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What is Influencer Marketing and How Does It Work?

Avatar of Pulse Marketing By Pulse Marketing

You may have seen it before as you’ve scrolled through Facebook or watched a video on Youtube – someone you recognize (maybe one of your favorite food bloggers or a travel guru) touting a certain product by integrating it into their post or video. This is called influencer marketing or influence marketing and it’s a relatively new concept that uses the power that individuals have on social media to advertise a product or service.

Here are three examples to help you get to know what influencer marketing is:

  1. 23andMe. 23andMe is a home-based saliva collection kit that you pay $99 for so you can find out more about your ancestry. The service also offers a $199 kit that tells you more about health risks based on your background. To advertise their service, 23andMe has been operating a widespread influencer marketing campaign that has enlisted the help of Youtube personalities. Some of these Youtubers are travel/food vloggers, such as Mikey Chen and Mark Wiens, who travel throughout Asia (primarily) to find incredible street food for other travelers to enjoy themselves. Chen and Wiens both partnered with 23andMe, took their DNA test, and then went on trips to find out more about their ancestry (all expenses paid by 23andMe). The partnership resulted in a collection of videos from each vlogger with a specific mention and thank you to 23andMe at the beginning of each, and even extensive videos of each of them finding out their DNA test results (see links above). Chen has over 200,000 subscribers on Youtube, while Wiens has almost 1 million – they are influences in the travel and food vlogging scene. 23andMe made a move to partner with these two based on the influence they hold over their viewers. By using these two as product gurus, they reach a huge audience, and humanize their brand (which is important, considering what it is they do).
  2. #Vanlife. If you’re a millennial, you may have heard of the #Vanlife movement. Take to Instagram and search for the hashtag and you’ll soon discover what #Vanlife is all about – essentially, it’s a social media movement based on individuals who have abandoned the 9-5 office life in favor of a home on wheels. Vanlifers, as they call themselves, live on the open road in camper vans, from repaired VW buses to beat up Chevys once suited for touting band equipment from gig to gig. They see the world, but the lifestyle does require unique money-making ventures. Influencer marketing is one of them. Popular vanlifers that go by the name “wheresmyofficenow” on Instagram partnered with Kettle Brand chips, for example. Because Instagram is an entirely visual platform, they strategically placed a bag of the salty snack in a photo, wrote up a thought-provoking paragraph to include with it, and tagged Kettle Brand on Instagram. The photo received more than 3,000 likes. These Instagrammers are influencers. They may not have intended to be when they started their journey, but as their followers increased and their engagement kept going up, they became influential in the lives of the Instagrammers who follow them. Some of the influencers that brands pair with are deemed “micro-influencers.” They don’t necessarily have hundreds of thousands of followers, but they do have a dedicated base that is committed to engaging, and consuming, the content these micro-influencers produce (“wheresmyofficenow” is a good example). After pairing with a few dozen of these micro-influencers, they reach hundreds of thousands of people – no small feat for any brand.
  3. NikkieTutorials. If you’re not into the makeup Youtube scene, you’ve probably never heard of NikkieTutorials, a channel featuring a young woman who posts eye-catching makeup looks twice weekly. But I shouldn’t assume that you’ve never seen a video of hers before, because in 2015, one of the NikkieTutorials videos went wildly viral, accumulating over 36 million views. In the video, she denounces “makeup shaming” and society’s way of judging women when they wear makeup, and when they don’t. NikkieTutorials has over 7 million followers, and the makeup industry is an excellent example of influencer marketing. Brands such as Too Faced, OFRA Cosmetics, Tarte, and many more partner with these Youtube personalities to advertise their products. NikkieTutorials, along with many other famous, self-taught makeup artists on Youtube, receive merchandise in public relations packages sent by mail, but the brands also pair with these Youtubers for ad placement in videos, just like 23andMe.

If you type “influencer marketing” in Google, you’ll find many examples of this practice. Now that you know what influencer marketing is, keep an eye out on social media and see how often one of your favorite bloggers, vloggers, or Instagrammers post with a brand as the focus. Marketing is all around you, but sometimes it’s not quite as overt as you might expect.

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