What happens when consumers no longer trust traditional marketing? How do you tailor advertising to a generation that leaves data public for convenience, yet hates to be taken advantage of? Traditional marketing falls short when targeting Millennials and GenZ, while social-media influencing swiftly becomes a staple in marketing strategist arsenals.
Research on modern consumers demonstrates that the success of micro-influencer marketing is emblematic of the new wave in the digital content marketing industry: authenticity. In order to truly harness the power of social media, companies and marketing professionals need to move away from reliance on celebrity endorsements and get into genuine relationships with real people who advocate for what they believe in. Though it takes time, a combination of micro-influencing and data analysis marketing really works, developing trustworthy, open relationships with consumers and ensuring the longevity and reputation of a company.
Source: Viral Nation
The 2018 Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandal was an awakening to the public, not only due to its political impact but also because it revealed the frightening underbelly of data collection and privacy issues. Companies have always been collecting information and using it to target advertisements, but the digital age is a smorgasbord of information, especially if social media links arms with companies.
In the past couple of years, advanced methods of data collection and analysis have come to light and marketing has benefited greatly. In 2016, Facebook unveiled a new tool, FB LearnerPro, “a self-improving, artificial intelligence-powered prediction engine” which uses Facebook to analyze its users’ data and thereby target customers by predicting what they’ll buy (The Intercept).
It might sound convenient, streamlined and personalized, but people are becoming weary of this type of marketing. In fact, a study by the McCarthy group showed that 84% of millennials do not like this type of marketing and lose trust for companies that use it (Arnold). Authenticity is a necessity for Millennials and Gen Z– even dubbed the “way to their hearts” by Forbes magazine (Moore). The idea that companies are collecting your data and targeting you can feel ingenuine, even sneaky. Many have experienced products mentioned in private conversations popping up on their timelines and Instagram stories as advertisements.
Social media has taken marketing by storm. Facebook implemented a partnership with Shopify, Instagram has added “Buy Now” and “Checkout with Instagram”, and even Snapchat is getting in on it. Instagram has especially captured hearts due to its sleek image grid and bite-sized captions.
According to Medium.com, Instagram is poised to take over Facebook by the end of 2020 (Perrucci). Facebook’s slough of information-leaking scandals also makes Instagram enticing as it is perceived to collect fewer data. People look to Instagram to find trends and are influenced by account-holders with attractive images and pleasing aesthetics. Influencers can generate over “$50k for a single sponsored post (depending on its engagement)” (Perrucci). Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts… than advertisements” and “247% more likely” to follow the advice of blogs or social media users– companies report a “5.2X increase in purchase when exposed to promotional content by influencers” (Hubspot, GroupHigh).
Companies have been catching on, and according to a study by Linqia, 39% of marketers intend to increase their budget for influencers in the coming year (Ward). Believe it or not, by 2020, Gen Z is estimated to comprise approximately 40% of the population, which means things are changing, or need to be changing in the marketing world (Bloomberg). Especially when you consider that GenZ is the most “ad-proof” generation to ever exist, employing ad-blocking software on every device (Wheeler). They have been marketed to for their whole lives and have “highly tuned radars for being sold to”. They also place strong values on “transparency and giving back to society” (Digital Marketing Institute). Millennials will pay more for a product if someone can vouch for the “brand’s social responsibility” (Arnold). Though many classify Millennials as “indecisive”, the truth is that they are “taking their time” crowdsourcing from various trusted sources.
According to a 2014 study by Market Strategies International, they are three times more likely to “reference social media networks when purchasing (Wharton). Digital Marketing Institute suggests tackling this change in consumer behavior by presenting content in a “genuine way”– but what exactly does that mean for a company?
Celebrity influencers have millions of followers and are highly recognizable, but marketers have noticed a decrease in engagement once an account hits 100,000 followers. It seems that the engagement ratio peaks at 1,000 followers (Perrucci). Celebrity influencers are often seen as ingenuine, leading fake lives– the truth is, people prefer interacting and trusting someone more relatable. This brings us to the marketing powerhouse that is micro-influencing.
Micro-influencing relies on the idea that people buy things recommended by people they trust. These influencers are ordinary people with social media followings of a couple of thousand people looking to them as trend-setters– more trust, less likelihood of follower fraud. Medium.com gives us three statistics demonstrating the value of micro-influencers– they generate 60% higher engagement, each engagement is 6.7x more cost-efficient, and they carry 22.2% more DM conversations than celebrity influencers (Perrucci).
What is it about micro-influencers that is appealing to Millenials and GenZ? This quote sums it up well- “Millenials want to be marketed with, not to” (Arnold). The best way to market to Millennials and GenZ is to make them part of the marketing process– The “key to winning millennial trust” is involving millennials in the “creation process of the marketing strategy” (Wharton). Sean Foster, CEO of Crowdtap, agrees, suggesting a move from a closed system to an open system where “consumers become architects of the brand… people over advertising …showing rather than telling–people-powered marketing” (Chen).
Millennials and GenZ are willing to be involved– they are known to be “vocal, active” advocates for what they believe in, and are willing to “spread the word on a campaign or product” they believe in (Digital Marketing Institute). 44% of Millennials would gladly use social media to promote brands, products or services for a reward of some type (Aimia). Search Engine Journal states that community building is “one of the greatest missed opportunities in the content marketing industry” as only 23% are using it (Search Engine Journal). Micro-influencers are highly successful because of the genuine online communities they foster. Influencer and consumer are connected by hundreds of supportive comments, DMs and interactions.
Some challenge this success– to increase exposure, companies need to “engage multiple micro-influencers” (more working hours spent)– however, Medium.com also underlines the value of building “long-term, genuine relationships” with them (Perrucci). In summation, sources agree that the best way to tackle today’s marketing is a combination– an “alignment of traditional marketing and influencer marketing”. Forbes says brands have to have “a lot of tools” in their kits, and micro-influencing is an effective tool, working “within the context of developing relationships and trust, of entertaining and inspiring” (Arnold). Overall, the research on micro-influencers shows that they are a key tool in marketing to modern consumers because of the authentic communities they foster. A consumer who feels heard by trustworthy brands and influencers will return to the shop where they feel safe.
The intercept. “Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for Advertisers, Says Confidential Document.” The Intercept, 13 Apr. 2018, www.theintercept.com/2018/04/13/facebook-advertising-data-artificial-intelligence-ai/
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Written By: Simona Darshani Wiig