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A positive endorsement can do wonders for a business. But have times changed? A recent report finds that the celebrity influencer may well have lost their influence…

ITV’s Love Island provides a great example of how absurd influencer marketing has become. Ex-contestants flood their social media with endless posts about skinny teas that ‘really work!’, and other products they almost certainly don’t use — all predictably ending in #Ad #SPON — if it wasn’t obvious enough.

Everybody knows that these sorts of posts are paid promotions now, surely? The reach offered by a celebrity influencer can obviously drive sales, or they wouldn’t bother doing it, but blatant plugging is just as likely to push more discerning people away, as well as making the brand looking pretty cheesy. It depends hugely on your target market as to whether this is the right path for you.

Consumers trust the recommendations of those close to them, and the obviously paid-for endorsements of a conventional influencer no longer cut it for quality brands’ customers. And there’s a growing trend to take a different approach; do away with the celebrity fluff, and instead rely on a real person to embody what your business represents.

Social Selling

Today marketers are looking to employees and customers alike as an effective way of engaging with their target demographics. In fact, 70% of social marketers are either using employees as influencers, or plan to do so in the future.

Employees know their brand better than anyone, and as such they are prime candidates for promoting a business. Take Macy’s for example, which has recently shifted its influencer focus away from bloggers. Instead, the company has been encouraging staff to join the ‘Macy’s Style Crew’, which posts regular content to social media.

The benefits of this approach, which Macy’s refers to as ‘social selling’, are twofold. Firstly, it makes sense that the people who spend their days working for a company are the ones who know it best, and so are an excellent choice for marketing that embodies the specific values of a business.

Secondly, it is a much more cost-effective marketing strategy. Celebrity influencers are notoriously expensive, prohibitively so for smaller businesses. Rather than approaching a more affordable Z-list Love Islander ‘celebrity’ for endorsement as a cheaper alternative, why not encourage existing employees to become brand ambassadors themselves?

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Real people, real results

Using customers is just as effective, with consumers nearly two times as likely to act on a friend’s recommendation over that of a celebrity. It should be obvious how a marketing strategy that takes this into consideration is likely to be a success.

The digital age has turned everyone into an influencer, with social media acting as a platform for customers to share their opinions on a brand to a wide audience. Gone are the days of word of mouth, and encouragement of positive discussion on these platforms can be an invaluable marketing tool.

It’s time to focus on the real people involved with your business. Customers and employees are the new influencers, and there is no one better to convey the strengths and values of a brand. Think Danny the hard-working employee — instead of Dani the Dyer — for your influencer marketing needs.

Three ideas for developing your own great brand ambassadors

1. IDENTIFY THE CORE STRENGTHS OF YOUR BRAND

What is it that makes your business attractive to consumers? You can’t begin to develop effective ambassadors without first knowing what these qualities are. They should be the strengths and values that your company is known for.

Once you know them, make them clear! Employees and clients alike should be easily able to recount them if asked. An effective ambassador knows what your business stands for, and can confidently offer their endorsement.

2. INCENTIVISE YOUR EMPLOYEES

Offering incentives such as commissions on sales and other rewards for consumer engagement can turn an existing employee into a more effective influencer than a paid one. Give the people that know your business inside and out motivation to share their positive experiences, particularly on social media.

To customers your employees are their first line of contact — show that they embody the core strengths and values of the business. A genuine enthusiasm coupled with in-depth brand knowledge can contribute greatly to an effective marketing strategy.

3. FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH – THE POWER OF THE CLIENT

Customers are the foundation of any business, and so placing them front and centre in marketing and advertising is a great means of promotion. Just don’t just expect everyone to take your word for it; underline your brand’s quality and integrity by asking happy clients to vouch for you.

Depending on the type of business you have, a friendly and happy client might be prepared to do a 30 second testimony to camera for you, write you a short review, or get involved by sharing your brand messaging across their own platforms. Our edict is — if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So ask!

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Real influencers – are celebrity endorsements a thing of the past?
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