When it comes to your marketing budget, you want to put your money, time and effort into what gives you the highest return on investment. You have a variety of marketing choices, including influencer marketing and social advertising.

Social media advertising involves text, image or video ads that a brand creates and places on social media. Social media users come in contact with your ads in their feed as sponsored posts or as text or photo module ads.

Influencer marketing involves content that influencers create for your brand and place on their social media accounts, blogs or podcasts. Influencers are content creators that have a loyal group of followers who listen to their advice, including when they mention your brand in their posts.

Between the two, which one is best for your brand? Or do they both have a place in your marketing tool kit?

The best way to decide is to get to know what influencer marketing and social advertising are all about. Take a look at the key features of both and use this information to help you see how these marketing strategies might fit with your brand.

Influencer Marketing

People trust the influencers they follow.

Trust is increasingly more important to today’s consumers, and 63 percent of consumers say they trust an influencer’s message over a brand’s advertising message. This trust is based on the relationship influencers build with their audience over time. When an influencer talks about a product they like, listeners trust recommendations the influencer makes.

Influencers are in tune with a brand’s target audience.

When you partner with an influencer whose target audience matches yours, you’ve found a ready-made group of potential customers who are already interested in your product niche. Since influencers have regular communication with their audience, they’re in tune with what these consumers are looking for in a product or service. This can translate to incredible buying potential for your brand.

Influencers help consumers form a personal connection with your brand.

Consumers value a more personal experience and want to feel part of a community. Influencers provide people with a more customized experience in the marketing funnel — from learning about a product to buying it and establishing brand loyalty.

Influencers are experienced professionals.

Influencers are a brand’s sales tool. They provide authentic content based on their unique personality, creativity, knowledge and experience. Brands leverage these skills when they partner with an influencer.

Brands benefit from the traction influencers already have.

Some influencers have massive followings of thousands, sometimes millions of people. Other influencers have high engagement rates with their audience, which increases their level of influence. Brands benefit from the time and effort influencers have already put into gaining the reach they’ve cultivated. Highly trafficked websites and social accounts give greater exposure to your brand, and higher engagement rates boost brand loyalty.

Influencer posts feel more like a conversation than a commercial.

Product placement in influencer content is more discreet rather than salesy. While influencers must make it clear a brand sponsors their content, the disclosure isn’t glaring — it’s more like a conversation that’s relatable. On social media, influencer content is seamlessly mixed in with posts from family and friends, so it feels natural to the user.

Influencers specialize in storytelling.

Influencers can tell a brand’s story in a way that’s engaging, interesting and personalized instead of out of reach. Using word-of-mouth advertising, they tell stories about people, not just brands. This boosts brand identity, awareness and loyalty as consumers become part of a brand’s journey.

Brands must find influencers that are the right match.

It’s essential for brands to take time to vet an influencer thoroughly before partnering. Values, target audience, tone and other factors must align with your brand. Brands must also set guidelines, define clear goals and expectations, and create legally sound contracts with influencers. Taking time in the beginning to do this minimizes potential problems down the road from creators with fake followers or the wrong match for your brand.

Brands need to build relationships with their influencers.

Similarly, brands need to take the time and effort needed to build relationships with their influencers over time. This creates trust and can result in influencer loyalty to your brand and higher quality content.

Influencers facilitate cross-promotion.

Influencers usually use more than one social media platform as well as a blog. They easily repurpose content for multiple platforms, which gives your brand more exposure. Influencers also create content in a variety of formats to appeal to different people, including photos, text, videos and audio.

Social Media Advertising

Ads come in a variety of formats.

For instance, on Facebook, brands can create ads using text, photos, videos and carousels. Ads usually have clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons as well, which boost conversions as readers can see at a glance what to do to take the next step.

Social media advertising costs are flexible.

On social media, advertisers can usually set spending limits. Spending more raises your chance of reaching more people, while putting a cap on spending helps you stay within budget.

Ad campaign data is easy to track.

Analytics built into social media platforms as well as third-party tools make it easy to track data collected from ads.

Consumers tend to ignore ads.

Eighty-six percent of consumers pay no attention to online ads — it’s called banner blindness. Ads in social media posts are also easy to scroll past because people are looking for familiar content from family, friends and their favorite influencers. Ads feel salesy, so they’re easy to bypass, which means they may not have the ROI a brand is hoping for.

Your brand’s ad must stand out from the rest.

Many brands target popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram since they’re frequented by billions of users. To encourage users to stop and read your ad, it needs to stand out from the rest. Using consistent branding can help. Video ads also tend to have a higher conversion rate.

Brands can create ads for their target audience.

When created carefully, ads can zero in on your target audience. Social media platforms usually make this easier by allowing you to target your audience based on demographics, niche interests, offline behavior, device used and other behaviors. Platforms change their algorithms frequently, however, making it possible to miss your target audience or advertise to a disinterested audience.

Ads tend to use sales language out of necessity.

Because of the limited space in an ad — and because they’re selling something — marketers need to use words like “limited time offer,” “buy now” and “on sale.” They don’t have the time or space to tell a story, although video ads help with this. This sales verbiage tends to turn people away from ads.

Ads don’t build relationships with consumers.

An ad is a one-way announcement instead of a two-way conversation. Without the back and forth dialogue, brands do not typically build relationships by using ads.

An ad’s length of influence is tied to your budget.

The influence of an ad only lasts as long as it’s displayed, which is contingent on how much you paid for it. This is in contrast to an influencer’s content, which doesn’t have an expiration date.

Brands must monitor audience engagement with social media ads.

When you place an ad as a social media post, you must monitor it to respond to comments in a timely manner. This will help you build relationships with customers by answering questions and responding to complaints and compliments.

Create a Marketing Tool Kit

To get the most out of your marketing budget, you don’t have to stick to one strategy. Choose a few marketing tools that will help you reach your goals. Influencer marketing, for example, helps you generate engagement and attaches more authenticity to your brand. Social media ads create data that’s easy to track, and they don’t require the time commitment of building relationships with influencers. When you use both strategies, you can reap the benefits of both. They can work in tandem as well, such as repurposing content created by influencers to reach other audiences through ads or your content marketing efforts.

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