What Is Influencer Marketing & How Does It Work?

by | Last updated Dec 12, 2022 | Digital Marketing

Consumers have grown tired of being bombarded with targeted ads from brands. Even though these targeted ads are based on consumers’ interests, the sheer amount of ads consumers are exposed to online every day has created a sense of ad fatigue. While you might think this is a big problem for your brand as you try to sell your products or services, this fatigue can actually work in your favor. Through influencer marketing, your company has an opportunity to truly engage customers.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is an advertising strategy in which brands partner with individuals who have strong social media followings through paid promotion. In this agreement, the individual acts as a relatable “regular” face for the brand’s product or service to garner interest among consumers.

Compared to traditional celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing is more cost-effective, functions as a less-obvious product placement, and allows brands to reach potential customers where they’re already spending time (i.e., social media).

What Is a Social Media Influencer?

Influencers are individuals who leverage their personal online brands to partner with businesses that are looking to increase brand awareness, promote events, or help launch new products. These individuals typically have large followings on their social media platforms and have good influence among niche markets.

Even influencers without incredibly large audiences are effective because they’re perceived as regular people, not celebrities. They’re typically people who consumers can relate to, and they draw consumers through authenticity. In fact, 61% of people said they find information that comes from influencers who are “just like them” to be credible or very credible.

What Makes Influencer Marketing Effective?

All too often, traditional advertising falls flat. Only 27% of people believe the ads they see online are relevant to them, and only 4% of consumers believe advertisers practice integrity. In other words, consumers are often fed messages that aren’t important to them by people they don’t trust.

Influencer marketing, on the other hand, allows brands to organically insert themselves into the conversation. With influencers, there’s a built-in trust factor with the audience—and, in some cases, the influencer has already promoted other products that their audience has tried and liked. That means their endorsement carries more weight than a traditional commercial or online banner ad. Why? Because, more than likely, their followers have come to feel as though the individual wouldn’t promote something to them unless they trust it themselves.

Influencers introduce consumers to ideas and brands as a natural part of their everyday life. This tactic bypasses the cynicism and skepticism often associated with traditional advertising by getting people to talk about your brand’s product or service without you telling them to. And, interestingly, 63% of consumers trust influencers’ opinions of products “much more” than what brands say about themselves.

So what exactly does an effective campaign look like? In 2017, Sun Peaks Resort, a ski resort in British Columbia, wanted to increase awareness about its own attractions and the fact that the resort is as picturesque as it seems. Sun Peaks invited Callum Snape, an Instagram influencer and one of Canada’s most well-known adventure photographers, to visit and document his experience.

What they got were images like these:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Callum Snape (@calsnape) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Callum Snape (@calsnape) on

Callum’s 817,000 followers saw these gorgeous shots of the resort, which Callum positioned as an insider secret for enjoying the scenery without the massive crowds.

This was a beneficial partnership for Sun Peaks Resort’s campaign because Callum’s followers already expect beautiful photos on his account. When he posted about Sun Peaks, his audience got the content they wanted while also learning about a destination they may have not been previously aware of.

The Impact of Social Media Influencer Marketing

On average, businesses make $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. This is an incredible ROI that has nearly 70% of marketers planning on increasing their influencer marketing budget over the next 12 months. And as the popularity and sheer number of social media platforms continues to grow, more influencers will arise. Instagram, which launched in 2010, has already made itself into an incredibly powerful social media marketing space that businesses and individuals alike are still learning how to utilize.

How to Use Influencers in Marketing

So how do you find the perfect influencers for your marketing campaign? You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to ensure that you’re reaching your target audience and selecting influencers who will connect with those consumers.

Establish Your Ideal Consumer or Persona

  • Who are you targeting?
  • What are their interests?
  • What channels do they use?
  • What products/services do they currently use?

Identify Potential Influencers for That Persona

  • Who has the respect and/or attention of your target consumers?
  • What kind of content do they create?
  • Have they collaborated with brands before?
  • How much do they charge for their services, and does that fit within your budget?

Also, rather than honing in on one or two major influencers, consider identifying micro-influencers with dedicated audiences closely aligned with your brand. An influencer with 10,000 followers and a high engagement rate with a specific demographic can be more influential than a misaligned celebrity with millions of followers.

After choosing your influencer(s), establish the content you want them to share. It should feel authentic for their personal brand, while also seeming exclusive to the consumers you want to target. Consumers can sniff out a “hard sell,” so making content feel organic to the influencer’s brand goes a long way in helping you advertise your products or service. Approach the influencer with a plan, but be open to their input as well. They know their audience after all, and they’re used to creating engaging content.

Influencer marketing isn’t slowing down any time soon. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to reach your audience online and gain new customers, influencer marketing is worth considering.

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