THE BLOG
01/22/2016 03:00 pm ET Updated Jan 22, 2017

Buy Your Audience? Influencer Marketing Says, "Yes!"

Last year, Forbes announced the explosive growth for influencer marketing. While companies have always focused their advertising on the customer, it's now gone the next step to the customer's voice and the influence that voice has when broadcast across a wide area like the scope and extensive range of coverage found on the social media platforms.

It's About People, Not Spots

This disruption to how companies advertise their products and services means that resources are migrating away from paying for ads. The movement is toward buying an audience of influencers who then get the leads and even close the deals on purchasing decisions for many others. The Forbes article quoted a McKinsey Study that found just how much more powerful word-of-mouth marketing is compared to paid advertising.

While influencers have been touted as popular bloggers, celebrities, and Internet sensations, let's not forget that those "moms" and "millennials" out there wield considerable power among their peers. These everyday people are out there, influencing others by what they post on their Facebook pages, Instagram and YouTube accounts, and Twitter feeds.

Whatever their background or platform of choice, these influencers are picking their niche and amassing a following that can reach into the millions. These niches often align with numerous types of consumer products and service applications that are now becoming better targets than individual consumers without this same following.

Influencer Marketing Trends

Companies like Influential were developed to help companies market directly to those influencers who can convince others that their product or service is what they need or want. Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, recently observed some of the reasons why influencer marketing continues to grow in popularity as well as identified some of the emerging trends related to this movement.

1. Social has become a true media buy. Companies can now leverage the preferred partnerships of influencer marketing firms. This means that both brands and the agencies that represent them can essentially buy a target audience on social platforms just like they would have bought a spot on television or radio but target the influencers down to a specific niche.

2. Mobile first influencer technology is driving explosive growth. Over 85% of social media is consumed and conducted on mobile devices. New technology is now allowing mobile-optimized interaction between influencers and brands to generate and conduct brand campaigns. This revolutionary technology will further encourage the use of mobile social media campaigns and widen the access to and reception from targeted influencers.

3. There will be a migration from isolated platform building to an agnostic platform model. The typical model for influencer marketing has been to build and pay each platform separately even if it involved some of the same influencers on each platform. Since this lowers the value of the return on investment, the new direction is to offer brands an agnostic platform that can use the same forward-facing ambassadors on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube. Not only does this maximize a brand's ad budget and efficiently reach as many influencers as possible, but this streamlined process helps to better identify and deliver key performance indicators (KPIs).

4. More influencer campaigns are happening on-site. The real-time nature of content has become a commonplace expectation among most influencers and their followers. Influencers are often involved in large events, such as the Coachella music festival, electronic music concerts like EDC, the World Cup, the Olympics and other hugely followed attractions, where these influencers regularly tweet or report to various social media platforms. Brands are starting to look for partners to help them run on-site campaigns in conjunction with these influencers to make the most of an opportunity where followers are tuned in and open to hearing about brands from those they admire.

5. Brands will look to influencer marketing companies that garner the largest share of voice across all platforms. Brands want to reach the largest share of their target audience as possible so they want to partner with an influencer marketing company that can deliver. Since the biggest branded Snapchat campaign in history received over seven million views, and the YouTube vid, "Uptown Funk," by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) has received over 1 billion views, the bar has been set high in terms of the expectations brands now have when partnering with an influencer marketing company. Competition will continue to grow as more influencer marketing companies will emerge with the technology to offer similar campaign results to those achieved with the Snapchat campaign and YouTube video.

6. Use a custom URL for the campaign. With many more domain name extensions available such as .live .social and .video enable you to create a short social centric URL just for your influencer marketing and truly track the results. According to Rightside marketers get much better results if "an artist sharing your work through .BAND or .ACTOR, an expert having some fun with .NINJA, or a nonprofit helping to save the world with .GIVES."

Detert further explains, "All of these changes and trends in the marketplace provide exciting opportunities for brands to use their marketing dollars in new and effective ways. Rather than just conceding that ordinary people now have the power to influence their customers and prospects, the most successful brands will realize the benefit of this power shift and use it to actually drive greater sales and brand loyalty."

Leveraging Their Influence

While partnering with companies like Influential can help attract the attention of influencers, it is then up to your company and your brand to build relationships with those influencers through ongoing interaction, loyalty programs, and exclusive discounts. These tactics illustrate that companies willing to go these few steps farther to show appreciation for what influencer can do for you, will find great rewards from marketing dollars. Remember that those influencers are doing the heavy lifting for you - so it's vital to keep them on your team and working for your brand.