The New Normal: Teaching Social Media Influencer Marketing

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For many of us, social media is a way of life. In 2017, we spent approximately 135 minutes a day on sites such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. It’s hardly surprising that individuals and businesses have capitalised on this usage for their own marketing purposes.

Influencer Marketing is becoming one of the most effective ways for businesses to attract customers by communicating directly to them. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Businesses have been using celebrities to endorse their products for decades, but only recently did businesses realise the power and influence that these non-celebrity influencers — people ‘just like us’ — had over their target customers due to their online fame and followers who are accessible 24 hours a day.

Businesses realised that their target customers trusted the recommendations these influencers were making on products and services they consumed. Influencers are perceived as authentic, unbiased and genuine by their loyal followers and so they’re able to direct new customers to a business. This helps to increase their exposure and more often than not generate new sales.

Companies are acutely aware that their consumers trust brand recommendations from friends far more than they trust traditional advertising. They know they cannot always reach that one friend that will recommend to others, but they can find somebody who is the closest incarnation of this: a social media influencer. And let’s not forget, the influencers’ followers have chosen to follow them, they want to know what the influencer likes, buys, thinks and feels.

However, this is often an area of marketing that is not covered by traditional business teaching methods. Teachers, it seems, are well-versed in the mantra of the 7Ps and the promotional mix, however, there appears to be a black hole in teaching this powerful promotional technique. Students are well aware of current high-profile influencers.

Many Post-Millennials have grown up with YouTube being their go-to form of media consumption. They are one of the key drivers in the growth of influencer marketing. They have grown up watching influencers such as fitness and fashion bloggers, beauty addicts, gaming fanatics and slime-making enthusiasts, deciding when, where and how they will interact with them.

“Many Post-Millennials have grown up with YouTube being their go-to form of media consumption, and therefore they are one of the key drivers in the growth of influencer marketing.”

This form of marketing should be considered more often when marketing campaigns are being planned, in both a professional capacity and educational capacity (such as in BTEC Enterprise, Business, and Law Qualifications). The world is increasingly impacted by influencers, so we need to be researching, testing, and practising the latest marketing techniques when we are teaching our BTEC students, so that they are best prepared for modern day marketing techniques.

Influencers come in all shapes, sizes, genders and fields and this opens up the possibility that all businesses, no matter how big or small can benefit from using social media influencers to create a conversation around their products or services.

Getting the right influencer for the brand is paramount to success. The influencer needs to represent and be aligned to the brand image, no matter how big or small the business. Larger companies use strategies such as forming expensive partnerships with high-profile influencers, whereas smaller businesses may connect with influencers who have a smaller following but are adept at driving engagement with their followers. Businesses identify appropriate influencers by using demographics and psychographic information and matching traits that both the influencer and the brand have in common.

There is, of course, a flip-side to this marketing strategy that students need to be taught in equal measure. In January of this year, “the Competition and Markets Authority secured formal commitments from 16 celebrities to ensure they will now say clearly if they have been paid or received any gifts or loans of products which they endorse.” Consumer protection law requires influencers to declare any pay or benefits they have received to endorse brands.

“These influencers may not be actual friends, recommending products to each other, but importantly they act as a friend in the eyes of the follower.”

These influencers may not be actual friends, recommending products to each other, but importantly they act as a friend in the eyes of the follower. Followers, like the fans of celebrities, feel that their wants and needs are being met. Where, traditionally students would have been taught about the power of “word of mouth,” perhaps what now needs to be also emphasised is the power of retweets, reposts and shares where replaying advertising messages is done with the touch of a proverbial button.

Charlotte Bunn is the Lead Trainer BTEC Business, Enterprise and Applied Law; and Senior Team Leader Standards Verifier Business and Enterprise for Pearson. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in these blogs belong solely to their authors, and are not necessarily those of Pearson.

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