Influencer Marketing is a powerful tool to help enhance social media marketing plans. Historically, companies have used spokespeople, whether real or fictional, to help promote their products or brands to consumers. Attaching a face to a brand makes it more emotionally appealing to consumers because they have someone to relate to.

Over the years, brands have used characters — from Coca-Cola’s Santa (first introduced in 1923) to Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger (1952), and Flo from Progressive (2008) — as spokespeople. Brands have also found success in using celebrities as endorsers. Prior to 2004, advertisers primarily focused on these kinds of brand ambassadors. However, with the rapid expansion of social media and blogging, advertisers shifted their focus to rely on word-of-mouth advertising using influencers.

Enter the Influencers

Influencers are often average, everyday people who have a large social media following. Consumers trust them because consumers can relate to these influencers. Recommendations from influencers are given almost as much weight as recommendations from a family member or friend, because people become enamored with and invested in these people. These parasocial relationships (where a media consumer has a one-sided relationship with a media persona) can be very strong. When you follow someone on social media, and they post almost every aspect of their life, you tend to feel as if you know them.

Influencers could be deemed today’s version of the style-page editor: finding and reporting on the latest trends. As Millennials and members of Gen Z grow increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising, companies are shifting toward the use of influencers to appeal to these generations.

Micro or Macro?

Influencers are being used across industries from fashion to finance and beyond. There are many types of influencers, and no one specific kind is the best kind. Companies must identify what they are hoping to gain from a partnership with an influencer, setting clear goals and objectives so they can identify the best type of influencer for their brand.

While some companies prefer to go the macro-influencer route, spending more money for a single, well-known influencer, many companies choose to use micro-influencers who have a specific niche, sizable following and strong social media presence. Micro-influencers tend to be more engaged with their followers, so they are viewed as the most authoritative and relatable.

Influential Results

Influencers have proven success rates for boosting brand engagement, with HubSpot reporting that 33% of Gen -Zer’s purchased a product recommended by an influencer in the past three months . The world of Influencer Marketing is constantly evolving, and the research regarding it is still emerging. However, one thing is clear: Influencer Marketing campaigns have a much quicker development time than traditional endorsement deals or character creation that take months of planning and can be expensive to execute. Add that to the list of reasons that this form of spokesperson advertising has become so popular.

Influencer Marketing appears as if it is here to stay. We live in a society where likes and comments are an important form of social currency, and people have become infatuated with those who can amass large followings. However, it’s imperative that brands find the right fit for them, as no two influencer campaigns are alike. As technology and emerging media continue to  advance, companies need to remain educated and adapt their advertising strategies for success.