The Complete Guide to Influencer Marketing (Referral Marketing) in 2021

You have probably heard it countless times in the past few weeks and months:

The term “influencer marketing” is currently on everyone’s lips. The marketing landscape is often understood as the new recipe for successful corporate communication, similar to the buzzword “content marketing” in previous years.

But what exactly is behind influencer marketing, what do real application examples look like, and how can you implement them effectively?

Sit back, grab a fresh coffee and just read on. You are in the right place because we will answer all of your questions about influencer referral marketing in the following post.

Data and facts about influencer marketing

Before we devote ourselves to the exact definition of the term, let’s first clarify why there is currently such hype about influencers.

A look at The State of Influencer Marketing 2017 Report from linqia.com reveals that the reasons for working with influencers are diverse.

As a result, more than 89% of those surveyed have created authentic content related to their brand in mind to convert customers.

43% of the marketers surveyed stated that they a) work cost-effectively with influencers and b) can easily reach younger target groups in particular.

There are many reasons for running influencer marketing campaigns – source: linqia.com

The advantages mentioned above of influencer campaigns attract a lot of budget from those responsible in companies.


Around a third of the companies surveyed said they spent an average of between USD 1-25,000 on an influencer campaign.


33% are also willing to allocate a budget of up to USD 50,000, during which a further third reveals to companies that they pay an average of between USD 50,000 and USD 500,000 per influencer campaign.


Ascending trend.

Budgets for influencer campaigns – Source: linqia.com

According to Statista, 57% of the experts surveyed also consider influencer marketing to be more credible than traditional advertising forms.

Therefore, it is no wonder that in Germany alone, more than 68% of the companies surveyed consider a budget for social relations in their financial planning.

Which brings us to the real question:

What is influencer marketing anyway?

Influencer Marketing as a sub-discipline of digital marketing that companies able, with the help of influential opinion formers your brand and marketing messages to spread.

Influencers are usually characterized by their expertise in one or more subject areas and enjoy a high level of trust among their followers.

This makes them ideal brand ambassadors, with whose help companies with comparatively low budgets for traditional advertising formats can reach a precisely defined target group with a broad reach.

The goal is to buy a product based on the target group’s trust in the individual influencer for marketers.

Numerous studies have already shown that consumers are influenced by this recommended marketing type when making a purchase decision.

What types of opinion makers (influencers) exist?

Less than two decades ago, consumers’ media attention was reserved for gatekeepers such as journalists and celebrities. Nowadays, anyone can become a producer of much-consumed content themselves (so-called prosumers ).

The dissolution of this limiting spectrum of attention has resulted in an almost infinite number of different types of influencers.

To decide which of them fit your company or project, we first get an overview of the main types of opinion-makers:

  • Journalists
  • Experts |
  • Politician
  • Celebrities (classic A to Z celebrities)
  • Blogger
  • Social media influencers (to be found on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Co., among others)

A high level of awareness characterizes mega influencers (mostly TV stars and celebrities). This is reflected in a large following in social networks and the associated high reach.

Due to their idol function, mega influencers have the most significant influence on their followers’ opinions.

Macro influencers also achieve a high reach due to their popularity. However, these exert less influence on the views of their followers than those of mega influencers.

Because of their level of awareness and the high level of influence they have on their followers, mega and macro-influencers are in great demand with marketers. The mention of a brand by these influencer groups can – positive and negative – have an enormous impact on sales and the image of a product.

Micro-influencers describe opinion-makers with a relatively small reach. Their following in social networks usually consist of only a few thousand followers and correspondingly low awareness.

But that does not mean that they have a lower level of trust in their followers.

In particular, Niche companies can use micro-influencers to successfully position their products in front of a small but precisely defined target group.

Areas of application of influencer marketing (including examples)

The main advantages of influencer campaigns lie in their wide range of possible uses.

They are suitable for …

  • … increasing brand awareness,
  • … Strengthening the brand image or
  • … promoting products and services.

So it is high time that we shed light on the individual application scenarios with a few examples.

Influencer campaigns to increase brand awareness

As opinion leaders, influencers enjoy a high level of credibility with their followers and act as role models.

The use of a product by the influencer also influences brand perception among their followers through trust.

If, as in the following example, Youtuber Marques Brownlee talks about the advantages of a Tesla, Tesla’s brand awareness as a pioneer in the field of autonomous mobility is strengthened among his followers.

Influencer Marques Brownlee talks about Tesla (Source: Youtube)

YouTubers like Marques are perceived as absolute experts in their field, especially by less tech-savvy followers. The use of a particular brand thus directly influences a potential purchase decision among early adopters and buyers who later orientate themselves in the spirit of “If Marques is satisfied with this car, I should also consider this model the next time I buy it.”

Brand communication through influencers always means walking a tightrope for marketers.

While the use of a particular brand integrated into an everyday context is perceived as authentic, the orchestrated representation of a brand in influencer content must be avoided at all costs.

Ultimately, users follow the individual influencer based on their proven content, not because of superficial brand advertising.

Ideally, marketers leave their brand’s integration to the individual influencer because he knows best how products and brands can be integrated into his content authentically.

Influencer marketing during the product launch phase

As experts in a particular subject area, influencers are always looking for the latest trends and products.

Whenever a new smartphone, a new sneaker, or a new pair of headphones appear, influencers want to be the first to report on it if possible. Because as in traditional media, the early reports on a coveted product get the most excellent attention.

In 2018, Huawai invited tech expert Lewis Hilsenteger to the in-house release event for the new P20 smartphone (Source: Instagram)

If you would like to implement a product launch with influencers and have them communicated by them, a high degree of authenticity is also in the foreground as the secret of success.

The influencer should match the advertised product brand, ideally have already used it and address the right target group for the product to be presented.

We will take a closer look at the underlying influencer brand fit in the article’s further course.

Influencer as a product tester

Closely linked to a product presentation, influencers can also be used as available product testers.

Companies usually only provide the product with some background information.

In return, the blogger, Youtuber, etc., put the product through its paces and then presents the results to their followers in a content style that suits them.

I don’t have to emphasize again that influencing the product tester must be avoided under all circumstances.

If you are more likely to be (justified) skeptical about an independent product test, you should better refrain from working with influencers in this context.

Influencers can also serve as product testers (source: Youtube)

Product placements in the content of influencers

Ultimately, influencer campaigns can also focus on classic product placement.

This can be aimed at either branding or direct sales.

Compared to a product test, product placement focuses on lower content anchoring of the product. Instead, staging the work in the right context is expedient.

But here, too, caution is advised: Failure to provide a credible presentation can quickly dilute the intended message.

The following example shows a chocolate advertisement on an Instagram account that is otherwise dominated by fashion and fitness topics.

The consequence is the addressing of the wrong target group with associated wastage.

Chocolate advertising on Model Account. Here the brand fit is unfortunate (screenshot: Instagram)

Increase success rates: Choosing the right influencer with the right target group

Like any marketing activity, the collaboration with influencers must fit the direction of the respective company.

In other words: Influencer marketing ideally addresses the target groups that are important for the company to make a positive contribution towards the desired positioning towards consumers (so-called influencer brand fit).

In addition to this fit, the evaluation of ranges must also be viewed differently because the number of followers alone says little about their quality and loyalty to the influencer.

Marketers need to consider more meaningful points when choosing influencers, including:

  • Does the influencer represent my company’s values?
  • Does he address a target group with interests that match the product (for example, promoting alcohol to a fitness community would be rather inappropriate)?
  • What influence does the influencer have on his target group?
  • What is the relationship between community engagement (quality) and reach (quantity)?
  • Does the influencer reach the right target group through the right media and channels?

All of these questions can only be answered with difficulty without a closer look at the content that has already been produced by potential influencers.

For marketers, the search for the right brand fit also means dealing with it personally: the influencer has to please and represent the subjectively perceived values ​​of the company for a campaign to be successful.

Bonus tip:  You don’t always have to choose an external opinion maker. The best influencers are usually your employees! They already know your company is well networked in social media depending on the industry and can serve as an excellent brand or product ambassadors.

Measuring the success of influencer marketing

To make the success of your influencer campaigns visible, close monitoring of significant key figures is essential.

But only a well-defined target definition will help you to derive the right key figures for measuring your return on investments (ROI).

While many publications see reach measurement as an integral part of influencer campaigns, I can only advise against it.

The number of followers of a potential influencer can be used as the first indication of its relevance, but nothing more. The increasing number of existing fake followers and bot networks leads to an imprecise measurement of success when looking at these KPIs.

And even if all followers are real – the real reach of a post cannot be reliably determined on every social platform.

So if the reach is not a reliable indicator, which one is?

Depending on the objective, you should use the following KPIs to measure the success of your influencer campaigns:

Measure engagement

Likes, comments and shares. Whatever interactions are called on the respective platform. They serve as the best point of reference for opinion makers to deal with your target group with your product.

When measuring engagement rates, you should weigh the individual interaction options according to your goals.

For example, if your goal is to create a brand, “Like” information counts as a simple form of interaction. On the other hand, shares not only serve to increase the visibility of content but also contribute directly to the spread of your brand message.

The determination of the cost-per-engagement  (CPE) can lead to a sustainable budget allocation that rewards influencers with high interaction rates.

This metric also reveals the unpleasant truth for many marketers that reach alone is worth little without interactions.

Measurement of sentiment (mood)

It would help if you also kept an eye on how people respond to popular content.

Because these are usually not just seen and shared on social networks without comment.

Also, high interaction rates do not allow any conclusions to be drawn regarding whether your content is positive or negative for the respective audience.

By measuring your shared content’s tone and mood, you can generate valuable learnings and then optimize influencer campaigns later.

Measurement of conversion

Ultimately, the most important collection of data is the measurement of the real conversion of users.

It is one of the most challenging and vital tasks in influencer marketing campaigns.

Because when looking at cost-per-conversion (CPC), the bare truth is: The allocated budget generated how many sales or leads?

This key figure can be measured using traceable affiliate links, promo codes or tracking pixels, depending on the platform.

Observe and prevent legal pitfalls

When conducting influencer campaigns, there are numerous legal restrictions that marketers and influencers alike must observe.

For example, Section 5a of the UWG (Act Against Unfair Competition) prohibits misleading by making advertising content unrecognizable.

What used to be known as surreptitious advertising now applies to paid content-related product mentions by influencers.

Because it must be recognizable to the individual followers that they are consuming sponsored content intended to directly or indirectly encourage them to buy. Accordingly, influencers must ensure that advertising content is clearly labelled.

It is recommended that you define the contractual framework conditions for the cooperation with the influencer’s rights and obligations shortly after contacting you to avoid nasty surprises and warnings on both sides from the outset.

Conclusion – influencer marketing will not lose its importance in 2021 either

More than two-thirds of German companies currently have a budget ready for influencer activities. Influential opinion leaders will therefore remain the rock stars for marketers in corporate communications in 2021.

The low costs compared to traditional advertising formats are increasingly attracting the attention of small and medium-sized companies to this discipline.

With the right brand fit in mind, everyone from start-ups to multinational corporations can benefit from the current influencer trend.

As a modern type of brand communication, it is no longer so easy to imagine everyday life for many advertisers without them.

Therefore: Anyone who starts working with influencers at an early stage will also benefit from the experience gained in the years to come and be one step ahead of other latecomers.



Categories: Digital Marketing, Marketing, Social Media

Tags: , ,

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