Influencers: Go Big, or Go Small?

Almost every year blog articles pop up announcing that “social media influencers” are the wave of the future. It has been said that an endorsement from one of these social savants will drive thousands – if not millions – of people to your business and result in booming sales. These influencers are said to have the “Midas Touch.” If your brand is willing to shell out the cash and free merchandise, they’ll sponsor your brand in their posts, YouTube videos and even on their private messaging channels.

The Role of an Influencer

So, what is a social media influencer? According to Olapic (a firm that focuses on earned media and market research), an influencer is someone with over 10,000 followers, with which brands engage to help promote their products/services/messages. A lot of the time these influencers are already sharing information about products they love or are experts in their field, making it easy for brands to find them.

Influencers drive sales by being a trusted and respected source of content for their followers. Going back to the Olapic research, it was discovered that out of 4,000 people interviewed, 31% of them had purchased something as a result of a recommendation made by one of these influencers. That’s a pretty powerful indication that influencers are working. This means that if an influencer has 10,000 followers, he or she will influence about 3,100 of their followers to buy from the brands that they promote and represent.

Are They Right for Your Brand?

This sounds all great and good, but where is the catch?

While influencers can be great for unique campaigns and certain industries (travel, fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands), they have their drawbacks. For one, many of these Influencers are young with an even younger audience. The average influencer follower is between 16-34 years of age, and the influencers themselves are within this same age range. As result of this, sometimes this means that they’re not always mature enough to responsibly represent a brand. For current shining examples of “influencers gone bad,” look no further than Logan Paul or Elle Darby’s recent behavior.

Additionally, influencers only represent a small portion of all of social media (only 0.05% of all Twitter users have over 10,000 followers), meaning they’re a rare commodity for brands. As a result, Influencers are not cheap, and it’s no wonder major brands vie for them when it comes time to promote a new fashion line or a luxury vacation package. But what if you’re not a luxury brand or selling vacations in the Caribbean? Can you still find influencers without going to the top?

Yes, you can.

Power to the People

I think we as marketing professionals often idealize the power that an influencer can have over a brand. While a true social media influencer does have the power to influence his followers more than someone with 100 followers, that person with 100 followers is still an important voice to the people in their network. The power of an individual’s influence should never be neglected.

For instance: have you ever had a friend who has publicly shared a positive or negative experience with a brand? In some way, their opinion influenced your opinion of that brand. That brand experience may not be as immediately impactful as someone who can influence 3,100+ people to make a purchase decision at the drop of a hat, but it influenced you.

In fact, the challenge with influencers is that they show up in your newsfeed as frequently as anyone else. Statistically speaking, over 70% of people will base their purchase decision based on the recommendations of friends and family. By this measure alone, it should be clear that an “influencer” doesn’t need to have 10,000+ followers to make a difference. That key influencer could be your mom, your spouse, or a friend from high school you only keep up with online.

So how do we empower these “mini influencers”?

Social media managers have been trying to encourage people to “like and share” content since social media marketing started. While this is a traditional strategy for getting the word out, many marketers have challenges getting these campaigns to stick with all but their most loyal fans, and it doesn’t incorporate content into their daily communications the way an influencer can in their messaging.

As high-end influencers have taught us, truly being an influencer means you’re sponsoring the brand in your everyday communications, not just sharing or retweeting a post. That’s what makes them so powerful compared to traditional social media campaigns. Of course, brands can’t just dole out free merchandise to anyone who wants it, but they need to have some way to enable people talk about their brand online, even when that brand isn’t posting content.

texting with stickers

Get the Message? 

One great way to do that is through branded iMessage sticker packs and branded emoji keyboards. Combined with engaging designs and great brand messaging, stickers and emojis enable “mini influencers” to talk about your brand even when you’re not posting content. Users can share these stickers with their friends and incorporate your brand in their everyday conversations.

Equipping your customers to be “mini influencers” for your brand can also come from unique brand experiences and custom applications. Taylor Swift recently released an app called The Swift Life that essentially “gamifies” her fandom and allows for her fans to win stickers they can use in her in-app social network and with their friends through other social media and private messaging apps. It’s a brilliant move by Taylor Swift’s team, and her fans now have a new way to promote her music and become “mini influencers” of their own.

Whether your brand is looking to the A-List of Influencers or to 99.95% to drive their messaging and engagements, the influence that friends and followers have on eachother cannot be ignored. Organic influence is a powerful tool, and it’s one that will only continue to grow with time.

For more information on how Smallball Media can help you create “mini influencers” with custom iMessage sticker and emoji packs, click here.

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