers with followers numbering between 5-20k.
The report also states that “with its 1 billion monthly active users (June 2018) Instagram becomes not only one of the leading social networks but also the most important platform for Influencer Marketing.”
Audiences may be more fragmented and less inclined to concentrate in large numbers in any one media channel, but they are actively gathering on social media en masse. As of November 2020, there are around 10.64 million Australians or 41.3% of the population on Instagram alone. In Australia the average engagement rate of the top 200 influencers on Instagram is 5.48%, significantly higher than the global average of 1.66%.
In 2021 the business of social media influencing for Instagram is collectively worth $7.4 billion, an increase of 15% from previous years. With continued growth in the cards, brands are increasingly making space in their budgets to make room for social media influencers.
Market research has shown without a doubt that social media influence is extremely effective at gaining credibility with key audiences and driving sales. In a study of more than 5000 consumers worldwide, it was found that 48% had recently made purchases based on the content they had seen on social media.
The psychology underlying this phenomenon is that we’re more likely to embrace a recommendation from people in our social circles or those we relate to the most on social media. As consumers become more suspicious of companies and overt marketing like TV adverts, brands rely on influencers to gain access to their devoted social media followers.
Social media influencers also present unique advantages in that they are perceived as trusted experts in their respective niches, a boon for hyper-niche marketers to tap into existing communities based on common interests.
In the realms of beauty, fashion, hospitality, tourism and more, influencers impart valuable information for people wanting to find out the latest trends including the inspiration for where to holiday, what to eat, what to wear, how to achieve that hair or makeup look, how to decorate your home and so on.
The aspirational qualities of social media influence translate across all social media platforms including Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook and are a major force in driving the purchasing decisions of social media followers.
How to pick the right influencer
With projections for the market of social media influencing steadily climbing upwards, market research predicts influencers will continue to benefit from a huge portion of marketing spend in future. By tapping into existing networks already forged by influencers, marketers can enjoy unfettered access to engaged audiences and further entrench brand awareness.
“Before engaging your influencer, it’s important to check their post history and pay close attention to how they interact with their followers,” says Carla Horvath, Director of HM&M PR, an Australian-based agency specializing in overseas clients entering the market. “This will give you an idea of the level of engagement they have and also help determine if your brand values coincide, to help you to avoid controversial or otherwise unsuitable candidates. Most influencers should have a media kit to tell you all you need to know about them including social media data.”
The business case for social media influencers
It started with the “mommy bloggers” who used their clout to drive the conversation around issues that mattered to them and ended in the proliferation of influencers in every space imaginable from fashion to business and finance. Since social media became truly entrenched in the media landscape in 2010, influencers have been using their voices to promote products and services to audiences who have become disillusioned with traditional advertising.
Despite their unflattering reputations, social media influencers are now wholeheartedly embraced by marketers and PR professionals as a budget-friendly and effective way to reach audiences who are increasingly hard to reach. In a competitive media environment, influencers lend their authentic and unique voice to flesh out a brand’s vision. As skilled professionals, they also bring with them a valuable set of skills that include content creation, brand management and audience engagement.
The fact is that the most popular influencers are able to monetise their talents in such a way that they’re now able to make a living entirely from social media signals to marketers who’re serious and business savvy. Businesses that want to succeed should pay attention to influencers and accept that social media influence is here to stay.
This guide was contributed by Mary Nguyen, Marketing Expert from Hutch Media & Management.