How Is Influencer Marketing Superior to Digital Ads?

05/01/2017 01:31 pm ET
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Getty Images

Why is influencer marketing growing faster than digital ads? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Mario Peshev, CEO of DevriX, on Quora:

Influencer marketing is not a new trend, just as digital ads weren’t anything groundbreaking (given their predecessor the print ads, billboards and other forms of offline banners).

Brands have been utilizing influencers and industry leaders in order to promote their products and services for quite some time - probably longer than the ads’ existence.

One practical example is Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with a popular brand. In 2016 alone, he has generated $500M in value for Nike.

Ronaldo posted 1,703 times overall on social media in 2016. Those posts generated 2.25 billion social interactions (likes, comments, shares, retweets and views on videos), per Hookit. Nike was referenced or its logo visible in a photo or video in 347 of the posts, which had 477 million interactions. Hookit’s methodology looks at promotion type and quality, as well as interactions and market-driven rates. The result: $499.6 million for Nike in media value from Ronaldo’s posts.

So, why is influencer marketing superior as compared to digital ads?

People Trust People

Just like a B2B transaction isn’t a deal between two businesses (but rather managers trusting each others’ abilities), selling products and services to consumers also converts better with a trusted figure.

Digital ads rely (mostly) on a media outlet promoting one’s services. It’s (almost) always a cash-driven transaction and widespread across the net for decades. Influencers, on the other hand, tend to promote brands that they are willing to connect to and bet their name on them.

For example, we’ve been contacted by over a dozen hosting providers for influencer marketing just in the past eighteen months. However, we have our personal preference that we promote across our different channels even without monetary amounts included - simply because it helps our business and supports our clients’ needs, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and longer contract deals for us directly from our accounts.

Adblockers Are Widely Used

According to IAB, 26 percent of desktop users use blockers to remove ads. That limits a quarter of a website’s users from even seeing the advertisement in the first place, thus reducing conversion rates.

Online platforms like Medium simply abandoned ads for good, even though there are actionable strategies that may increase conversion rates and decrease the dissatisfaction from readers stumbling upon tons of ads on their preferred websites: Is Medium CEO Ev Williams right that ad-driven media on the Internet is broken?

Focused Customer Targeting

A common approach for larger brands is supporting (and sponsoring) larger outlets that cover various stories for different audiences. That includes magazines that employ dozens (if not hundreds) of contributors sharing stories for different industries, as well as global ad networks such as Google Adwords.

When refined targeting is not in place, a good percentage of the impressions focus on the right audience - people who are genuinely not interested in the category or the type of advertised product.

Better Customer Market Penetration

Moreover, entering a new niche may take years with traditional advertisement approach. Getting yourself known in a new field may be close to impossible without building a network of industry peers who can collaborate with you, cross-promote your products, or include them in their packages.

Influencer marketing may facilitate the exposure and network growth in months, and position businesses higher than competitors that have been sponsoring outlets for many years.

Utilizing Different Channels

Most deals with publications focused on digital ads cover solely a banner placement within the website itself.

What about social networks, offline events, or other mediums that gather people with various preferences?

Influencer marketing utilizes the visibility of the influencer in various manners:

  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest posts
  • Video marketing on YouTube
  • Live video streaming and interactivity with the crowd
  • Interviews and other forms of PR

That added exposure has immense value for the promoted brand and can very well attract people who don’t follow a traditional (if not outdated) buying flow.

Rise of Micro-to-Middle Influencers

The Influencer marketing trend develops two different areas: the willingness of brands to rely on influencers and the determination of industry leaders to increase their exposure and authority by growing their audience.

That makes it possible for smaller brands to rely on micro and power-middle influencers who may not be known worldwide, but still have a decent group of followers and fans willing to trust their judgement and advice.

Conversational Model

One of the drawbacks of digital ads is the lack of dialog.

Influencers (especially well-established ones without PR teams) are reachable, and can elaborate on their choice of preferred brand that they advertise. You can find them at conferences, on Twitter, email them, or interact in their blog.

Q&A or AMA sessions are common with new influencers, too. You can ask follow-up questions about the advertised business and understand whether it’s a good fit within your particular use case.

In addition to all notable benefits outlined above, influencer marketing can boost SEO through content marketing and various promotions (including PR and interviews), provide better analytics and tracking across different platforms, and include other forms of promotions such as a branded slide during a presentation led by an influencer.

All of those are viable alternatives for businesses who would like to get closer to their customers, receive actionable feedback from the influencers they partner with, get practical suggestions for product or service improvements, and take their brand to the next level.

Edit: For everyone eager to learn more about influencer marketing, here is a 3,000+ words long guest post that I’ve crafted that covers the process that I’ve followed myself and mentored a few more people who have landed some mentions during the first few months: 8 Actionable Steps to Get Featured by Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. and More - Triberr.

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