Influencer marketing is big business. In fact, according to a recent study in Adweek, 75 percent of brands engage influencers as part of their core advertising strategies. Brands recognize that today’s consumers are savvy — and not easily swayed by traditional ad-speak. And, consumers look to their peers to help them make purchase decisions. The solution? Using influencer marketing to leverage the power of trusted and respected experts in your field is a smart, effective way to increase brand awareness, build an audience, and improve your bottom line.
Five Shining Stars of Influencer Marketing
While it seems everyone is jumping on the influencer bandwagon, there are certainly some shining stars. Following are five examples of influencer-marketing campaigns done well and what we can learn from the companies that are doing it right.
1. Sephora — Creating Authenticity Through Unbiased Reviews
The health and beauty industry may have an advantage when it comes to influencer marketing, simply because it’s cost-effective to send sample products to influential people to have them try them. However, too often, brands reach out to influencers with an agenda: “Try our product and write a glowing review.” With transparency and authenticity in mind, Sephora has taken a different approach. They built Beauty Talk: a community of insiders who leave honest product reviews, help other consumers make decisions based on their needs, and share their findings. Anecdotally, Sephora sends free samples to beauty vloggers/bloggers and other influencers, but the reviews they receive in return are always authentic and genuine. The community is successful because Sephora gives influencers the freedom they need to be unbiased, which in turn, fosters a genuineness that consumers appreciate. Sure, parameters still exist — but asking for honest, unbiased opinions has been extremely effective.
2. Nikon — Choosing the Right Fit
The Nikon brand launched a social-sharing campaign to showcase its connected camera offerings during the Warner Sound Festival. The company quickly created buzz — using #NikonWarnerSound — which trended on Twitter all three nights of the event. Partnering with Warner Music Group, Nikon presented roaming photographers with Nikon cameras to use throughout the event to take and share pictures with their personal Facebook communities. By giving established photographers access to these cameras, Nikon turned their product over to their best advocates — the photographers themselves — and created instant credibility.
3. Birchbox — Cultivating a Mutually Beneficial and Highly Lucrative Partnership
Birchbox — an online subscription service for beauty supplies — partnered with lifestyle blogger, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes & Cashmere, to customize one of their beauty-supply boxes. With carte blanche to choose products she knew would resonate with her fans, Emily showcased Birchbox to 300,000 followers on Instagram. It was the perfect partnership: Emily aligned with Birchbox — a very reputable brand — to share something of value with her audience. In return, Birchbox was exposed to an enormous, relevant audience. The benefit was both mutual and highly lucrative.
4. Boxed Water — Remaining True to Brand Values
Boxed Water may sell water, but the company also touts conservation and renewable resources, which is why its influencer campaign, Retree Project, was such a success. With help from the National Forest Foundation, Boxed Water was able to spread the word about their philanthropic campaign. For every Instagram photo that was posted using #Retree, Boxed Water agreed to plant two trees. The brand reached out to known Instagram influencers — those who had already attracted hundreds of thousands of followers each — asking them not only to post in support of the campaign, but also to encourage their community members to repost. Leveraging the power of Instagram influencers to raise brand awareness — while remaining true to brand values — was brilliant.
5. Buick Automobile — Gaining Fresh Perspectives
Buick’s influencer campaign called on nine of the most prominent Pinterest influencers — often referred to as Pinfluencers — in the fields of style and design to help create a brand image surrounding its new Encore luxury model. Rather than partner with influencers who are respected in the automobile industry, they chose outsiders so they could align the brand with experts from a different sphere. Pinfluencers shared their visions of how the exterior and interior of this new luxury model would look, encouraging consumers to revisit the brand with fresh perspectives.
What does an audience look for in an influencer? What attributes create a sense of trust? Most people see through advertisements, realizing that companies are likely saying whatever they think you want to hear. Add a familiar, trusted voice, and suddenly, marketing has credibility. When a respected voice of authority makes a suggestion, it feels authentic and believable.
Of course, creating a successful influencer campaign takes much more than just finding an expert who will post a blog touting your product or service. It’s critical to pick the right influencer — preferably someone with an established audience in the area of expertise into which you are looking to expand or with an entirely new segment you’re trying to reach. The best campaigns are genuine and contain messaging that stays true to your values as a brand. The right “fit” is everything — without it, even the best spokesperson will leave your audience feeling disconnected.