Marketing and Influencers: Why they’re essential for brands today

An influencer can be many things—actress, professional athlete, writer, musician or social media star—but they all perform the same essential role of using their significant reach to shape and guide audiences through quality content. This power of persuasion can introduce yet-untapped consumers to your brand or make them see it in a new light. It is this follower loyalty that has made influencers the new undisputed leaders in word-of-mouth marketing.

Generally, the larger the audience size, the larger the price tag for an influencer relationship. One Instagram post from pop star Selena Gomez, for example, reportedly costs $550K. If that seems unaffordable, fear not: a recent study suggests that for maximum impact, brands should consider “micro influencers” with 10K-100K  followers. They are not only less expensive to engage, but offer a more quality audience that follow this influencer for their content rather than their celebrity status.

When committing to an influencer, it’s crucial to consider the interests they share with their audience and ensure your brand aligns accordingly. The more authentic the connection with the influencer, the more engaged the audience will be with your sponsorship. A brand message will fall flat and potentially discredit the influencer if it isn’t an appropriate fit. Consider the influencer’s interests and how their audience engages with him or her.

A prime example of an authentic influencer partnership is the collaboration between professional photographer and outdoor enthusiast Travis Burke and Olson client, Belize Tourism Board (BTB). Burke, who has 410K followers on Instagram, is known for filming his adventures, and Belize is not short on the latter. The nation prides itself on being slightly off-the-beaten-path, the diversity of its landscape, offering scuba diving, kiteboarding, hiking through ancient Maya sites, horseback riding through the jungle, tubing along underground rivers and spelunking—all in one trip.

BTB offered Burke a free 2-week trip—his first international destination—to promote the country’s wonders to a prime group of potential tourists in his voice. During his stay, Burke  produced 37 posts, featuring Xunantunich temple, Cockscomb Basin  Wildlife Sanctuary, the Belize Barrier Reef and Placencia Beach, among other Belizean destinations. His photographs reached 2.7MM people and amassed 138K likes, 2.1K comments and 38 shares. With audience comments like “I want to go to Belize!,” and “Next vacation!! ☺,” it was exactly the sort of exposure BTB was hoping for with exactly the right audience—young, adventurous and eager to travel. And while social results are great for building sentiment, exceeding business goals is the best success indicator: Belize tourism grew 6.2% in 2015, and the three months following Burke’s stay saw record-breaking growth. 

In summary, influencers are truly the new word-of-mouth advertising. They present authentic and inspiring ways to reach new audiences who are open to advice from people they respect. Whether you go for the A-list celebrity or focus on the micro-influencer, it’s our job as marketers to forge new paths in ways that will leave a memorable, positive brand impression, and influencers present these opportunities in spades. Exciting times ahead!