The State of Influencer Marketing

  • Categories:

    Content Marketing, Social Media, Influencer Marketing

  • Date:

    March 16, 2021

The State of Influencer Marketing

Content Marketing Social Media Influencer Marketing

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve partnered with or considered working with influencers to spread good faith about your brand. And, why wouldn’t you? After all, influencers are a low-cost and consumer-trusted source that can get your information to target audiences quickly. But how has the practice evolved, and where is it going?

The influencer marketing business has doubled since 2019, growing from $6.8 billion to $13.8 billion in three years (Statista). If you’re unsure how to tap into this continued success or don’t know why the industry is growing more rapidly than ever, here’s the most fun history lesson you will have all week:

Q: What is an influencer?

A: An influencer is someone who has built a following online by sharing their expertise on a well-defined subject. Influencers are teachers who create content to show how they do the things they do. They can have a following in the millions or an audience under 10,000, but both large and micro influencers have the same goal of sharing their expertise and passion.

For example, Emily Henderson started blogging about home décor purely as a creative outlet. Winning HGTV Design Star confirmed her talents, and she parlayed that achievement into an influencer marketing business with hundreds of thousands of engaged followers.

In contrast to the celebrity endorsement advertising craze of the ‘90s and 2000s, influencers don’t have a well-known profile to leverage right off the bat: Instead, their credibility starts with their subject matter expertise. Unlike celebrities, most influencers are similar to their followers, and they build trust by sharing advice alongside updates from their personal lives.

Q: What are the major differences between influencer marketing today and when it was an emerging practice?

A: Influencer marketing got its start with bloggers, who wrote about their personal lives and shared ideas about the products they used in day-to-day situations. Because of its similarity to a journal, the blog format was easy for anyone to use and naturally attractive to anybody who wanted to share his or her expertise.

Blogs evolved as digital technology advanced. First, bloggers could add photos, then videos. Then, along came social media, creating a whole new way for bloggers to promote their content. In fact, some dropped the blog platform entirely, using only social media as their storytelling channel.

Today, a blog is often just one slice of an influencer’s media empire, living on a website alongside sections designated for e-commerce, podcast listening and creative service offerings.

Q: How have home industry brands incorporated influencers in their marketing strategies?

A: Home and building product brands make prolific use of influencers to educate their target audiences about their products. We see everything from DIY-focused influencers creating how-to content — featuring certain power tools that make it all possible — to lifestyle influencers giving their audience a step-by-step guide for the best gray paint in their next room makeover.

On the trade side, expert craftspeople share their passion and skill while naturally incorporating their favorite homebuilding products. Their audiences follow along, ask questions, engage with giveaways and take the lessons they’ve learned back to their own homes or businesses.

Q: What are some best practice tips that brands can use when partnering with online influencers?

A: Look for signs that they view being an influencer like running a business. Ultimately, influencers operate mini-media companies. They should have an editorial calendar and a plan for documenting the projects they take on. Possessing a media kit is a great sign that shows an influencer is a professional and has thought through what he or she brings to the table. Like any traditional media outlet, this will typically include insight into their following’s demographics, newsletter data, and background on other brand partnerships they currently have. If they're really good, they will also provide examples of engagement rates from other partnership programs.

Q: What are some signs to be wary of when seeking out an influencer partner?

A: It’s best to be skeptical of influencers who only do sponsored content. This might point toward a lack of genuine interest in the topic they're creating content about. After all, the best online influencers have grown their following organically based on an interest combined with teacher-like passion. Others may have gotten into the business solely for the purpose of becoming an influencer. An exclusive reliance on sponsored content is where the difference will be apparent.

Q: Is there anything brands may be overlooking?

A: The home category has done a great job of embracing influencer marketing, but we can do better on the diversity front. Seek out Black influencers and others whose voices have been marginalized, and pay them for their work. Home brands sell their products to all kinds of people, and your target audiences deserve to see themselves in your marketing.

Q: How do Wray Ward clients leverage influencer marketing? How have these brands benefited from influencer partnerships?

A: We use both trade- and consumer-focused influencers to create an authentic brand voice for our clients. Instead of hearing about why products are great directly from the brand, we use brand advocates to tell stories of home improvement that naturally incorporate our client’s products.

For example, VELUX® skylights works with a variety of home décor and lifestyle influencers in both paid and trade partnerships to demystify the skylight installation process and illustrate how skylights transform rooms that used to be dark.

Huber Engineered Woods’ builder partnerships provide high-quality content on a few different levels. The manufacturer may send products to influencers in exchange for content and social coverage on their channels. For example, Matt Risinger is a long-time Huber partner who may test a product in exchange for publishing social media content as well as filming a video for his personal YouTube channel and the Build Show Network. Huber also works with builders that are emerging influencers (2k+ followers).

Q: How will influencers change as different social platforms fluctuate in popularity? How can brands prepare for these shifts?

A: Even if they don’t intend to use one platform or the other, brands should make an effort to keep up with social media trends. This will help them stay on top of emerging opportunities and new types of content. Quality content is at the heart of influencer partnerships. Anything that will help a brand host, amplify or transform that content is going to be long-lasting.

Q: Can influencer marketing feed brands’ owned content programs?

A: Part of the allure behind investment in influencer marketing is obtaining word-of-mouth recommendations. But again, one of the most valuable benefits comes from capitalizing on the content influencers create. Brands can repackage that content into digital uses such as organic and paid social media, banner ads, e-brochures or content for the brand’s website, for example. We approach influencer partnerships as fuel for an overall marketing program’s engine.

Ready to embrace influencer marketing or take your existing influencer relationships to the next level? By maximizing relationships with key influencers, you’ll create an engine for greater organic reach, deeper audience connections and even valuable product feedback. If you have questions about how to capitalize on an industry that shows no signs of slowing down, send me a note.

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