Still singing your own praises? Then you’re out of tune with three-quarters of modern buyers.
Brands that spend most of their time pushing out traditional advertising risk coming across as nothing more than just the stereotypical used-car salesperson. Society has always had a healthy distrust of selling, but viewers are now downright hostile toward the concept. Yet they’re still buying — in droves — thanks to the reverse-selling approach of influencer marketing.
Influencers have always propped up brands, but their relevance has rocketed with the internet’s equalizing effect. Companies no longer need to hire the Hollywood elite to market their goods and services; a YouTube or Instagram star with thousands of engaged followers is just as formidable — and profit-producing.
Because of their importance in reverse selling, influencers must be courted and rewarded as befits their role. Treat the people who can introduce your brand to key target audiences well, and you’ll see the benefits.
Joining forces with the right influencers
When Emily Weiss began the blog that became the Instagram sensation Glossier, she never dreamed her reach would eventually extend to millions of “girl talk”-loving women each quarter. Now Glossier packs a major punch by encouraging its loyalists to try new products and share their findings with others. Weiss built a squad of brand ambassadors without trying and attributes 90 percent of her business’s profits to their sway. To thank her cheerleaders, she told Quartz during an interview that she’s developed a program to incentivize influencers.
Glossier’s success is a case study for any company that wants to embrace the reverse-selling ideology and turn followers into advocates. Glossier illustrates that influencer marketing is just smart business — and benefits all parties. After all, what other marketing method is based on existing trust and confidence? Influencers have already done the work to build their communities, so they have the ability to create energy around a brand's product or services.
And it all happens in real time. When Lupe Sujey Cuevas posts content, her visuals are seen around the globe. Influencers with smaller audiences can produce speedy outcomes as subscribers continue to pass along insights and information to their own tribes.
Of course, something this good isn’t without its pitfalls, and plenty of companies have entered the reverse-selling influencer marketing arena with the wrong focus from the get-go. One of the biggest faux pas is a cold transactional approach to an influencer relationship. Influencers without any connection to a brand are just going through the motions — and their followers can sniff out their inauthentic posts like bloodhounds. A brand-influencer relationship should be businesslike, with creative guidelines and contractual arrangements, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be genuine.
Companies must treat influencers with respect, not as though they’re outsiders. In fact, they might actually be a substantial portion of a company’s marketing mix. But organizations can’t rely on influencer marketing for everything: Influencers are part of the solution — not the solution itself.
Best practices in reverse selling and influencer marketing
Want to engage and empower influencers? Follow these guidelines.
1. Build relationships.
Influencer marketing is a long game. A sudden email to an influencer isn’t going to build a connection — expect the process to take some time. Gradually get a foothold in the influencer's world by building rapport. Go for a conversation, not a sale. This marathon approach makes it more likely that prospective influencers won’t just feel like a cog in the wheel when you do approach them.
2. Put faith in artificial intelligence.
While some marketers are still hesitant to allow artificial intelligence into their departments, others have fully embraced it as a tool. AI makes it easier to spot influencer fraud, drive a return on investment, evaluate influencer transparency, and even create formulas to optimize reverse selling at scale. Marketers are at an advantage if they have access to the big data that can be curated from leaning on emerging AI platforms.
3. Plan alongside influencers.
Want to ramp up your marketing? Give influencers a voice. Their insights into what target audiences want — and how they want it — can boost brand engagement. Don’t underestimate their ability to keep a finger on the pulse of followers and tune into the values of that population. Utilize influencers' insider knowledge to develop customized content that promotes profitable word-of-mouth selling.
4. Master influencer live streaming.
YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram all jumped into live streaming in 2017, and viewers subscribed in extraordinary numbers. Live streaming is a natural platform for influencer collaboration events, especially now that it’s become more mainstream. Proactively develop content that’s stream-worthy with your ambassadors to make the most of this exciting and immediate forum.
Influencer marketing is a bright spot for brands — especially those that want to avoid the pitfalls of traditional marketing online. All companies need is the willingness to approach the practice with fresh eyes and an open mind.