What is influencer marketing and how do you implement a successful strategy?

Julien Nishimata

Influencer marketing, which consists of relying on influential personalities and websites to present a product or service or get a message across, is increasingly employed by companies. Among communication strategies, it is undoubtedly the one that has seen the strongest growth in recent years, with its global turnover rising from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $6.5 billion in 2019 (Statista). This is because it offers infinite possibilities while generating various benefits that match the different objectives of advertisers (visibility, awareness, SEO, sales…). What is it exactly? What benefits can a brand get from it? How to set up an influencer marketing strategy? Paper Club takes a look at this new generation of digital marketing!

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing strategy that aims to promote a product or a service by relying on the popularity of influential web personalities – commonly called “influencers” – but also on blogs and sites with a high media profile. This is done to take advantage of their power of prescription, i.e. their ability to influence the behavior or decisions of the community that follows them or consults them.

Influencers can be personalities followed on social networks or via their blog, opinion leaders (journalists, editorialists, captains of industry…), or even celebrities (from the music, cinema, sports, reality TV…). They evolve in a specific theme and are followed by a more or less large community, with a number of subscribers that can reach several million for the most famous among them. They are the new prescribers of brands, which have become essential to communication strategies on the web, and in particular on social media.

Influential media are part of the opinion leader category, and also play a major role in this type of marketing strategy. A role that stems from press relations, considered an ancient form of influence marketing: the journalist is technically an influencer, in the sense that he can “influence” the behavior of a reader, viewer or listener. So publishing content on a blog or on a popular website can greatly contribute to a brand’s visibility (on search engines, for example), awareness and sales.

In doing so, an influencer marketing campaign can rely on relays as diverse as youtubers (PewDiePie, Like Nastya, Vlad and Niki), entertainment personalities (Jennifer Aniston, Kylie Jenner, Shane Dawson) athletes (Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Serena Williams), opinion leaders (Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Janet Yellen), bloggers (Chiara Ferragni, Julia Engel), media (Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg), etc. Of course, these are some of the most famous examples, but influencer marketing is clearly not limited to them.

How do influencer marketing campaigns work?

An influencer marketing strategy requires partnerships with influencers and/or influential media that correspond to your objectives. This means that, before calling on such and such a personality or contacting such and such a webmaster, you must not only identify the right entities, but also determine which levers are the most relevant.

These levers, specific to influencer campaigns, can be direct or indirect, depending on the way they promote the brand and/or its product or service. Although influencer marketing is mostly known for its “direct” dimension (an influencer talks about a product through an article, a video or images), there is also a whole area of marketing that works “indirectly” by acting as a kind of media “soft power”.

Influence marketing levers

What are these influence marketing levers?

  • Buzzkit and Unboxing. An influencer, who has received the product or enjoyed the service in preview, evaluates it for their community. In the context of Unboxing, which is becoming increasingly popular, the influencer goes so far as to unwrap the product on camera, so as to give the audience a complete experience, strongly marked by emotion.
  • Product placement. An influencer mentions the product or service in their content, in a more or less subtle way. This is an old technique (the placement of flagship products in movies) updated for the web. It is mostly implemented within the framework of influence campaigns on video-based social media, like YouTube or Twitch.
  • Sharing promotional codes. It’s a variant of product placement: an influencer mentions a product or a service and takes the opportunity to share with their community a promotional offer communicated beforehand by the brand. This is what the Chinese influencer Becky Li did to sell Mini Coopers en masse on WeChat by allowing her followers to pre-order a limited edition of this vehicle (read here).
  • Tourism partnership. Another very fashionable technique, as “travel” influencers federate large and active communities. It consists in offering a service to an influencer (hotel stay, plane ticket, excursion, restaurant meal…) in exchange for a mention on social networks.
  • Takeover. This influencer marketing technique consists in entrusting the reins of a brand’s social account to an influencer for a limited period of time, so that the latter can draw the attention of their community to a product or service, to the advertiser’s website, to an event, etc.
  • Event. An influencer is invited to attend or participate in an event organized by the brand. They can promote it beforehand, relay the event on the day on their social media, and then publish a report afterwards.
  • Guest blogging. This indirect influence marketing method consists in publishing content on a blog, a website or an influential social account, as a guest – or, conversely, in accepting that a third party publish on the brand’s media.
  • Publication of a sponsored article. This leverage, close to guest blogging, comes down to publishing on a third party (influential) site, but entrusting the content writing to an expert (working for the site itself or on behalf of an influencer platform). This type of influencer marketing is mainly aimed at notoriety and the publication of backlinks for netlinking purposes. By the way, this is what we offer at Paper Club!

Counterparts

These different levers, used for influencer campaigns, share a common point: they imply a counterpart.

This often takes the form of remuneration, but this is not always the case: a brand can “reward” an influencer or an influential media by offering gifts, by sponsoring an activity (invitation to an event, all-expenses-paid press junket…), by improving its brand image (publication of an incoming link, mention on its media…), etc.

But be careful, this is not advertising! Influence marketing is not a form of advertising in disguise. The influence exerted by the personality or by the media can be very subtle, and take, for example, the form of a simple mention (a travel blogger who mentions the hotel they stayed in or the brand that offered them the camera they use).

In some cases, this marketing strategy is similar to traditional journalism: “testers” evaluate the quality of a product or service, but without necessarily hiding its flaws. One of the most interesting sources of influence today is live video game play on Twitch, where players don’t talk about the qualities or flaws of the games, but simply offer an experience to their community. Here, the simple “spotlight” on the product, service or brand is more than enough to make it an influencer marketing lever.

What benefits can influencer marketing bring you?

Why set up influencer campaigns? Use influencers or publish content on influential media?

The weight of recommendation

To fully understand the interest of influencer marketing for an advertiser, we must determine what exactly this “influence” consists of. This marketing strategy is based on the prescription power of influential personalities and media, therefore on their capacity to influence (to a certain extent) consumption behaviors.

This power of prescription works on the recommendation, itself close to word-of-mouth: we are ready to listen (and to follow the opinion) of a person because we trust their tastes. Influencers being close to their community, they play the role of prescribers. For you, as an advertiser, it’s an opportunity to reach consumers who are more receptive to marketing arguments, because they already trust them.

Moreover, being connected to a particular influencer or media, these consumers are necessarily sensitive to the products or services that you offer them. A user who follows Lena Situations’ vlog on YouTube is interested in fashion and lifestyle, so they are ready to receive recommendations in these specific areas. In the same way, a regular reader of La Tribune will be sensitive to sponsored content about economics or finance that is published on the online newspaper.

Why is this so effective? Because influencers are synonymous with authenticity, and influential media with expertise. These are two of the criteria put forward by Internet users when they talk about their choice to follow a personality, a social account or a media: authenticity is considered very important for 58% of them and rather important for 30%. Then come humor (53% and 35%), expertise (48% and 37%), intelligence (44% and 39%) and proximity of interests and tastes (42% and 41%). This is what makes 72% of Gen Z and Millennials follow influencers and listen to their recommendations. (Figures from the report published by Morning Consult.)

Recommendations outweigh all other forms of advertising. 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than advertisements (Nielsen). 92% of Internet users trust content published by celebrities more than by brands (HubSpot). 56% of Internet users have already bought a product recommended by an influencer (Morning Consult). Customers who come from recommendations are also more qualitative: their average annual shopping cart is 25% higher than that of other consumers, they are 25% more profitable, and 4 to 5 times more likely to bring in new customers (Extole).

What’s interesting is that the very principle of influencer marketing, when known by Internet users, does not negatively influence their point of view. While 95% of influencers inform their audience of a partnership with a brand for the sake of transparency, 77% of Internet users say they have a positive view of this form of discourse (HubSpot).

Various benefits adapted to all objectives

This recommendation, which is the essence of influencer marketing, brings many benefits to brands. Basically, influencers and influential media let you benefit from their audience (depending on the size of the community), which potentially represents millions of views. From there, your company or brand can…

  • Develop an audience without spending large sums of money (influencer campaigns are quite cheap compared to other communication strategies) ;
  • Hitting a specific target through carefully selected influencers and media;
  • Increase awareness and reach new audiences;
  • Work on reputation;
  • Improve referencing and gain positions on search engines (especially with the “SEO juice” obtained through backlinks published on high authority sites, one of our specialties at Paper Club) ;
  • Generate sales;
  • Refine your marketing strategy thanks to the long-term results obtained.

These advantages are well known by marketers: 94% of them consider influencer marketing to be effective. This marketing strategy generates an ROI that is eleven times higher than other methods. 58% of brands that have run influencer campaigns report an increase in awareness, and 54% report an increase in leads and revenue (HubSpot).

How do you implement an influencer marketing strategy that works?

Let’s see how to implement an influencer marketing strategy that will give results. Paper Club gives you the keys to successful influencer campaigns!

1. Define your objectives and budget

The first step is to precisely define the objectives you want to reach through your influencer marketing (awareness, traffic, SEO visibility, sales…).

Not only do you need to know where you are going (to evaluate your ROI), but this prerequisite plays a determining role in the choice of the influencer or influential media. For example, if your goal is to gain SEO visibility, the best lever is to get inbound links via sponsored articles. If you want to sell, you have to start by defining target audiences (likely to buy your products or services) to identify the most relevant influencers or sites. If it’s notoriety you’re looking for, you’ll have to focus on influencers with strong communities.

As for the budget, it is an essential component of your influencer campaigns. Influencers apply different rates depending on the size of their community: it can go from a hundred euros for nano-influencers to several thousand euros for macro-influencers in the travel industry or for celebrities (more information in this report published by Klear). It all depends on the type of influencers as we will see below.

For blogs and influential websites, it’s easier: you just have to go through a platform like Paper Club to get a precise rate per content.

2. Identify the right influencers and media

This is a major dimension of influencer marketing: you have to take the time to choose the right personalities and the right media, to guarantee a high “compatibility rate” (depending on your field of activity, your budget, your target audience and your objectives).

Influencers are classified by sector (theme) and by typology, i.e. according to the size of their community. There are several types of influencers :

  • Mega-influencers have over 500,000 followers: celebrities, athletes, artists, opinion leaders … Their rates are high and the reach of the publications important. These partnerships are excellent for the brand image.
  • Macro-influencers have 100,000 to 500,000 followers. They stand out because of their high visibility and the great diversity of their community, but also because of their lower engagement.
  • Micro-influencers have 10,000 to 100,000 followers. Their audience is highly segmented and the engagement rate is high.
  • Nano influencers have less than 10,000 subscribers. They are niche influencers, with low rates (and often non-financial considerations) but offering high engagement rates.

Beware: the size of the community is not everything. More important is the audience’s engagement rate: their ability to interact and act. Spending huge amounts of money on influencer marketing with a movie celebrity with 10 million followers will not make sense if the engagement rate of his audience does not exceed 0.01% and you cannot reach your objectives!

Influential media are segmented according to their traffic volume and engagement rate. But, depending on your objectives, you can look at other parameters, such as authority for backlinks, or reliability for the credibility of publications. NewsGuard regularly ranks news sites according to their reliability and engagement rate; as far as traffic is concerned, we can refer to the monthly rankings of the ACPM (Alliance for Press and Media Figures).

But don’t just rely on traffic volume. In niche markets, we are more interested in the community involvement. For SEO visibility, we will rather evaluate the authority of the website. The best is to trust an influencer marketing agency like Paper Club: we have a database of more than 10,000 publishers in all fields, with all the necessary statistics.

3. Contacting and developing the partnership

Getting in touch with an influencer implies building a trusting relationship, which should develop over the long term. You have to follow their social accounts, interact with their publications, get to know them to refine your arguments… In other words: adopt a subtle approach. This is because influencers (especially macro-influencers) are in high demand: 14% of them receive more than ten partnership requests per month (HubSpot).

A partnership in influencer marketing must include compensation, which is not necessarily cash. Nano and micro-influencers can be rewarded with visibility on your website or social networks, with a product or service offered as a gift (including the one that is the subject of the partnership), with an invitation to an exclusive event, etc.

It’s easier for influential media: of course, the sponsored articles are paying and must respect the editorial line of the media, but the counterparty includes the whole service (writing and publication of the content), is punctual (no long-term contractual partnership) and does not imply going through a time-consuming approach phase. Moreover, the result – in particular the impact of a backlink on the SEO – is easily and precisely measured.

(Note that these partnerships are regulated by the ARPP (Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité). For example, sponsored articles must be mentioned as such on the support, influencers must mention their partnerships, etc. Breaches are subject to sanctions.)

4. Tracking performance

Finally, it is essential to monitor the performance of your influencer campaigns to identify weak points and possible optimization levers. The performance indicators vary according to the objectives:

  • – For visibility: number of subscribers, engagement rate, volume of visitors to the advertiser’s site or store…
  • – For sales: number of sales made, revenue generated…
  • – For SEO positioning: number of backlinks obtained, Trust Flow of links, positions gained on SERPs…

Paper Club helps you set up your influencer marketing strategy: choose (from our database) the influential sites and blogs on which to publish your content and let us do the rest!