Why brands should go the influencer way this holiday season

Christmas is typified by John Lewis’s yearly tear fest advertisement – we all remember last year’s Man on the Moon and this year’s Buster the Boxer. Or how about the iconic Burberry ads? Brands are paying thousands of dollars each year to get some ad-space during the hectic holiday period; but there is another effective strategy which more and more brands are opting for: Influencer Marketing.

Influencer Marketing allows brands to connect with consumers in a more natural way, by using key opinion leaders with large followings on social media to drive a brand’s message to the larger market. With most conventional brands opting for pushy advertisement techniques during the holiday season, today’s integrated Influencer Marketing strategies prove to be the most effective.

According to a study by McKinsey, marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising, along with a 37% higher customer retention rate.

Holidays are all about family dinners, lights and sweets, reminiscing on memories and catching up with your loved ones; but there is another key behaviour associated with the holiday season – and that is shopping. Online shopping has become a preferred choice of customers in the last few years, and online sales are expected to show an astonishing 8.5 to 9% increase this season. One fifth of UK Christmas retail sales will be digital this year. Social Media stars, who have an influence on the buyer’s behaviour, are an extremely effective tool to reach out to the relevant buyers and have a say in their decision making process. Influencers have a very subtle, yet effective way of making a brand’s product or service the new ‘must have’.

In today’s day and age, influencer marketing is a key performance driver for all brands, regardless of their size, resources, or sophistication. Everyone should integrate an influencer marketing strategy into their marketing plans. This form of advertising allows brands to to reach consumers, inside and outside their traditional audience and engage with them through trusted voices. Its value proposition is such that it can’t be found through many if any other forms of social media marketing.

However, it is crucial to find the right influencers, who are authentic in their approach, have a high engagement rate with their followers and match your brand’s identity. Here are some tips, which can help you effectively implement an influencer marketing strategy:

1. Stay true to your brand

Before contacting any influencers, it is important to know exactly what is it that your brand represents and which type of profiles would fit your intended campaign.Think about who their audience is and who you want to engage with from your own point of view. If your main target is to increase brand awareness, one range of influencers might be most effective, while if your purpose is to drive sales, another range of influencers might be key. Authenticity is key in influencer marketing, so be selective in who you partner with.

2. Data doesn’t lie

The number of followers shouldn’t be the only metric whilst deciding on Influencers. Look into the views, engagement, type of audience and demographic and make an informed decision based on these numbers. Analytics need to be looked at based on the objective set by a brand for a particular campaign. This can be crucial in targeting the right audience for your brand. As they say, knowledge is power.

3. Follow the trade guidelines

One major change which has occurred in the world of influencer marketing is the introduction of guidelines set by Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). Influencers are encouraged to reveal when they are posting paid commercial content.This is no risk for a brand, as long as the influencer promoting the product matches the identity and character of the brand. It can be argued, however, that there is no shortage of transparency regarding sponsored posts, as the audience are generally aware of when the influencer’s posts are sponsored, when they endorse a product.

4. Give freedom of content

Influencers have hundreds and thousands, often millions of followers for a reason – they successfully tap into the emotions and aspirations of their audience, and know how to connect with them best. Set the relevant ground rules of your campaign, but let the influencers do what they do best. As long as you are clear on the deliverables and the expectations, they will be far more effective with some autonomy. The audience don’t want to be blatantly advertised to, and the influencers don’t like simply communicating the brand message to their followers. Influencers should be allowed to formulate and tell a story which engages their audiences, while respecting the values of the brand. Brands should be prepared for that type of flexibility; let influencers do what they do best, and your brands will benefit from it.

This article was written by Christian Carter, area manager of Pulse Advertising. Article Posted on The Drum.