By Cynthia Corzo
Who can live without a daily dose of social media?
User-generated content has become one of the most captivating methods to connect authentically with audiences one-on-one — and social media is the key vehicle to deliver it, enabling brands to grow their business in ways that previously weren't possible.
Social media influencers, users with large followings who post about products, brands and services, make a brand more believable because consumers have shown they trust opinions from other followers more than what brands say about themselves.
"Influencers have been gamechangers," said Mauricio Angarita (BBA '05), CEO of digital strategy garage The Thumb Fighter.
A report from market research firm eMarketer forecasts that influencer marketing spending will increase 33.6% in 2021 to $3.69 billion, more than double the 14.4% increase in 2020, when brands spent $2.76 billion.
"Power of personal interactions is huge," said Anthony Miyazaki, chair and professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business. "If influencers have credibility with consumers, they're going to be influenced. All it takes is for us to believe them."
"If you don't have a share of voice, you're not winning," noted Christina de Leon Belloc (MIB '06), former senior marketing manager at Revlon Latin America.
"IF INFLUENCERS HAVE CREDIBILITY WITH CONSUMERS, THEY'RE GOING TO BE INFLUENCED. ALL IT TAKES IS FOR US TO BELIEVE THEM."
A continuing challenge for brands is to determine what level of influencer to tap into — the mega A-list star or the microinfluencer who's in close contact with his followers. Miyazaki points out that a mega influencer's connection with his or her followers is more of a fan relationship and not the more intimate contact that a micro-influencer delivers.
"If Arianna Grande says, ‘I'm going to use this product,' so many people who adore her are going to do the same thing and buy the product," he said. "For small- and medium-sized brands with less money to spend, the decision comes down to value."
Some experts point out that micro-influencers, those with fewer than 100,000 followers, are often the most effective, ensuring that the target consumer makes the buy.
"They're more reachable, they actually answer followers' comments and questions, and they engage more," said David del Rio (MBA '18), manager of paid social media at Mediabrands. "They dig deeper down the rabbit hole to make sure the consumer buys that new product or the service."
Locked down during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers boosted their use of digital content and online shopping skyrocketed. As a result, many brands increased their investment in influencer marketing. "The digital revolution has been 25 years in the making," said Angarita. "The pandemic accelerated it from 0 mph to 100 mph in one year."
Options abound. Instagram remains the most popular option but it's far from alone. TikTok, a massive platform that moves all types of audiences and content, is one of the top performers today. Popularized by its shareable short-form videos, TikTok has developed high-profile influencers and is making it easier for brands to expand their social media presence.
And despite the growing popularity of new platforms, industry experts say brands can't ignore YouTube or Facebook, says Angarita: "Brands can increase the connection with Gen Z and Millennials who don't necessarily interact or post on those platforms, but they go in and consume the content."
Some brands are trying to value their influencers by paying them as they sell, similar to a commission basis, Miyazaki explained. The influencer is given a URL and when the consumer clicks on the link to make the purchase, those sales come in through that particular person.
"Brands are using technology to determine how many people actually purchase the product from that influencer," he said. With the ability to track, "now you know the real influence."
FOCUS ON YOUR OBJECTIVES. The ultimate goal of having an engaged following is to create meaningful connections with existing and potential customers, to establish personal and long-term relationships. Seek out influencers who resonate with the brand's DNA, image and message.
DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE. Examine the influencer's followers, their feed and the stories they post to determine if it's a good match. If an influencer works with a different brand every day, they may not be as credible, and their messaging doesn't show much stability.
SET YOUR STRATEGY. To capture the user's attention in the social media space, messaging must be creative and innovative. Influencer marketing must also be well thought out, organized, and must make sense to the company and what the product represents.