Not so long ago, the use of celebrities and influential figures as a marketing tactic seemed reserved for only the biggest consumer brands. Michael Jordan and Nike, Michael Jackson and Pepsi, Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein. Big brands used big names in traditional outlets – commercials, billboards, magazine ads – to connect with consumers where they were – watching television, driving to the grocery store, sitting at home with the latest issue of Vogue. Consumer attention can still be found in these outlets but more and more, time is spent in the digital world on social media.

82% of the US population has a social media account, and on average Americans spend over two hours a day on social media platforms. The use of digital marketing by brands has exploded in the recent past, with influencers as a key tactic. Five years ago the global influencer market was estimated at $4.6B and today, it’s estimated to have grown by almost 4x to $16.4B. “Celebrity” means something different in the digital realm. Internet celebrities are home-grown, building their own brands on Instagram and Tiktok, many with the singular purpose of growing their follower base to attract brands to pay them to promote their products. Smaller brands that would not have been able to afford celebrity endorsements now have access to influential figures with a direct line of communication to their target markets.

The most successful influencers connect with consumer lifestyles or values. Fitness gurus, mommy bloggers, foodies, and designers tap into consumer common points of interest and aspirations. We trust influencers because they are like us – or how we want to be. Brand trust is a marketer’s dream, and if executed well, can be built using influencers. According to new data from consumer intelligence research platform CivicScience, 22% of respondents said they had purchased something because an influencer recommended it on social media.

ArchPoint Consultant and marketing expert Iain Douglas shares, “I wonder if we shouldn’t now evolve the word “influencer.” I see the great ones more as trusted friends and guides who we can go to for advice.” Iain’s point is the crux of what drives influencer effectiveness: consumers trust them and seek their advice on the products and services they purchase.

The use of influencers in your marketing should be part of your larger digital and social media strategies – not a standalone effort. For example, building a digital ad campaign that coincides with influencer activity amplifies impact. Clarity on your goals will help identify how to best integrate influencers to deliver the results you seek.

Here are six reasons brands should consider using influencers.

1.     Establish Immediate Credibility

Authenticity is the golden ticket when it comes to how influential an influencer can be for your brand. When an unaffiliated expert speaks favorably about your brand in a genuine, non-scripted manner, you gain substantial credibility that is very difficult to replicate. But beware – influencer fans can easily spot and tire from overly salesy or fake-feeling content. That is the biggest power of influencers – the trust their followers have in their authentic opinion. Today’s consumer is more likely to trust a recommendation from someone they perceive as a peer instead of directly from a brand.

2. Validate Your Product

Watching a trusted source provide real-world (even if it is digital) validation for a product that consumers may not have had interaction with before purchasing is helpful, especially in the world of e-commerce. Take skincare, for example. Online reviews are helpful but seeing product results on a real human being whose opinion you trust can be an incredibly potent motivator to purchase. One popular beauty influencer tactic is to show “before” photos and videos and then “after” results of glowing skin after using a product. Visual proof your product delivers on its promise validates it in the marketplace among consumers.

3. Gain Exposure

Many influencers have large social media followings in addition to top-tier media ties. Building influencer relationships can help brands acquire access to their followers and networks.

Influencers fall into the following categories:

  • Nano-influencers: 1,000–10,000 followers
  • Micro-influencers: 10,000–50,000 followers
  • Mid-tier influencers: 50,000–500,000 followers
  • Macro-influencers: 500,000–1,000,000 followers
  • Mega-influencers: 1,000,000+ followers

Each of these classifications can be helpful based on your marketing objectives. For example, launching a product in a few targeted locations using nano or micro-influencers can be a cost-effective way to utilize influencers versus aiming for national reach with a mega-influencer.

4. Add Personality to Your Brand

Including a good influencer in your marketing strategy personifies your brand and your values. Sometimes it is hard for a brand to showcase their personality, especially in consumer goods. Bringing in an influencer who reflects your brand values and exemplifies your story with personality adds to the consumer perception of your brand and helps build a more meaningful connection.

5. Boost Content Production

Influencers essentially create native ads that tend to resonate better with consumers which can enhance advertising performance and improve overall conversion. The perceived value of user-generated content has grown, and utilizing the content produced by an influencer on your brand’s feed can be highly beneficial.

6. Help You Target the Right Consumer

Gen Z — a demographic aged 16-26 — now makes up 40% of consumers. They are the most “plugged in” generation to date, spending hours on social media daily, consuming and creating content, and most importantly, seeking inspiration. The pandemic has shown that other generations increasingly mimic this behavior, meaning that a comprehensive digital strategy is no longer optional.

Working with influencers in your marketing can help create engaging and unique content, which can lead to increased engagement – and provide access to potential consumers. The key is to find the right influencer to represent your brand and ensure influencer efforts align with your overall strategy.

Douglas shares, “Great influencers are sustainable. They understand your brand’s equity — experientially, verbally, and visually. People always have a choice to follow someone or not and they can stop at any time. You don’t need one-hit wonders. Find influencers who can produce timeless content and who add value to a brand’s equity and build it.”