The concept of influencer marketing (IM) emerged recently due to the development and growth of social media platforms, most prominently a photo-sharing application Instagram, and the increasing popularity of video service YouTube. This component is a part of digital marketing – a term describing varied efforts of brands to increase their presence on the Internet. The critical aspect that defines the desire of brands to collaborate with these influencers when promoting a product is a shift in consumers’ perception about the value of items communicated through advertising. In essence, the fact that people trust influencers’ recommendations when making a purchase and the ability to reach millions of followers predetermined the success of influencer marketing.
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Definition and Importance of IM
IM can be defined as a marketing effort of an individual for a brand. The objectives can differ since IM can help raise awareness about the brand itself and increase sales or leads (Husain, Ghufran, & Chaubey, 2016; Shingwenyana, 2019). Before social media platform emergence, companies had contracts with ambassadors – famous figures, for instance, singers, athletes, actors, or others. Therefore, Instagram marketing using influencers for brands, especially those in the fashion industry is similar to strategies that these companies used before, although the source of distributing information changed from traditional media to social.
The experience of consumers using social media platforms differs from that of a regular customer, which is another distinguishing feature that signifies the need to address IM. Buyers can comment and leave feedback about a product or a company, which will be seen by their friends and other users (Sudha & Sheena, 2017). It allows more communication and collaboration between the company, its representative, in this case, an influencer, and buyers.
IM has developed to be an important part of marketing for brands in many industries, especially fashion, because of the impact that influencers have on purchasing decisions of their followers. Shingwenyana (2019) argues that IM “gained much trust from companies looking into reach, engage, and create brand awareness to a specific community or target market” (p. 1). The diversity of metrics and marketing options that are provided by social media platforms is also a vital factor in determining the success of IM. Businesses, for instance, those in the fashion industry, can choose a target audience that suits their brand image and collaborate with influencers whose followers correspond with these metrics, which is one of the factors suggesting the importance of IM.
A crucial aspect that defines the need to use IM as part of a brand’s strategy is the change in consumer behavior. According to Sudha and Sheena (2017), companies that fail to establish themselves on social media, which includes collaborations with influencers, can lose profits since consumers are likely to change suppliers. Mostly, customers are more likely to buy from a company they either bought from before or received a recommendation for, since this established trust. Influencers help leverage this relationship by displaying products, such as clothing items, and stating the brand name, which attracts the attention of their followers.
In the context of the fashion industry, Instagram and IM have several implications. Firstly, this platform allows users to share photos, which can be used to showcase outfits and accessories. Next, influencers can leave links to online shops, allowing their followers to access the desirable items easily. From the perspective of brands, IM can help increase online sales at costs lower than those necessary for other advertising campaigns (Sudha & Sheena, 2017). This pattern altered the buying purchases of individuals because nowadays, consumers can conduct more in-depth research or see the item they plan on purchasing in a web store.
Background and History of Influencer Marketing
As was previously mentioned, IM is a part of the company’s digital marketing strategy. This field emerged and developed throughout the 1990s and 2000s as more people access the Internet (Sudha & Sheena, 2017). However, a revolution in how companies approach digital advertising was made in the last five years when social media became extremely popular. According to Sudha and Sheena (2017), the development of IM, especially within the context of the fashion industry, began with bloggers who posted images of outfits on their blogs. Users could use these as recommendations when choosing clothing items they were interested in buying.
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The fashion industry displays a remarkable capability of using IM to grow sales and build a brand image, which will be reviewed more in-depth in this paper. These businesses have a significant impact on the global economy (Dalstam, Holmgren, and Nordlöf, 2018). Understanding how and why they use IM can provide valuable insight into the matter and help develop a cohesive digital marketing strategy.
The concepts that can be applied to analyze IM are similar to those used in marketing before social media became popular. Mohr (2014) argues that IM can be reviewed from the perspective of an opinion leader, which was prevalent before the establishment of social media. People who were able to gain the trust of an audience, for instance, journalists or celebrities, were considered opinion leaders, and marketers could collaborate with them to advertise a product. Nowadays, the concept of opinion leader transformed into an influencer, who does not require access to traditional media sources, such as newspapers, magazines, or television, to attract the target audience.
The significance of influencers cannot be overlooked since although everyone can create an account on Instagram or YouTube, not every individual is capable of having a significant following. According to Mohr (2014), “13.4% of U.S. adults online create 80% of the content that influences people, and 6.2% of these web users are responsible for 80% of social media influence” (p. 43). Although Instagram is now an important platform for IM, this phenomenon did not begin there. Firstly, a variety of other social media networks existed before Instagram, for instance, Facebook or MySpace. However, it appears that Instagram and Youtube offer a variety of benefits to both influencers and their followers, which enabled the rapid development of IM.
Influencer marketing was started when social media such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and others became popular among users. Since then, it developed because the content generated by influencers was popular among users and continues to be a source of inspiration or recommendations for many. How it became popular is connected to the increasing popularity of social media. However, one can argue that IM developed naturally from bloggers and influencers, merely sharing their recommendations with others to being paid for doing so.
More and more companies nowadays incorporate digital marketing and IM into their strategic plans. A new approach to IM is leveraging the audiences of smaller influencers; for instance, those who have 100,000 followers or less. The idea is that these individuals have a better target audience because it is less broad and shares more common characteristics when compared to that of influencers with millions of followers. According to De Veirman, Cauberghe, and Hudders, (2017) this “decreases the brand’s perceived uniqueness and consequently brand attitudes” (p. 798). This aspect is especially crucial to companies that manufacture products with distinct characteristics and not mass-market items.
Another aspect of growth that is facilitated by IM and which affects companies significantly is connected to the speed of information sharing on the Internet. According to De Veirman et al. (2017), “brands discovered the far-reaching impact and viral growth potential of forging alliances with social media influencers to promote their products” (p. 798). When compared to traditional advertising approaches, IM offers rapid information sharing potential, meaning that the brand can see the impact of a post on Instagram immediately through increased sales.
The aspect described above is connected to viral marketing, which is an essential trend in digital advertising. Ferguson (2008) argues that the word of mouth approach is the primary trend for growing a brand’s presence online, which will be reviewed more in-depth in the following paragraphs. However, the issue with this approach is the difficulty of measuring the return on investment (ROI) generated from these campaigns. Due to this factor, some companies choose to focus solely on building a customer base and loyalty.
Finally, an important component of growth is an appropriate choice of a platform. Shingwenyana (2019) states that although Instagram is the biggest and most popular influencer platform, companies should evaluate the actual objective of a campaign. In essence, the approach to IM should incorporate an evaluation of the brand’s strategy, its target audience, and the implications that each macro or micro-influencer and the platform they use have.
IM is implemented by choosing a platform, an influencer, and the type of promotion a company wants to achieve. Next, these features are discussed with the account manager to align the objectives. Dalstam et al. (2018) offer a similar perspective arguing that “as of January 2018, some of the leading social media platforms were Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram” (p. 10). Arguably, the most prominent platform in the industry of IM is Instagram, since as was previously mentioned, most influencers use it. It is especially relevant for the fashion industry because of the content’s nature – photographs and short videos. This allows clothing manufacturers to attract more attention to their items because influencers can showcase outfits using their clothes. Sudha and Sheena (2017) state that blogs are another popular platform that fashion brands can leverage. However, in recent years, this approach is less popular as social media allow access to several influencers a person follows, without a need to visit each individual’s website.
YouTube, a video sharing platform is another important IM element. Here, influencers can upload lengthy videos, showcasing brands’ products. From the perspective of the fashion industry, this allows showing a new collection to prospective buyers and display a variety of ready-to-wear look options. Therefore, this platform makes it easier for the consumer to make purchasing choices online. This platform is relevant in the context of viral marketing, allowing companies to post short or long videos (Ferguson, 2008). The variety of platforms and distinct features of each influencer’s content allow marketers to choose individuals whose content corresponds with the objectives of the campaign.
Earned and Paid Influencers
While influencers or people with significant amounts of followers can be leveraged by companies, the importance of regular users sharing their thoughts on social media should not be overlooked. Dalstam, Holmgren, and Nordlöf (2018) argue that although influencers can have a significant impact on shaping a brand’s image and consumer perception, the recognition of the mentioned factor and its importance remains low. This means that companies understand the value of influencers with large numbers of followers and willing to pay for their services but fail to use a free-of-charge promotion technique.
There are several implications for paying influencers to make recommendations to their followers and working on engaging regular users. Dalstam, Holmgren, and Nordlöf (2018) state that “consumers today attain greater control in terms of receiving and influencing a message” (p. 1). Therefore, if the company does not make an effort towards addressing both earned and paid influencer domains, it is likely that its image will be impaired due to negative feedback.
The issue of unpaid endorsements is another important aspect of IM. It is because the nature of social networks such as Instagram, allows users to create and share content themselves allows them to recommend items or brands that they perceived as sound. Lanz, Goldenberg, Shapira, and Stahl (2019) explore the topic of user-generated content within the context of unpaid endorsements. In essence, the authors argue that in some cases gaining exposure through smaller influencers is more beneficial. In this case, the example of the music industry is used and the case studies of musicians aiming to gain popularity by being promoted through accounts with a large number of followers when compared to those with a small number of followers. Lanz et al. (2019) argue that “by capitalizing on common outbound activities on user-generated content networks (i.e., follows, private messages, reposts, comments, and likes) creators can draw attention to their profile and content without financial expenditure” (p. 361). It can be concluded that brands should not overlook the features of IM that involve unpaid promotion.
The role of paid and unpaid influencers is similar because in both cases, brands are capable of receiving a promotion. Having unpaid influencers talk about a product is more cost-efficient, although it may require an additional endorsement or motivation, for instance, a prize for the best photo. Therefore, it can be concluded that companies should develop marketing strategies that incorporate approaches for encouraging customers to post comments or recommendations regarding the brand on their social media accounts.
Brand Ambassadors are a different type of influencer who has a unique contract with a brand and promotes only their products. Shingwenyana (2019) argues that brands have partnered with famous individuals for years to promote their products, meaning that ambassadorship existed before social media and IM. This can be a very beneficial strategy for marketers because IM allows them to locate an individual whose target audience corresponds with an image of their buyer. Brand ambassadors also usually have long-term contracts, meaning that they can contribute significantly to the development of the brand’s image. Ferguson (2008) recommends applying audience segmentation to identify high-value clients that can then become ambassadors. In this case, the brand does not directly pay for the promotion. Instead, it provides deals, special offers, or loyalty programs to these ambassadors. In general, this is an excellent strategy for decreasing the costs of advertising and attracting more social media personalities to the brand’s products.
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One aspect of both IM and digital advertising is that it allows companies to easily assess the efficiency of their strategy by comparing the spending with profits generated from sales. The advancements of technology allow one to track a customer and determine which marketing effort contributed to the purchasing decision. The most commonly used metrics are cost-per-thousand (CPM), cost-per-install (CPI), cost-per-action (CPA) and cost-per-click (CPC). The three metrics aim to generate a clear understanding of whether a particular marketing campaign was successful in terms of sales allowing marketers to adjust further and improve their strategies. The approach that a marketer takes when assessing the efficiency of a campaign depends on the initial objectives, for instance, generate 1000 clicks on a link or show an advertisement to 100,000 people. By using the amount of money spent on an ad as the necessary metric, for example, several likes, a marketing team can determine whether the campaign was successful or not and make necessary adjustments.
Within IM it can be challenging to determine the value of CPM, CPI, CPA, and CPC metrics right away when compared to targeted advertising because it is difficult to identify how many individuals will be interested in a product. Veszelski (2018) argues that social media enabled the development of a specific culture, which revolves around the like button. The economics of this environment are reviewed by the author, and he established that the number of likes allows calculating the user engagement metrics. From a marketer’s perspective, several likes under an influencer’s posts can provide insight into the successfulness of the posted content.
CTR is an abbreviation for a click-through rate, which is a performance measure used to compare the number of clicks that the audience makes about the total impressions of an ad. This can serve as an essential metric for campaigns that want to attack as many views as possible and are not necessarily focus on sales. Conversion rate or CR allows determining the percentage of followers that made a specified action, clicked a link, or purchased an item. In a way, this is similar to CPA; however, this metric allows identifying the efficiency of the IM campaign, not solely the cost of each attacked individual.
From this perspective, the marketing team should have a benchmark for conversions, and if the camping shows bad results, it should be stopped or changed. In addition, this metric is connected to the profits that a brand makes, since the conversion itself can be identified as a purchase. Therefore, when working with an influencer with a total number of likes under a post of 100,000 and having a conversion rate of 5% with an average check of $100 a brand would have a profit of $500,000. Comparing this revenue to the price paid to an influencer and margin can provide insight into the actual outcomes.
As with any advertisement activities, return on investment (ROI) plays a determining role in defining the success of a campaign. This is especially crucial for CPC campaigns because their main objective is to increase brand awareness, which can be achieved by reaching as many individuals as possible. In the context of IM, this metric would mean the number of people following an influencer compared to the overall price. Also, the lifetime value of a customer (LTV) is crucial for brands, especially those in the fashion industry because the majority of sales depend upon returning buyers. It is calculated by identifying the profit from one customer and the given number of years.
It can be concluded that digital advertising and IM, in particular, allows marketing teams and brand managers to collect a variety of data that helps analyze the cost efficiency and success of their advertisements. CPM, CPI, CPA, and CPC in particular help determine the price paid for each intended action a follower makes and helps identify the cost-effectiveness. CR and CT help determine whether a purchased post from an influencer performed well based on the calculated percentage and benchmarks. Other metrics, such as ROI and LTV, help a more in-depth analysis. Therefore, there are a variety of different strategies that can be used to determine the value of an influencer within the IM campaign and determine what went right or wrong by examining the metrics. In addition, CPM, CPI, CPA, CPC, CR, and CT can be used to set specific performance targets helping identify which aspect of the marketing plan can be improved.
Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) and Viral Marketing
The primary purpose of marketing is to inform a prospective consumer about a company’s product, which can be done through a variety of channels. However, as can be seen from the review of the background of IM, social media and other digital platforms continue to grow and attract more users, requiring companies to shift their focus towards the digital world (Dalstam, Holmgren and Nordlöf, 2018). Within this landscape, unlike traditional advertising options such as TV or magazines, brands have to use a combination of tools and techniques to achieve success.
This signifies the difference between IMC, IM, and traditional or other social media campaigns because IMC implies that a brand directly engages in a conversation with clients. IM is a way of connecting with a new audience; hence, it can be considered a part of IMC. This can be done in the form of responding to feedback or commenting on a photo made with a company’s product. Pitta, Weisgal, and Lynach (2006) state that the purpose of IMC is “harnessing synergy across multiple media to build brand equity of products and services” (p. 156). From the perspective of marketing communication, companies have to maintain a connection with their target audience; for instance, respond to feedback or introduce new products. According to Dalstam, Holmgren, and Nordlöf (2018), the nature of marketing communications is changing due to the increasing popularity of social media among users. Both small and large fashion companies can leverage social media and IM to build their market presence, which can be combined with traditional IMC.
To understand the changes in IMC for the fashion industry, it is necessary to examine approaches used by marketers before the emergence of IM. Word of mouth was the primary element that facilitated sales and growth for these businesses, meaning that interactions between users about a brand’s image were vital for sales (Dalstam, Holmgren, & Nordlöf, 2018). Digital media allowed users to connect with millions of others, transforming the concept of word of mouth and facilitating the success of IM for fashion companies. This concept is referred to as electronic word of mouth (eWOM), and according to Dalstam, Holmgren, and Nordlöf (2018), companies can use eWOM through influencers to communicate with consumers. Therefore, influencer marketing and IMC are connected and should be an integral part of the brand’s strategy for communicating with customers. A study by Dalstam, Holmgren, and Nordlöf (2018) reveals that IM can be used in collaboration with six marketing communication tools, which is investigated by the authors using the example of the Swedish fashion industry. Therefore, IM should be used by fashion companies as part of their IMC strategy.
The concept of viral content refers to delivering a specific message by engaging users into sharing posts with their friends and social circles, the large generation number of views or likes. Mohr (2014) discusses the example of another influencer platform, YouTube, to determine the impact it on digital marketing strategies and virility. The concept itself revolves around user-facilitated sharing of content. In essence, a viral message is communicated from one individual to another on various social media platforms creating the necessary marketing effect – exposure.
There are several approaches to reviewing viral content, one of which is the two-step model. According to this concept, ideas emerge within media and then reach influencers (Mohr, 2014). Next, the wider population can access and spread the message further. Although this model was developed in 1944, it is still viable in the 21 century since IM lever edges this approach by paying influencers to showcase a product to users. However, this model does not explain the factors that enable virility, which is a rapid share of information among a large number of individuals.
Because most of the popular information on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube is created by influencers, marketers can leverage their impact to notify consumers of new launches. Based on this literature review, it can be argued that IM, although it has its distinct characteristics, shares many similarities with traditional and other social media marketing methods. The core feature of this approach is an individual – a person who has a following because these people trust and rely on the advice provided by the influencer. From a perspective of traditional marketing, IM has the same aim – to share the brand image with the target audience, connect it with the brand’s identity, and generate brand equity as a result. It can be concluded that IM is different from viral marketing because it does not imply a rapid spread of information among users. Although a campaign using influencers can become viral, the initial intent of collaboration between an influencer and a brand is to raise awareness about a product.
Successful and Unsuccessful Cases of Influencer Marketing
To fully understand the impact that IM on the marketing industry, it is necessary to analyze both successful and unsuccessful examples of its application. The first case study is Nike Air Vapormax, a new model of sneakers introduced to the market. The company is a well-known manufacturer of sports clothes and shoes and is known for its strategy of using influencers and celebrities to promote new product launches (“8 influencer marketing case studies,” n.d.). Nike’s strategy involved a partnership with a famous YouTube influencer, a channel titled What’s Inside? The company did not merely ask the influencers to introduce the new sneaker to their audience and provide a link to an online shop. Instead, What’s Inside? filmed and uploaded a video consistent with the overall theme of the channel – they cut the sneaker to show their viewers what was inside of it.
The success of this strategy can be evaluated through the assessment of sales and by reviewing the number of views that the videos created for Nike generated. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the original video has over 3 million views and over 30,000 likes, which is an impressive result (“8 influencer marketing case studies,” n.d.). Although this case study does not provide a financial assessment of the campaign that would allow identifying ROI, it is evident that the exposure that Nike was able to achieve for its Air Vapormax is incredible.
Another case study that displays a successful use of IM is related to Maybelline’s launch of new mascara at the United States retailer, Walmart. Since both Instagram and YouTube have a large number of influencers whose target audience is interested in beauty, the company decided to create online camping (“8 influencer marketing case studies,” n.d.). In general, influencers were asked to post a photo with the mascara and inform their followers about the beginning of sales. The total number of people who viewed these posts is estimated at 35.7 million (“8 influencer marketing case studies,” n.d.). Overall, the campaign was successful and allowed Maybelline to promote its new product.
In essence, the correct positioning and collaboration with influencers allowed Maybelline to promote its brand image, which contributes not only to the sales of this one product but to the revenue in general. The case study mentions that the media brand value of Maybelline increased by 1.3 times, which is a significant result (“8 influencer marketing case studies,” n.d.). The ability to recognize that the company’s target audience is interested in the recommendations of beauty influencers helped Maybelline. Again, this case study does not cite any information about CPC, CPA, or ROI that would allow for in-depth analysis; however, the overall positive reaction and engagement of followers suggest that it was successful.
While seeing the success of these campaigns contributes to the understanding of the importance that IM has in the contemporary world, it is necessary to examine unsuccessful attempts as well. Bootea experienced this in a recent promotional post on Instagram by Scott Disick. The influencer failed to delete the text sent to him by the marketing team, and thus it included all the recommendations such as time of upload and the caption for a photo (“Top examples of influencer marketing gone wrong,” 2019). Unsurprisingly, this was not received well by his audience who criticized both Disick and Bootea. By the theory revived in the first section of this paper, it can be argued that Bootea’s best strategy would be to leverage tools of integrated marketing communication. This approach would help overcome the backlash and ensure that the consumers understand that this was a mistake. Unsurprisingly the brand image and brand equity suffered from this mistake.
Next, this case displays the fact that influencer competency is essential and highlights the need to choose people who have a proven record of successful campaigns. The mistake made by Disick is an example of both incompetence and lack of care for delivering adequate exposure to the brand. In essence, the reviewed theory indicates that influencers and brand ambassadors have a unique value to their followers, which is embedded in the value they can deliver to a brand. Therefore, the actual personality and character of a person can be associated with the has an impact on IM advertising. However, this problem is complex, and the reviewed literature does not explicitly provide suggestions on how to avoid similar mistakes in the future. It is unlikely that an influencer would allow access to his or her account for a company’s marketing team, which would help mitigate the risk. Thus, the only recommendation is to include an evaluation of the ethical and professional values of an influencer before beginning the work.
It should be noted that although the overall reaction to the post was adverse, many online newspapers and magazines wrote about the incident, increasing the awareness of the brand Bootea. Hence, although the post itself was a failure, the company managed to increase its online presence. Weiss (2016) called the actions of Disick a “super embarrassing Instagram mistake” in her article for Refinery29, a popular web resource (para. 1). It can be concluded that Bootea was able to leverage the unfortunate mistake of an influencer.
Next, the alternative recommendation for companies wanting to launch an IM campaign would be to assess the actual value of followers that an influencer has based on qualitative measures. The literature, such as an article by De Veirman et al. (2017) argues that it can be more beneficial to choose smaller influencers for marketing campaigns because their target audience will be more responsive to specific products offered. In essence, the authors’ findings suggest that more followers correlate with a likability of an individual because he or she is perceived to be more successful. However, this metric does not increase the perceived leadership of an influencer, meaning that recommendations made by an account with 100,000 followers are comparable to those made by a 1,000,000 influencer. For brands, this means that investing in several posts on smaller Instagram accounts can be more beneficial when compared to the same sum spent on one influencer.
This aspect depends on the product and brands aiming to increase their value and improve awareness of the customers about their offerings, for instance, Maybelline or Nike can benefit from advertisements in large Instagram accounts that have millions of followers. This is the case with Disick, who currently has a staggering 22 million followers (“Scott Disick,” n.d.). While the numbers are impressive, a quick analysis of his page reveals that the majority of posts are advertisements, at the time of this evaluation, 2 out of 6 contained a hashtag #ad. Other posts had links to other non-personal accounts without an indication that the reference is advertising or promoting Disick’s own business. Additionally, it is difficult to determine what target audience this influencer has; his primary focus is on lifestyle, which is a broad category.
A conclusion can be made that accounts such as the one discussed in this paragraph may be used in the context of the CPM metric, meaning that they can generate many views per single post. However, an alternative approach that Bootea could benefit from incorporates a smaller influencer. In this case, several small influencers could be partnered with using the same budget, whose main interest is in sports. The CPM would be smaller, but other performance measures such as CPA and CPI could be improved.
Another vital implication that marketers have to consider when working with influencers is the legal framework regarding disclosure. While the review of the background of IM suggests that in its initial stages, influencers had the freedom of recommending products without mentioning being paid for the promotion, the United States recently addressed this issue. This is consistent with the fair practices of advertising and promotion since the consumer has a right to when a product is mentioned as an advertisement. Ciroc Vodka, when launching its brand into the alcohol beverages market, failed to consider this policy (“Top examples of influencer marketing gone wrong,” n.d.). A complaint was filed to the Federal Trade Commission regarding the problem and both the company and influencers engaged in the camping may face legal issues. This could have been avoided if the marketing team informed the influencers of the need to include hashtags informing users that the post is an ad. Similar to the Disick case, this incident points out the need for better communication when collaborating with influencers to ensure that all possible risks are mitigated.
Based on the two examined cases of unsuccessful IM campaigns, several conclusions contributing to the overall understanding of the matter can be made. Firstly, brands aiming to create and launch an Instagram influencer camping have to consider metrics other than the number of followers a person has. As seen with the example of Maybelline, using the promotion of an influencer with a smaller, but suitable target audience can generate the necessary effect and attract attention to new products. Next, mistakes can happen, and the marketing team should ensure that the influencer receives cohesive instruction for posting. In the examined Bootea case, the company did not address the issue directly, which arguably is an appropriate integrated communications strategy that allowed avoiding the spread of negative comments about the incident. In essence, their brand received more attention because of the articles and non-influencers posting about the case.
The case study of Nike highlights the importance of integrating IM with the actual image and theme that an account follows. By allowing What’s Inside? to make a video consistent with other content of the influencer, Nike created a cohesive campaign for its new sneaker. Overall, it can be concluded that IM is complicated, and carrying out a successful advertising camping on digital platforms such as Instagram and YouTube requires substantial preparation and evaluation of all quantitative and qualitative metrics.
IM is vital in the fashion industry because it allows companies to accomplish two essential goals – showcase new fashion items and engage users in the shopping experience more quickly when compared to traditional advertising. A crucial feature of Instagram is that it is a photo-sharing platform, and its users can share pictures of their outfits or clothing items they like. This guides follower who is looking for inspiration or advice from more experienced individuals. Secondly, the nature of the Internet and the combination of social media and online shopping means that consumers can access goods within seconds. Therefore, brands no longer need to invest in campaigns that last for months before a result in regards to revenue can be seen. This aspect is especially crucial for the fast fashion industry, which caters to a mass audience and often changes its offerings on a monthly or even weekly basis.
21 Buttons Background
This start-up company was created based on the idea that users want to both view and share clothing items they own or like with their followers. The central concept applied here is the notion of user-generated content (UGC) (O’Hear, 2017). This approach is similar to the one applied by Instagram since the platforms benefit from the content, photos, and links, created by users. An important aspect of this application is that it allows users to easily access and purchase items they see in the picture, a feature that arguably was lacking in Instagram. However, according to O’Hear (2017), Instagram, Pinterest, and even Amazon recognize the need to incorporate shopping into their products since all three recently introduced their vision of the approach applied by 21 Buttons.
21 Buttons shares revenue with influencers, providing a significant incentive for creating and posting content. Each purchase made by a user through the application provides the company with a percentage of revenue a portion of which is then distributed to an influencer (O’Hear, 2017). Arguably, this is an essential element that signifies the natural growth and development of influencer marketing. The background assessment in the literature review section revealed that influencers have an impact on their audience because of the established trust. Hence, if an influencer wears an outfit and some followers like it and wants to replicate the look. They will want to know where to purchase identical items. O’Hear (2017) states that this application managed to attract approximately $10 million in investments, which signifies that venture capitalists believe that the niche explored by 21 Buttons is a profitable one. It can be argued that the creators of 21 Buttons managed to fulfill the current need of consumers and fashion companies by connecting the two.
The first recommendation is to focus on engaging smaller accounts from Instagram into sharing their outfits on 21 Buttons. As the literature suggests, this can help target users interested in unique products, such as unusual clothing items or not mass-market brands (De Veirman et al., 2017). The approach should help 21 Buttons expand its impact and gain a varied audience. The reasoning behind this recommendation is the fact that 21 Buttons provides an opportunity for all user accounts – both small and large to become influencers and gain revenue from sales. The hypothesis is that 21 Buttons can gain more recognition and increase brand value by attracting users that have more perceived authority, which is the case with small Instagram accounts.
Next, Instagram itself recognized the need to incorporate shopping into its application. However, 21 Buttons have a competitive advantage since the star-up was established solely targeting purchasing experience, meaning that the technology of 21 Buttons is more advanced in this domain. However, Instagram has a significantly more significant number of users, and thus, 21 Buttons should try to expand its geography to other countries. Having brand ambassadors that continuously redirect users from Instagram to 21 Buttons, suggesting that within the latter application, they will able to view more outfits and shop items instantly should benefit the brand. Also, the reasoning behind this idea is that 21 Buttons requires significant growth through new user engagement, which can be achieved through IM ambassadorship.
Finally, to expand to new markets, 21 Buttons should leverage other platforms as well, for instance, YouTube, by allowing influencers to incorporate the application into their videos. Similar to the case study described in the second section of this paper, 21 Buttons can use popular influencers in the fashion industry to create an IM campaign. This is especially important when expanding to new locations where the audience is unfamiliar with how this application works. The nature of smartphone applications will allow 21 Buttons to assess the CPI of each post or video directly, creating an understanding of which influencers provide the most benefit. Based on this data, the brand should establish ambassador contracts with influents to promote their service regularly.
The reason why 21 Buttons should focus on YouTube is that many fashion bloggers create look books or show several outfits within one video, which differs from the capabilities of Instagram. Although the latter added the capability of showing several pictures or short videos, it is not comparable with full-scale videos that can be uploaded to YouTube. Therefore, the consumers will be able to see a variety of outfits from different brands as an inspiration, which is a crucial element of the modern retail experience. According to Gilliland (2019), 21 Buttons closes the gap between searching for inspiration and shopping for items. The application offers a similar experience to that of a YouTube video with multiple clothing items and ideas displayed at once, which means that the target audience for both is similar.
An essential element that 21 Buttons should consider is that influencers have to create authentic content, both on Instagram and YouTube. Similarly to the case of What’s Inside? allowing channels and accounts with different themes to incorporate advertisement into their usual content will be beneficial for attracting attention towards new products. 21 Buttons is a platform that allows influencers to communicate better with their audience by allowing easy access to clothes shopping. In addition, it provides an opportunity for new users to become influencers and gain their audience, which can be emphasized by the advertisement as well.
Overall, this paper explored the emerging field of IM and provided valuable information regarding the background and current research on best practices of using influencers. The second section presented four case studies of successful and unsuccessful campaigns, analyzing the chosen approach, and recommending alternatives. The explored evidence suggests that IM is complicated and requires a careful assessment of various metrics before launching a campaign. Finally, the last section explained the importance of IM in the fashion industry using the example of 21 Buttons.
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