Influencer marketing has exploded. The billion-dollar industry has grown more than 1,000% in just the last six years.
The Harvard Business Review finds more than 75% of brands have a dedicated budget for influencer marketing, and a study from social media resource Influencer Marketing Hub said the industry is expected to grow $21.1 billion this year.
So, what exactly is a social media influencer? Gabriel Cassady, co-owner of Springfield marketing, design and public relations firm 2 Oddballs LLC, defines it as a person who can influence a buyer’s purchasing decisions because of their connections with their online followers. They can be used by businesses to connect with their target market on a more personal level.
Cassady said influencers are known today as individuals with a dedicated social media following and as experts in their niche. However, he said influencers existed long before social media.
“It’s based on one of the oldest human needs, and that is the tribe,” said Cassady. “People, whether they’re celebrities or influencers, they’re the leaders of a tribe of sorts. These days we think of online communities, but they are the tribal leaders.”
Selecting a brand representative goes beyond finding someone with a large number of followers, said Cassady, adding the most effective influencer marketing campaigns target active audiences.
“Audience size used to be important, and it is to an extent important,” Cassady said, “but really, how engaged are their followers? How engaged, and in what way do they engage with their followers? That’s the first thing.”
Giving it a try
Cassady said even small businesses could benefit from this type of exposure as most have budgets that can afford a smaller influencer.
“I think this is one of those things that’s evolved with this category of endorsement marketing,” he said. “It’s gone from celebrities with these huge audiences, and they’re going to require a huge budget, to now what’s being called a micro-influencer.”
Local entrepreneur and social media marketing professional Emily Laurie said her business benefited from its collaboration with local influencers.
Laurie is the founder of Onie and Sky LLC, a custom jewelry business she sold to Tyler and Kala Headley of Lala Links Jewelry in fall 2022. Laurie said the small business gained popularity when she reached out to local influencers and asked them to collaborate.
“I would message them on Instagram and tell them about my company,” said Laurie. “If they wanted to be a part of it, I said I’d love to make a special collection that you would help create.”
Laurie said that payment for the influencers would vary, but she said influencers who agreed to collaborate with Onie and Sky would receive around 15%-20% of sales for the products that were purchased using the influencer’s code. Local influencers Gabrielle Moses, @gabrielle_moses, and Baylee Christophel, @bayleerayl, utilized the commission-based program during their partnership with Onie and Sky.
Laurie has since founded Scattered Marketing, where she manages her client’s social media and digital marketing needs. She said she finds influencers through TheSocialCat.com, which matches local micro-influencers with brands.
“I work with a kid fishing company right now, and we are trying to find influencers in that brand,” said Laurie, who declined to disclose the company’s name. “So, every day, I’ll get five or six inquiries, and I sift through them to see if they’re a fit. It’s basically them trying to be hired by me.”
Laurie said there are some things to look out for before working with influencers. She said she has collaborated with creators who have lacked direction and resources to produce quality content.
“Nothing is worse than getting an influencer that doesn’t have great content and then posting it and it’s blurry or doesn’t show the name very well,” said Laurie. “So, I was really picky about who I wanted representing my brand.”
Sizing down is trending up
A shift has started inside the marketing landscape as it pertains to its utilization of influencers, said Olivia Ormos in a recent article published by Forbes. Ormos is the founder of OO & CO LLC, which is a full-service marketing agency based in Miami. Ormos said the transition from the use of influencers with larger audiences to smaller ones within marketing campaigns is forecast to increase in the years to come.
Influencers are categorized based on their levels of reach, and Ormos references nano-influencers and micro-influencers at the bottom of the scale as they reach a smaller audience than influencers with massive followings.
Nano-influencers have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers, with sponsored Instagram posts ranging $10-$100 for this group, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. Micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 50,000 followers, with each sponsored post costing up to $500.
“These individuals have smaller but highly engaged and loyal followers, allowing brands to establish more authentic and niche connections with their target audience,” said Ormos in Forbes.
Instagram has been the preferred social media platform for influencer marketing, but this year, according to Influencer Marketing Hub, TikTok surpassed the platform for the first time. Roughly 56% of companies use TikTok followed by Instagram, 51%; Facebook, 42%; and YouTube, 38%.
A-list celebrities were once the only players in the world of influencer marketing. Today, however, the player pool has expanded.
“I was just looking at search information and search trends, and even in the last 12 months interest in it has just skyrocketed,” Cassady said.
SBJ interviews the associate dean, vice chair and professor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy at Missouri State University.