When it comes to turning users into customers, social media marketing is still in its infancy. But a number of signs suggest that, in years to come, social sponsorship and Instagram influencer marketing will play a big role when it comes to increasing purchase intent.

But there’s a difference between using an influencer to gain clicks, likes, and attention and using an influencer to actually persuade people to buy what you’re selling.

The 2016 Social Commerce Survey conducted by SUMO Heavy found that the majority of people had not made a purchase directly through a social media site. More than 54 percent of those surveyed said social sponsorship had no influence on their purchase decisions.

But a Twitter study in partnership with Annalect analytics solution found almost 40 percent of Twitter users say a tweet from an influencer drove them to make a product purchase, signaling the gap between shopping and social might be closing.

According to the Business of Fashion, three-quarters of shoppers discover products on social sites, even though just 1.5 percent of online sales can be attributed to social sponsorship. Plus, shoppable video scored as the highest performer of all shoppable social content, across all platforms.

If it’s not yet clear the right mix of influencer marketing and content marketing can help your company influence purchase intent, we break down how to make it work for you here:

Choose the Right Network

Some of the best social sponsorship content only works on certain networks and platforms. Facebook is still the number one network for users young and old and a survey conducted by Activate by Bloglovin‘ found that Facebook had the highest level of engagement with influencer posts.

Twitter is also a good network for increasing purchase intent through influencer marketing. The same study conducted by Annalect and Twitter found users’ purchase intent increased 5.2 times when they were exposed to tweets from brands and influencers.

Make Social Sponsorship Work

The Bloglovin’ survey also found that more than half of women were likely to make a purchase based on an influencer post they saw. The key to getting people to take action and purchase after seeing a post is to choose not only the right network but also the right influencer.

The influencers you work with need to make sense for your brand. One good example of an influencer and brand partnership that really works is between model Gigi Hadid and American fashion company Tommy Hilfiger. Hadid has around 27 million followers on Instagram, and posts that feature her image or name get a 46 percent boost, according to the Business of Fashion.

Gigi Hadid and American fashion company Tommy Hilfiger

In 2016, Tommy Hilfiger launched a collaboration with Hadid that quickly sold out. Not only were the clothes shown on a runway during NY fashion week, but they were also shown on Facebook, using the site’s 360-degree live video. Even better, the videos were shoppable.

All fans of Hadid and Hilfiger had to do was click on the items they saw and wanted. They were then sent a message from a chatbot on Facebook Messenger, which contained a link to Hilfiger’s website where customers could complete their purchases.

Working with a well-known supermodel makes sense for a designer brand like Tommy Hilfiger. But another brand and influencer match made in heaven was between Threadbeast, a streetwear brand, and Nightwing2303, a well-known streetwear and sneaker reviewer with a large Twitter and YouTube following.

In 2015, Threadbeast sent Nightwing2303 a box of its clothing to review. Nightwing2303 posted a video on Facebook that got more than three million views and that led to a 36 percent bump in click-through rate for the brand.

Getting the Tone Right

Working with an influencer who makes sense for your niche can lead to a jump in purchase intent and sales from new or returning customers. The thing to remember is not to overdo it, and to make sure you’re setting the right tone with customers.

Although the Bloglovin’ survey found that most users aren’t terribly bothered by the idea of #sponsored posts or disclosure notices, no one wants to feel like they’re being sold or marketed to on social media. Just don’t fall out of FTC compliance.

Shift your thinking from sales to storytelling. The most successful influencer marketing campaigns are all about the story, whether it’s the glamorous tale of a supermodel working with a designer or a streetwear reviewer checking out a bunch of new clothes.

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