By Julie Brander
Influencer marketing has become a communications buzz phrase in recent years. Brands across multiple sectors have split marketing budgets to allocate an increasing share to partnerships with social media stars, popular YouTubers and bloggers.
These online celebrities, who can boast anything from 5,000 to five million followers or subscribers, create content that influences consumer behaviour, buying decisions and lifestyle choices in a way traditional advertising simply cannot. From popular topics such as fashion, travel, beauty and fitness, to more niche sectors including gaming, science and technology, there’s almost always a powerful online voice who has the ability to connect brands with their target audiences in an authentic and meaningful way.
During COVID-19, as we all spend more time online, many brands have had to re-evaluate their marketing and communications strategy to consider how they can have a dialogue with their audience during this time of uncertainty.
This has expedited the next evolution of influencer marketing, which sees brands move away from partnerships with celebrities, or macro influencers, to seek out what we in consultancy call micro- and nano-influencers.
Despite not having the sky-high follower levels that macro-influencers and celebrities own, these micro- and nano-influencers with smaller, more engaged follower bases boast many other benefits for brands.
With a lower social media following, they’re seen by audiences as peers who are authentic and relatable. These are Instagrammers, regular tweeters and YouTube vloggers who are ‘real’ about their everyday life, and right now that means something more than ever before. They might not have the facility to reach thousands of people online, but they do have the ability to create close connections and direct conversations with audiences – something that is much appreciated, with brands trying desperately to navigate communications at the moment.
As consumers get used to being removed from normal life, they’re seeking inspiration, education and a distraction from the world outside. Naturally, that involves heading online to see how others, similar to themselves, are filling their time and what recommendations they have to share. They want to hear from those that are in the same relatable situation as them, and be inspired on everything from what to cook for dinner that evening and how to occupy young children at the weekend, to creating a cocktail bar at home and how to enjoy a self-made spa treatment.
This communications channel is currently one of the strongest marketing platforms for brands. By partnering with micro- and nano-influencers, brands can associate their product, service or campaign message with trusted and highly engaged voices that are being listened to. And unlike traditional celebrity endorsement, the investment is a fraction financially.
Consumers still want to hear from brands and, at a time when direct sales messaging isn’t often well-accepted, micro- and nano-influencers offer a channel to communicate the benefits of a product or service in a more subtle way.
Whether it’s a drinks brand sponsoring an Instagram post that shares how to serve the perfect G&T, a hotel working with a lifestyle blogger to offer tips from its spa manager on creating an at-home relaxation area, or a parenting Instagrammer partnering with a science organisation to offer interactive home schooling material with the aim of raising awareness of career opportunities, micro- and nano-influencers are a powerful means of communicating with audiences.
Julie is an Account Director, leading our influence marketing practice at Weber Shandwick Scotland, and is a sought after expert in the subject. Contact her at JBrander@webershandwick.com.