The closer the connection with the influencer, the larger the impact on the purchase decision.
H2H or human-to-human marketing has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Collaborations with bloggers, YouTubers and other social media influencers is part of the everyday activities of both consumer brands and public corporations.
The influencer does not always need to be a huge star with hundreds of thousands of followers. Sometimes, the best influencer may be a so-called micro-influencer with a small number of followers, a person who seems relatable to the public.
The power of influencer marketing is mostly based on how reliable, knowable and relatable the followers find the influencer. In other words, the closer the connection with the influencer, the more believable the statement and the larger the impact on, for instance, a purchase decision. Influencers are often able to speak directly to consumers.
“People often think that organisations and brands with a great deal of power and funds to buy exposure through media, for example, also have an agenda. If a product or service is, instead, recommended by a person we feel is our equal, we do not suspect them of having a secret agenda as we ourselves do not have one,” explains Professor Vilma Luoja-aho from Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics.
Authenticity is everything
According to Luoma-aho, a person without a hidden agenda usually feels like the most reliable person to recommend a product or service. The perceived authenticity of the recommendation plays a key role.
“If a person has a problem which another person has solved, the former is more likely to listen to the opinion of the latter than to pay attention to purchased advertising on the subject,” says Luoma-aho.
How to identify a sincere recommendation? Luoma-aho advises users to ask themselves three questions.
“Who is making the recommendation, what are they trying to make me think or do and how will they personally benefit from this? Consumers may not automatically think about these questions, especially if the recommendation comes from a friend or a person who feels like a friend. In other words, it requires you to constantly think for yourself,” says Luoma-aho.
Micro, macro and mega-level influencers
When brands and organisations are just starting their collaborations with influencers, one of the major questions has to do with choosing the influencers. What type of an influencer will ensure the most effective collaboration?
“All types of influencers are important. There are mega-influencers, such as the major YouTubers. Then, there are macro-influencers, such as established bloggers, as well as micro-influencers with a small, limited audience in social media. There are also expert influencers, such as representatives of organisations,” explains Inna-Pirjetta Lahti from influencer marketing company PING Helsinki.
According to Lahti, it all depends on what the company wishes to achieve with the influencers.
“If we’re talking about raising awareness or launching a brand, an excellent choice is to use influencers with a large coverage. However, if you’re building a flea market application which means a limited group of users, it may be more effective to find micro-influencers who speak to your exact target group,” says Lahti.
According to Lahti, companies should focus less on the numbers of followers and more on the nature of the influencer’s audience. It is also important to ensure that the influencer is genuinely inspired by the service or product and that their values are similar to the company.
There are differences between levels of professionalism
In addition to the numbers of followers, influencers also differ by the level of professionalism with which they produce content. Micro-influencers speaking to small groups may not be as professional in generating content as bloggers and YouTubers amassing tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers on a regular basis.
“Micro-influencers may not have a system for keeping in touch with their followers and responding to comments and questions, for example. At a macro-influencer level, communicating with the followers is extremely important, and the influencers usually plan and schedule their responses to comments. The discussion with micro-influencers is more organic and less systematic,” says Lahti.
However, this may be the key to the power of a micro-influencer, the public’s opinion of the authenticity of the content impacts its credibility.
“The more unplanned the recommendation seems, the more reliable people find the content. The audience remains more receptive when the recommendation feels genuine,” says Luoma-aho.