Social media has rewritten the market landscape more than once in the decade or so since it became massively popular with the general public.
Some of the new methods of reaching audiences manage to look a lot like the old ones without doing the same thing.
One of the most significant points of comparison is the way brand influencers work versus celebrity endorsements.
With many influencers carrying followings in the hundreds of thousands or even millions, it's easy to see why they look like celebrities to marketers and consumers alike.
But the function and format of their endorsements are massively different.
That means you might not want to be so quick to cast the situation as one form of marketing being more effective or valuable than another.
Instead, see the situation as one where both celebrity endorsements and influencers have a role to play in the promotion of your company.
How Influencers Are Different
Celebrity endorsements have long been about using the celebrity's appeal to a fan base to influence their desire to engage with a product.
There are a few ways celebrities do this, but regardless of the additional reasons, they work. The thing all celebrity endorsements have in common is that they tend to pull along a fair portion of the fan base, people who want to engage with things simply because their favorite personality does.
Other appeals that work for celebrity endorsements are:
- Sex appeal
- In-group association
Since many celebrities are also viewed as class symbols, their choices of support can massively impact trends in fashion, design, and other practical arts.
Influencers, on the other hand, do not operate based on their established fame or magnetic personality.
Many of them are building those engagement skills through their participation in the influencer culture, and many influencers are aspiring actors, models, or performance artists in other ways.
Influencers use some of the same appeals as celebrities.
But creative content from social media influencers use techniques common with brand spokespeople:
- Lifestyle fit
- Labor-saving qualities
- Comparison to alternatives
- Appeal to innovation.
The result when using an influencer is that you get a presentation very like a pitch person would do, but from an outsider perspective.
One that is based on authentic interest in the product or its ability to solve a problem.
Why Authenticity Matters
Celebrity endorsements aren't less valuable by virtue of being artificial, but they are based on a business decision that is solely a business decision.
Influencers, when they are at the top of their profession, are documenting a lifestyle and talking about the ways they augment and support it.
The tools they use, and highlights are not always paid endorsements. Instead, they are often what the influencer is using to solve a problem or reach a goal.
This makes their inclusion of paid content very powerful because it sets up the expectation in the audience that the influencer would not recommend it if it were not a good fit for the job it's doing.
Influencer personalities work hard to establish their authenticity. The internet is a little cruel to the people who are found out as pretenders or grifters.
This is another reason why investing with a known influencer whose track record is sound is so vital if you opt for this route.
Finding the right influencer is about more than just courting a following. To make an authentic appeal to customers, you need to be doing the work to identify the personality whose lifestyle is the best fit for your brand in its current incarnation.
Then, you also need to make sure their audience is just as good a fit. Sometimes, that's not true. Finally, there needs to be a clear value proposition when the product is demonstrated.
Building a Comprehensive Marketing Plan
Finding your entire customer base means meeting them in every place they go for information and solutions.
Influencers represent a powerful social force for communicating about your products, but you also need to plan to reach people outside of those channels.
That way, your reputation is larger than the influencer, and you have a good chance of reaching customers who have heard of you before the influencer talks you up.
Familiarity helps a sales pitch, after all, so if the product is recognizable, the influencer's review of it will be even more powerful.