BY COLLEEN PATTERSON

A new market has emerged—and it’s actually put a dollar value on social currency. The product is social influence; the concept behind its growing popularity is influencer marketing.  While it hasn’t broken through to every industry, influencer marketing is well on its way there, having made leaps and bounds among fashion/beauty/lifestyle brands within the past few years.

For all of those savvy business owners rightly intrigued by this emerging market, here’s your answer to a few common questions:

  • What is influencer marketing?
  • What’s the value of influencer marketing?
  • How do I measure influence?
  • How much should I pay an influencer?
  • How do I measure determine my ROI?
  • How do I know if influencer marketing is right for me ?

Let’s get started.

What is influencer marketing?

We use social media to share our consumer experiences and to deliberate on our own purchase decision. There: that’s the crux.

Social media has evolved beyond online communication with friends. Today, the average consumer follows public accounts for inspiration, guidance, and as a hobby.

We follow accounts we stumbled across jumping from hashtag to hashtag on a browsing binge: the fashion blogger whose taste is inspirational; the foodie whose Pinterest recipes on are a perfect fit for the family; the automotive shop that shares impressive car restorations.

We trust the opinions of these “influencers.” They alert us to trends, guide our taste, and at times make direct recommendations.

These interest-based accounts are a honeypot for brands.

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Immune to ad-blocking software, social influence is a nuanced type of native advertisement. Influencers aren’t salespeople per se but they will share a positive experience to an engaged audience which is open to suggestion.

Today savvy businesses are beginning to tap into the word-of-mouth marketing opportunity inherent to social media by deploying the help of social media influencers.

What’s the value of influencer marketing?

Marketers engaged in influencer marketing operate under the assumption that the potential customers they reach through influencers are more relevant than broad-sweeping TV commercials and even organic search.

McKinsey Research reports that 22% of marketers consider influencer marketing  their most cost-effective customer acquisition channel because of the quality of reach:

“In fact, our research shows that a high-impact recommendation from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message, for example, is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than is a low-impact recommendation.”

We follow not just our friends but other public profiles which reflect our interests. That public profile—of an illustrator or photographer or local foodie or fashion blogger whose content and creations we follow for pure enjoyment—is the profile of an influencer.

The only drawback is that word-of-mouth marketing (like most touchpoints) is nearly impossible to track.

For instance:

It’s difficult to put a price on exposure. And what’s the value of a follower?  Again, it’s an inexact science. Followers are indicative of your reach but don’t represent guaranteed reach.

Here’s what you get from influencers: relevant audience/higher quality customers, content, and residual marketing that exists on the internet forever.

Here’s another word on that concept of residuals, from George Schildge of Matrix Marketing Group:

“As you continue to do marketing month after month, it’s as though you’re making deposits to different savings accounts. The savings accounts are held by Google’s search engine and various social media networks. The deposits are [the content you generate.]

[Over time, your content] constantly earn interest, which shows up as higher search engine rankings and ever-growing social media networks.

They in turn provide you with on-going income in the form of traffic and leads that we nurture until they’re ready to hand-off to sales. Collectively, these assets have a lasting return with no additional cost.”

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In other words,  however you determine the value of web traffic or social engagement, if it lives on the Internet, its value will slowly grow over time. Stay tuned for our next installment, in which we’ll continue to answer more of your burning business questions re: this exciting new market.

For more tips on how to continually drive traffic to your site that converts, check out these posts:

Colleen Patterson is the content marketing manager for Muses, the only digital growth app focused on building long­-term relationships. She’d love you to get involved.