The power of influencer marketing: building customer trust in 2019

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Richard Branson, never one to miss a promotional marketing trick

The image of influencer marketing by brands has suffered a number of hits. Earlier this year, it was revealed that fake followers are still a widespread issue for many social media personalities, while a number of influencers have also been accused of covert advertising, with the authenticity of these online trendsetters often being brought into question.

The result is a palpable sense of unease and distrust among digital consumers, leaving brands with a headache when it comes to influencer use. When people feel something is fake or misleading, they switch off. In August 2018, almost half (47%) of respondents surveyed by Bazaarvoice reported feeling fatigued by influencer content.

To prevent the demise of this hugely-lucrative marketing platform, brands and influencers need to rebuild customer trust. But how do they do that? It all boils down to two things – a push for improved honesty and mastering of the art of social selling.

The art of social media selling

Where once the customer experience would end when they left the shop, today, potential customers interact all day every day with their favourite brands and influencers online. As a result, consumers can feel more like friends than potential sales for a commercial business.

Brands are required to step up and engage in a two-way relationship with potential consumers, fulfilling the notion of that personalised ‘friendship’. If consumers feel undervalued, they’ll unfollow and disengage. If brands manage to forge a relationship which feels authentic and genuine, however, those social media sales will start to flow.

There are six defined personas that are adept at social media selling, according to a recent study by Pareto Law. These include:

  • The Promoter
  • The Motivator
  • The Engager
  • The Maverick
  • The Nurturer
  • The Supporter

Each persona adopts a different tactic of forging those all-important relationships with their social media followers. These varying methods – from language to types of post - are something which both brands and influencers can draw inspiration from.

The success stories of social media selling

Richard Branson is a prime example of The Promote persona. When advertising his products on social media, Branson channels his leadership qualities, using enthusiastic adjectives such as “great” and “huge” to win the support and custom of his followers.

His strategy is very transparent and authentic. The result is a relationship built on trust with his online followers and, ultimately, a profitable sales channel.

Employing a different strategy, the Nurturer adopts a grateful tone to create a relationship with their followers. The connection with their followers is based on loyalty and two-way respect - distinctly different from The Promoter’s big-talking approach, though equally as effective.

Prominent examples of this persona include Victoria Beckham and Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis. Their success as social media sellers is down to their caring tone, which resonates with their target audience. As a result, they’re more obliged to invest in their products and support their business empires.

Brands that didn’t get it right and why

One notable example is Bootea UK. The detox tea brand had an influencer-related incident when an advertorial Instagram post by TV personality Scott Disick went viral for all the wrong reasons. Online consumers felt duped and so the social media mocking commenced.

Why? It all comes back to the core issue of online consumers feeling like they can’t trust brands. Now, that feeling has spread to influencers too, who are increasingly seen as being part of the commercial gang.

This highlights the subtle difficulties that exist within the social media marketing landscape. When a minor mistake can cause a such a colossal backlash, it’s clear social media selling requires a carefully considered approach.

Influencer marketing needs to change

What it boils down to is trust, transparency and being genuine. At a top-line level, that means no fake followers and no covert advertising – two issues which Instagram and the ASA are tackling head-on.

Getting it right in 2019

Consider the six social selling personas and take inspiration from the ones which resonate most closely with your brand, purpose and target audience. Take note of the language choices, imagery choices and what type of relationship this helps to build with your followers.

Collaborate only with those who have a genuine connection to your product, service or online persona. Blatantly-promoted posts with a distinct lack of humanisation are becoming less and less effective in the eyes of social media users.

Put in the effort to create and nurture the relationship with your followers. This means thoughtful engagement and replying to comments with a personalised touch. In this digital era, consumer-brand relationships are moving further and further away from a corporate arrangement. Consumers need to feel they’re in a friendship with a brand or influencer that’s genuinely invested in them as people in order for them to buy products.

It’s vital that your brand is authentic, human and transparent. Take inspiration from the success stories, learn from the slip-ups and you too can achieve social selling greatness.

Scarlett Whittell, content executive, Stickyeyes Group

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