Think you can continue to avoid influencer marketing? Think again! The Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2021, carried out by Influencer Marketing Hub by surveying over 5,000 relevant brands and professionals, found that the industry is projected to grow to nearly $14 billion this year. That means that your competitors are likely using it – or will be.

Once you have a more realistic understanding of influencer marketing, you can effectively add it to your overall marketing strategy – without expecting the impossible. In this article, we’re going to set some common misconceptions straight. Let’s get started!

You May Not Recognize the Influencer

While celebrities and well-known public figures can be influencers, not every influencer is a recognizable celebrity. Influencers are known in their niche and by their devoted audience, but they’re still unknowns to most other people. Here’s the thing: When it comes to influencer marketing, what matters isn’t broad recognizability. Instead, what’s most important is that the influencer can encourage their audience (which should match or have cross-over with your audience) to take a specific action.

Celebrity Does Not an Influencer Make

Not every celebrity can be a successful influencer. For example, a celebrity who doesn’t post on social media can’t all of a sudden start posting about a product they use and expect to have a following. Even if they do attract fans, those fans may not take action on influencer-type posts because there’s no track record of that celebrity recommending quality products. Influencers don’t just have fans who love them – they have fans who love their choices and suggestions, too.

The Influencer May Not Even Be a Person

While “influencer” usually refers to a person, influencer marketing can go beyond connecting with an individual. A brand (that complements your brand) or a website can be considered an influencer, too. If the outlet has influence over your target audience, you can consider it when putting together your influencer marketing plan. For example, you could reach out to the editor of a news and lifestyle website that sends a lot of traffic from stories to product pages.

Influencer Marketing Happens Away From Social Media, Too

While many influencers use social media for marketing, some reach their audience away from social media, too. For example, forums (like Reddit) and blog comment sections can be used for influencer marketing. Even publishing ratings and reviews of products can be part of influencer marketing if the user is a well-known reviewer.

Those alternatives are semi-untapped, too, which means there’s less competition and more of an opportunity for your campaigns to stand out. Sixty-seven percent of respondents to the Benchmark Report use Instagram for their influencer marketing. On the one hand, that makes Instagram an excellent place to run campaigns. On the other hand, it means that Instagram is getting overrun with competing influencer campaigns.

A Huge Following Doesn’t Mean the Influencer is Successful

There are all sorts of ways to gain a following on social media, and some audiences aren’t built in the most ethical or organic of ways. What you should care about is how engaged the influencer’s audience is, not how large it is. An influencer with a very small but highly engaged audience is better than one with a vast audience that ignores most of what’s posted.

Some Influencers Don’t Need Financial Compensation

If you’re going to work with celebrity or macro-influencers, then yes, you’re going to need to pay them (a lot, probably). But smaller influencers often partner with brands they believe in and only ask for free products or services as payment. When an influencer is still on the small side, their main goal is building their following, and collaborating with brands is a huge part of how they get their audience to invest in what they’re promoting.

If you can’t give away a super-expensive product for free, even with an influencer campaign as a trade-off, try to give the influencer a steep discount, especially if you’re not giving them any type of financial payment in addition to the product.

Practically Every Niche Can Run Influencer Marketing Campaigns

When you first think of influencer marketing, you may picture beauty or travel bloggers – and that’s about it. But influencer marketing takes place in pretty much every industry, not just the most well-known ones. Think of it this way: For every industry, there’s a complementary influencer.

For example, car brands do well on YouTube because of the video-centric nature of the platform (car companies tend to have fantastic commercials). And education-focused brands can partner with scholarly Instagram accounts, like National Geographic. If you can’t find a direct link between your niche and an influencer, think about other topics your audience is interested in. For example, a mattress brand doesn’t have to find a mattress influencer – instead, they can partner with a home décor influencer.

It’s Not As Hard As You Think To Measure Success

In marketing, calculating return on investment (ROI) is always a must – and often a challenge. Influencer marketing is easier to track than you probably think, though. When you partner with an influencer, it’s important to discuss how their data will be shared with you. Ideally, the influencer will show you must-know key performance indicators (KPIs), like conversion rate, engagement and impressions. (P.S. Conversions and sales are the most popular type of measurement to stay on top of, according to the Benchmark Report.) And by using dedicated URLs, tracking cookies and discount codes, you can determine which traffic is coming from an influencer post.

Wrapping Up

Once you find an influencer (or a few) that you like working with, you can use them again and again. According to the Benchmark Report, most brands use the same influencers in several campaigns. However, finding the right influencers is still the biggest challenge that brands face, so it may be helpful to check out this post about finding the right Instagram influencers for your brand.