Traditional marketing certainly has its place in business, but more and more, companies are allotting for spend on influencer marketing, the term applied to working with social media influencers to promote a product or service to their typically highly engaged audience base.
“It’s massive; it’s a global phenomenon,” says Searsha Sadek, head of brand partners and human sciences at ProQuo AI. She notes that she has seen clients spend more on influencer marketing than they previously had because of how rewarding it can be for the brands that do it, though she says it’s still a minority of brands that prioritize influencer marketing over traditional marketing strategies. “When you’re buying an influencer, you’re not just buying media. So, you’re buying access to their audience, which is often one that your brand can’t get to on its own, which is really important…You’re also collaborating from a brand equity point of view because you’re borrowing whatever they’re good at and lending whatever you’re good at to make sure that you’re both benefiting from a brand health point of view, as well.”
Tobias Lindvall (left) and Ryan Mulcock
There are firms out there now that can help connect brands with influencers. One of those firms is Outfit Live, a new feature from Outfit, which was started two years ago by Ryan Mulcock and Tobias Lindvall. It was in February 2020 that they created Outfit Live to connect brands with micro-influencers in their field.
“Because we have Outfit Talent…we had these influential people already on the platform, it was a natural fit for us to create Outfit Live. It was always in the product roadmap–obviously COVID sort of escalated and maybe made it a more of an important thing to build out,” Lindvall says. For them, it’s very important that the influencers on their platform are people who are experts in their given field.
“Ultimately, everything we do is about transparency and top tier brands,” Mulcock says. “So, when a brand comes on, we can essentially, through the algorithm, through the technology, mine into influencers who best suit their needs, and then deliver those through the site. So, you know, part of it’s driven by our existing talent base, but 90 percent of that work is really purpose-driven identification of influencers as per the brand’s needs, and that’s what makes us very, very unique. And being able to power all of that with technology means we can kind of do it in record time with laser focus and accuracy.”
One trend that kept coming up among everyone that Worth talked to was the importance of working with multiple micro-influencers over influencers with huge followings.
“A lot of people are trying to compare digital marketing efforts–you know, pay per click and whatnot–to influencer marketing. You know, ‘I’m spending less per click if I just do a Facebook ad,’ but what they’re missing is really the big chunk that you are effectively working with…for example, you can do anything with 50 micro-influencers,” Lindvall says. “In that instance, you’re getting 50 people who buy into your product and obviously their audiences, but at the same time, those are getting 50 unique pieces of content that you then as a brand can use for your own purposes on your social channels, and you know that’s going to cut down a lot of cost on doing, especially during COVID, when you can’t really do big production shoots and things like that with models and whatnot. So, it’s something that people don’t really put into the equation when it comes to comparing digital marketing efforts versus influencer marketing.”
Patrick Janelle, chairman of the American Influencer Council and Outfit Live’s launch partner, agrees, mentioning that he thinks the rise of micro-influencers in influencer marketing is something he sees continuing to gain traction.
“I think that we’ve already started to see a shift away from just using large, kind of like macro-influencers with large followings and really focusing on more sort of like niche, micro-influencers–people with smaller, more specific audiences,” he says. “Because, you know, one question that I’m interested to explore as we move into the future is exactly what the term ‘influencer’ means because, you know, right now we use it–the term ‘influencer’–to essentially describe somebody with a large following on social media. But as we know, somebody with influence can mean many different things…And I think that there will continue to be opportunities for brands to work with people who just have a strong influence in their social circle, whether or not that means that they have the largest social media following or not. But ultimately, we are still talking about, you know, a digital medium and digital platform and reaching audiences through digital channels. It’s just that those channels or those audiences might…I think that there’s more flexibility and understanding what the value is of a given individual based on a number of factors, and those factors don’t always relate specifically to their audience size. And it’s one thing that I’m excited about Outfit is that ultimately, Outfit is creating a platform to reach the best and brightest in their given area of expertise, and Outfit is not necessarily geared toward only working with influencers with large audiences, it really is about allowing brands to find individuals who have a strong pull within a certain community or a more niche audience, and reach audiences that way through those means, and I do think that that is something that we’ll continue to see in the future.”
Sadek also mentions that, while micro-influencers can be harder to find, finding the right one that has an audience that fits what your brand is after and making a strong connection with them and their audience is absolutely worth the investment.
“I think influencers in the luxury space are going to become more and more important,” she says. “I feel like there’s been a real hesitance to engage with them so far because brands don’t like to take massive risks generally because they are so keen on keeping control of that brand. So, I think we’re kind of starting to see a lot more activity in the last couple of years. And I think, in the future, we’re going to be even more. If you can get that strategic alignment between your brand and the influencer. That’s fine. There’s nothing that can go wrong, it’s a win-win, you know. [The brand has] this association of premium-ness that [the influencer] won’t have had before, and [the brand is] borrowing whatever values [the influencer has]. I absolutely think it’s going to become a much bigger part of their marketing strategies going forward, as it should.”