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Why influencer marketing will dominate comms strategy in 2022 and beyond

by | Mar 3, 2022 | Analysis, Public Relations

As social media matures and multiplies, it’s clear that traditional journalists are no longer the only avenue for media coverage and market exposure. Users can choose the content they prefer to follow, view, and engage with due to social media’s diverse and interactive culture. Influencer marketing helps brands overcome this model of personalized news feeds through their capability to produce content, provide social proof, and utilize diverse backgrounds and interests for content strongly connected with target audiences.

This is a strategy conventional brands targeting consumers have figured out in the past few years. However, for B2B companies, the clout social media influencers carry is still an untapped resource. As the news landscape continues to splinter and expand, businesses can no longer rely solely on connecting with reporters to gain maximum media exposure.

People, including reporters, turn to influencers to find the latest trends or information because their personalities build a sense of trust and fan bases. Influencers are today’s “man on the street.” With the movement towards video and audio-based content, influencers can provide an increasingly personal experience for their audiences which are stronger than ever and equally vital as traditional media outlets.

To fully capitalize on today’s media environment and effectively reach target audiences, today’s businesses have the opportunity to include social media influencers in their public relations and communications campaigns.

Influencer marketing 101

Influencer marketing is a strategy that connects brands to a credible individual within a niche community with an engaged and large following. Influencers do not take orders from a brand; they work independently to create content that feels authentic to them and integrates the brand’s messages.

According to a report by eMarketer, it is expected that 72.5 percent of U.S. marketers from companies with 100 or more employees expect to use influencer marketing in 2022. With influencer marketing consuming more than half of U.S. marketers’ collaborations and projects, digital media strategies were prioritized since the pandemic to reach audiences spending more time on social media effectively; it is far from a temporary trend.

However, influencers are not looking to cover your announcement; they want to tell a broader, more connected story. Known as “authenticity” and “personalization,” this is central to fortifying the mutual relationships between brands, influencers, and target audiences. The key is to invite the influencer to participate in a larger story and body of content that makes the promotion seem organic and natural.

Inauthenticity can significantly hurt a brand. This is usually seen in “trendy” marketing strategies that do not fit the messaging. Usually, this is obvious to audiences and dissuades them from supporting the business.

Personalization is the marketing norm, and customers now hold higher expectations when engaging with brands. According to McKinsey’s U.S. consumer behavior report, approximately 40 percent of U.S. consumers stopped doing business with a brand to find better products, choices, and quality elsewhere. When customer loyalty is low, there is significant growth and necessity in paid marketing for companies and influencers to collaborate and produce meaningful, engaging, and memorable content.

Nano (10,000 followers) and micro (10,000-100,000 followers) influencers are increasingly coveted for brand partnerships when it comes to follower counts. Their average feed post engagement rate for sponsored and non-sponsored posts generally soar above mid, macro, and mega macro-influencers (insert how many followers). Finding a fruitful relationship with an influencer means seeking out nano and micro-influencers who speak to the people you want to notice your brand.

Why influencer marketing will dominate comms strategy in 2022 and beyond

Real-world success

Examples of effective and engaging influencer marketing campaigns are two RV trips Winnebago sponsored to promote its line of wheelchair-ready motorhomes. Managed by Technica Communications for the Winnebago Specialty Vehicle Division, the influencers Roll with Cole & Charisma and travel blogger Cory Lee were a part of a critical strategy to launch the company’s line of Accessibility Enhanced RVs and gain brand awareness among a category of consumers that were difficult to reach.

Mobility-restricted individuals have been critically underserved and underrepresented in the RV market, and the prospect of traveling can be daunting and prohibitive both physically, mentally, and economically. Winnebago expanded its marketing to influencer campaigns to overcome this challenge and draw more awareness. These campaigns helped Winnebago reach target audiences through building relationships with real-world influencer trips where they can experience the benefits of using the Specialty Vehicles firsthand.

In 2020, a popular inter-abled couple, “Roll with Cole & Charisma,” took the first trip. At the start of the campaign, they had more than 273,000 subscribers on YouTube, 35,000 followers on Instagram, and nearly 18,000 followers on Facebook. Through their daily posts and stories documenting their trip in the Winnebago AE RV, the campaign garnered almost 8 million views. The campaign had a total reach of nearly 15,000, with more than 45,000 unique impressions. It also had an engagement level of 1,131, and followers on the Winnebago AE social media accounts grew approximately 15 percent.

In 2021, accessibility travel blogger Cory Lee took an Accessibility Enhanced RV tour to highlight the newest features Winnebago had brought to the line. Lee had more than 15,000 followers on Instagram during the campaign, and more than 25,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter combined. From Lee’s daily posts and stories highlighting each day’s adventures with the RV, the campaign resulted in a total reach of nearly 16,000, with more than 47,000 unique impressions. The campaign had an engagement level of 1,131, and followers on the Winnebago AE social media accounts increased by 428, 300 percent more than a similar influencer trip in 2020.

By spending a few thousand dollars on both influencer campaigns, Winnebago increased its online presence and obtained sales inquiries and leads when the trips were in effect.

The reality is that the media landscape is crowded, and many people turn to social media to get their news. The result is that most brands require a combination of “earned” and “paid” exposure to gain suitable attention from target audiences.

Organizations that comprehend the worth of influencers, and foster unique projects around their substance to cause the advancement of their offerings to feel organic to the follower, will end up more effectively reaching their clients. By tapping this underutilized resource, companies stand a better chance of winning new customers over their competitors.

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Lisa Ann Pinkerton
From the newsroom to the boardroom, Lisa Ann has used her keen analytical skills to share technology stories with the world since 2001. She is founder and CEO of the award-winning Technica Communications, founder and Chairwoman of the non-profit Women In Cleantech & Sustainability, co-host of The Earthlings Podcast, an international speaker and moderator and documentary filmmaker. She was named a PR Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards (2020), Female Entrepreneur of the Year for Advertising and Marketing by the Women in Business and the Professions World Awards (2020), and a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal (2017). She got her start as a broadcast journalist covering environmental science stories for NPR and PBS for over a decade.

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