When Brooklyn-based haircare brand amika wanted to boost its sales by shifting from professional sales to direct-to-consumer engagement, the company tapped into one of the biggest trends in digital marketing.
In 2018, it partnered with 10 influencers to create a social campaign for the company's launch in Sephora stores, which garnered 736,000 engagements, 4.6 million video views, and a 4% uptick in average engagement rate.
The effort was so successful that the brand shifted heavily to this form of marketing, now directing 75% of its social outreach through more than 1,000 influencers.
"Another mark of success is that the we've seen a significant uptick in the number of influencers who are organically coming to amika and inquiring about working with us," says Becca King, amika's social media and partnership coordinator.
Influencer marketing, the practice of partnering with people who hold sway on social media in order to reach an audience more effectively, is an increasingly essential part of a retail marketing tool kit.
In a global survey by Nielsen, 66% of respondents said they trust the opinions of other consumers they see online. Meanwhile, a Mediakix survey found that 80% of marketers see the method as effective.
“Influencers are able to directly talk to their audience in a way that a brand never can," says Claudia Cameron, head of marketing and insights at IMA Agency. “People trust people, so it makes sense to work with influencers to connect to your audience."
In a digital universe where consumers are open to influence on social media, brands can't afford to ignore this new frontier in marketing.
How do influencer marketing campaigns work?
The first step is to identify influencers relevant to your brand. You'll find them on Instagram and YouTube, as well as TikTok in the U.S. It's important to understand the demographics of the audience you're trying to reach by analyzing factors such as gender, location, age, ethnicity and interests.
Contact those you're interested in. Many influencers have a talent management agent with whom you'll negotiate to create an influencer marketing agreement.
Before you sign on the dotted line, advises Rachel Clay, head of social media and influencer marketing for Matter Of Form, look at the influencer's number of followers and levels of engagement. Influencers range from nano-influencers (with fewer than 1,000 followers) to celebrity influencers (with multiple millions).
Regardless of the number of followers, ask for a screenshot of their engagement results. Look for rates no lower than 2 percent and ideally 6 percent or higher. The higher the engagement rate, the larger percentage of the influencer's audience will see their content.
Keep in mind that engagement rate relates to size of audience. An influencer with a large audience will likely have a lower engagement rate than a micro-influencer. This is why it's often advantageous to work with smaller-scale influencers.
Is influencer marketing right for your business?
When asked which types of businesses can benefit from marketing that uses influencers, Clay says: “All of them. We believe it's so relevant for all brands."
She cites three reasons for this bold statement:
- An influencer's profile is now often the first touchpoint consumers have with your brand.
- With Instagram in the process of rolling out a one-click checkout process, social is driving the future of e-commerce.
- Influencer marketing is actually an SEO strategy, a method of keeping your content highly visible on social media.
As consumers get used to taking advice from influencers, brands can capitalize on that person-to-person trust to get direct access to their audiences. "We see that brands are finding it more and more difficult to connect directly," says Claudia Cameron, head of marketing and insights at IMA Agency. "Influencers are able to make that connection to those audiences much better."
How do you succeed with influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is only a good fit for your business if you bring the right perspective to the partnership. The idea is to set up an ongoing relationship with the right person who can effectively represent your brand.
“Collaborating with the wrong influencers can do more harm than good," says digital marketing consultant Shane Barker. “They can damage the reputation of your brand."
Once you've chosen the right influencers as partners, give them wide leeway to get your message out in their own way.
“You can't choose them for their style—understanding that it's what attracts their audience—and then ask them to do something in your style," Clay says.
Influencer marketing is the kind of outreach magic businesses have long dreamed of. Now, with the right approach, it's a reality within reach of any business looking to grow engagement.