Marketers across all industries have learned that an effective way to connect with today’s consumers, build trust, and tell their stories is through influencers.
As conductors of information and preference, influencers capitalize on their own communication platforms and community relationships to market products and services they believe in and are compatible with their own brand.
Why use Influencers?
At no other point in history do people have greater access to brand information, product alternatives, and solution substitutions. To be able to sift through the myriad of data they encounter each day, consumers tend to use the experience and advice of those they trust.
According to a recent survey conducted by Collective Bias, 60% of respondents (14,000 adults) have taken social media or blog posts into consideration while shopping. Add to this the fact that ad blocking continues to grow, and you’ll see why influencer content has become a very attractive and highly effective method of marketing.
As for the type of influencer relationships you choose to invest in, this should be determined by the goals you are trying to reach. Whether you are aiming to increase brand awareness, generate leads, differentiate your product, launch a product or develop a new audience segment, there’s an influencer for that.
The hierarchy of influence that exists is based on the relationship each group has with your brand, their credibility, their motivation, and the reach they have. For instance, celebrity partners have incredible reach allowing them to increase awareness of your brand or product, but they probably have a lower level of buying influence than an advocate who has bought, used, and loved your product – and recommends it to all of their friends.
When you map marketing goals and investment dollars against potential reach, life of content, and consumer trust, it’s no wonder that bloggers are a very sought after group. But the other influencers have their own benefits, so it behooves you to understand all the options before setting your strategy.
Fans and Advocates – This group of individuals has bought your product and loves it enough to tell everyone they know about it. They are your actual customers.
This group’s sphere of influence can vary depending on whether they are active on social media, involved in social clubs or canine sports, have a large circle of friends, etc.
Your goal is to invest in these relationships and capitalize on the loyalty they have for your brand.
The least business-oriented relationship of the bunch, you will have the least control over the messaging, timing, and overall engagement with this group.
When you work with advocates, the compensation is normally in the form of product, specials, insider information, and recognition. This group wants to be respected and acknowledged as part of your team.
Publishers – Whether their influence is based on the popularity of their blog or the size of their social media platforms, publishers have an audience that already trusts them outside of their immediate friends and family.
This is the level of influencer most accessible to brands, with a large enough reach to make it a worthwhile endeavor, but not so expensive as to blow the marketing budget.
Bloggers and social media influencers have considerable influence, are trusted by their audience, but aren’t necessarily current customers of yours.
For companies, publishers offer the opportunity for review and recommendation from a trusted third party. This work is normally done in exchange for free products and services, or cash payment. We always recommend having a budget for these influencers and to target a variety of publisher groups across platforms and categories.
Industry Experts – Industry experts are trusted resources in any industry, but for many pet parents they are the holy grail of advice.
These consumers look for product and service recommendations specifically from veterinarians, trainers, and breeders to ensure they are caring for their pets appropriately. Alignment with experts in these three fields can do great things for a brand or product.
These relationships are built around the expert’s preferences and brand quality. Brands that communicate openly and frequently with these experts, create packages or services that support their business goals, and aim to build long-term relationships will gain the greatest loyalty.
Celebrity Partners – At the top of the influencer hierarchy is the celebrity influencer. These well-known individuals carry a hefty punch when they make brand or product recommendations, but their price tag packs a wallop as well.
Effective primarily to increase brand awareness, the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements on sales are hard to measure. Additionally, these relationships don’t come without risk. Even if you’ve found a celebrity that aligns perfectly with your brand and your audience, any ding in their reputation can cause a negative halo effect.
A tactic available only to those with big budgets, this influencer can cause quite a buzz – it’s what you do with that buzz that matters.
Influencer marketing is such an effective marketing strategy and contains within it so many options and customizations, it’s hard to imagine a pet company that wouldn’t benefit from including it in their marketing mix.
Understanding that these are relationships that need attention and resources to thrive is vital. As a marketer, your job will be to build the right influencer mix to achieve your goals within budget.