How Digital Marketers Can Succeed in a World of Influencers

Marketing has always been a competitive industry and trends frequently come and go, but the impact of influencer marketing on consumers’ attitudes is something that few marketers saw coming, and is one of those trends that appears to be here to stay. Rather frustratingly for those in marketing, the presence and scale of influencers is making it increasingly hard to succeed organically. It’s not unusual to see a brand achieve the same level of – if not more – success through one influencer endorsement as with an ongoing, organic digital marketing strategy. So, how do you succeed as a marketer in a world that is becoming dominated by influencers?

digital marketing vs influencer marketing - The Brains
November 15, 2022
10 mins to read
digital marketing vs influencer marketing - The Brains

The good news is, digital marketing still very much has its place and is a valuable tool for every business, but the way you approach it may need to differ as influencers continue to make waves across the advertising and promotion sector. To help you keep up with an ever-changing marketing landscape, here’s how you succeed alongside your influencer competitors.

The growth of influencer marketing: how did we get here?

Influencers themselves are pretty new; they’re a product of the 2010s and social media age, but the concept behind why they’re so successful is a tale as old as time. Influencers are like celebrities, except, rather than finding fame on a TV show or on the radio, they find fame online. They don’t need to be skilled at anything in particular – they just need to be engaging and charismatic, and find people who resonate with them, their experiences, and their opinions. When they do this, they automatically have a community of people who trust their opinions.

As time has gone on, consumers trust brands less and have less confidence in advertising as a whole, but they do trust word of mouth, and they always have done. Before influencers, celebrities were the ones with large fan bases and brand endorsements. If people saw their favourite celebrity drinking a certain drink, they’d also want that drink. This has been going on for decades and it still happens today, but influencers are more easily accessible than celebrities and often don’t need to worry about contracts or long-term deals, so they’re easier for brands to get to.

Not only this, but influencers often get to where they are based on genuine opinions. If an influencer starts out making unsponsored, honest makeup reviews, their audience will remember this and will associate them with being trustworthy. So, when the influencer becomes more successful, they do so on the basis of being honest. This is why they hold so much power – often more than celebrities – because that’s what their reputation and following is built on.

digital marketing vs influencer marketing - The Brains

Key influencer marketing stats to keep in mind

If you’re going to compete against influencers in terms of marketing, you need to at least know the power they hold and the extent of their ‘influence’. So, here are some key stats from Social Shepherd to show you what you’re up against:

  • 61% of consumers trust influencer product recommendations, compared to only 38% of consumers trusting branded social media posts 
  • Influencer marketing is worth $15 billion globally 
  • 80% of consumers have bought an item recommended by an influencer 
  • 60% of YouTube subscribers say they would follow buying advice given by their preferred influencer over advice given by their favourite celebrity
  • For every $1 spent on influencer marketing, businesses make an average of $5.20 in return 

The engagement rate of influencers is far above that of any other type of account, and there’s no denying they generate a lot of brand awareness and therefore money for brands, but this doesn’t mean that traditional marketing is dead in the water. Rather, marketers need to learn to work alongside influencers and use them to their advantage instead of seeing them as direct competitors.

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Digital marketing vs influencer marketing: making them both work

So, just how do you keep your head above water if an influencer can do in a day what it takes you to achieve in weeks or months of dedicated marketing craftsmanship? 

  • Work with influencers 

First and foremost, leverage the influence of influencers. It doesn’t make you any less of a marketer; in fact, doing so can help you achieve your desired KPIs in a shorter time frame. Provided you see a tidy ROAS (which you most likely will), you can use the profits gained from influencer marketing to further expand other areas of your business or supercharge your marketing efforts. 

If you’re unsure whether it’s really worth splashing the budget you do have on paying an influencer, it might be worth keeping in mind that influencer marketing generates an average of 11x more ROI than banner ads. In addition, 60% of marketers who have used influencer marketing say that the influencer posts perform better than normal branded posts.

Also keep in mind that you don’t need to always pay influencers; a lot of smaller ones will often review your service or product off their own back if they receive it in their inbox. There is a lot of value to be gained from smaller influencers, too. For example, creators on TikTok with fewer than 15,000 followers typically enjoy a 17.96% engagement rate, whilst nano-influencers (those with around 1,000-5,000 followers), have a 5% engagement rate. This is higher than those with millions of followers, and as a marketer, you’ll know that engagement is everything. Followers don’t mean anything if they don’t like, comment, share, or interact with you. 

Choosing the right influencer, be them big or small, paid or free, can do wonders for your brand awareness. It’s well worth taking the time to find a niche influencer within your sphere and getting them on board, even if it’s just a one-time thing to see how it goes. 

Stats from Social Shepherd

  • Balance your digital marketing approaches 

Pumping all your money and time into influencer marketing isn’t a good idea, in the same way spending all your budget on PPC whilst neglecting your SEO campaigns also isn’t advisable. The thing about influencers is that they are volatile. One day they might be super popular, and the next they could say something out of turn and find themselves being ‘cancelled’. Not just this, but they’re not a sure bet. There’s no guarantee that 10 years from now, influencer marketing will be anywhere near as big or relevant as it is at the moment. 

With these two thoughts in mind, make sure you balance your digital marketing efforts. Continue to work on your organic SEO rankings and content strategy – this is a key driver of traffic to websites and something most people will use to find you. Lots of people aren’t on social media, and not all of those who are can be ‘influenced’ by an internet celebrity. Don’t neglect these users – make sure you’re spreading your efforts evenly. 

That way, even if the influencer deal does fall through, you still have the backing of Google to keep you afloat and drive traffic to your site. 

  • Get creative in your own right 

People aren’t the only ones who can become influencers. Brands themselves have the power to get large online followings and drive their own promotions. A prime example of this is Duolingo. It’s an international brand but one that operates in a niche market. What makes Duolingo different from other brands is that they themselves have become ‘influencers’, developing a large social media following simply by hopping on viral trends and taking a new approach to brand marketing. 

They post topical, tongue-in-cheek content that for years was frowned upon by businesses. Even now, a lot of brands would steer clear of hot topics and popular culture references, but Duolingo embraced it and is reaping the rewards. The brand has 4.7 million followers on TikTok alone, with nearly 100 million likes in total across all their videos. For reference, Elton John has half the number of followers, with just 2.2 million followers and only 15.9 million likes. (Numbers correct at the time of writing). 

You might not be the next Duolingo, but what this shows is that brands can amass giant followings simply by getting creative and developing their own persona. The age-old -sales-first tactic doesn’t resonate with the online generation, so adapting to overcome is a must. If you have the resources (and permission from the powers that be) to create more quirky, less-businessy content, you can take some of the power back from influencers through your own growing following. 

If you succeed at social media marketing and continue to work your magic with PPC and SEO, you are essentially Jason Vorhees: you can’t be stopped.

Final thoughts

It’s not easy trying to succeed in an oversaturated digital landscape, but taking the above three tips into consideration is a good place to start. Oftentimes, your biggest problem can be your greatest help, and influencer marketing is no exception. Whilst we don’t know how long it’s going to be around for, it makes sense to leverage it whilst you can. 

What we do know is that PPC and SEO are here for the long-haul, so it’s important you get these right, too. If you need help with this, get in touch with us and we’ll discuss how you can get the wheels in motion and get on the path to becoming an unstoppable digital marketing force.

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