Both can and should be used as part of an inbound marketing strategy – but what’s the difference between content marketing and influencer marketing?

Let’s clear this up before we continue.

What is Content Marketing?

First, let’s take a look at the Content Marketing Institute’s definition:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Got that?

In simple terms, content marketing is the process of using content – such as blogs, eBooks, webinars, infographics, videos, etc. – to market goods and services.

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However, the purpose of the content in content marketing materials is not the same as it is in the content of an advertisement. An advert is designed specifically to hard-sell a product or a service. It tells the viewer to “buy it now”, and often creates a sense of urgency, too (“while stocks last”).

Content marketing, on the other hand, as the Content Marketing Institute is careful to explicate, is about creating something that is “valuable” and “relevant” in its own right to a “clearly defined audience”.

What makes content valuable and relevant? Well, in terms of value, content marketing materials aim to provide free information – free education, even – to any user who happens to find them online. FinTech firms might write a regular blog giving away free financial advice to web users. A sports brand might produce a range of online fitness videos that anyone can access anywhere they are. Or a food company might create a Pinterest board ram packed with recipes and nutritional advice for its followers.

This is all valuable stuff, whether you end up buying the products or services from the brands creating the content or not. And it’s relevant because this content simply exists online – which is to say that it’s not rammed down people’s throats (like advertisements often indiscriminately are), but is there ready and waiting for anyone interested in it to head to a search engine and find it for themselves.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Like content marketing, influencer marketing is also about delivering valuable and relevant content to a brand’s clearly defined audience. However, the difference is that the brand itself doesn’t create the content, but an existing industry influencer who has his/her own unique voice, perspective, style, and following. 

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Indeed, influencer marketing is all about a business collaborating with a prominent individual, who will be engaged to produce some top quality content on the business’s behalf.

As a tactic, influencer marketing can be extremely successful, due to the authenticity the influencer lends to the image of the commissioning brand. This is because influencers will have taken the time and put in the effort to build up their online reputations, meaning that any endorsements or recommendations that they make are generally considered to be authentic.

What’s more, influencers almost by definition tend to have a large and engaged following, which they will bring with them when they contribute to a business’s blog, for instance, immediately exposing that business to a brand new audience.

If a brand chooses the right influencer to work with – i.e. an individual who has influence over targeted buyers – influencer marketing can be a strong tactic indeed.

Using Influencers to Supercharge Your Content Marketing Strategy

One of the primary purposes of content marketing is to provide valuable online resources which are then used to attract new customers. However, even the very best content can sometimes struggle to get the attention it deserves without an adequate promotional strategy.

By partnering with industry influencers – who will, of course, be social media stars, often with follower numbers reaching into the thousands if not millions across some of the most popular networks – brands can ensure that the time, effort and resources they’ve poured into creating content will not go to waste. For indeed, although influencer marketing revolves around the influencers themselves creating content, the almost gravitational pull that they have will start to turn their audiences into yours.

That’s the ultimate power of an influencer’s endorsement. They will raise brand awareness, amplify your message, increase engagement, and offer an innovative new perspective to your ongoing content marketing efforts. According to research conducted by Linqia – ‘The State of Influencer Marketing 2017’ – last year, 86% of marketers experimented with the tactic, 94% of whom found it to be effective. Those are pretty hard figures to argue with.

Getting Started with Influencer Marketing

1. Identify Your Main Goals

You only know what success looks like when you’re clear about what you’re trying to achieve from the outset. That could be said about any inbound marketing initiative – but in terms of influencer marketing, it’s particularly important. 

Many businesses turn to influencer marketing to help promote a particular service or product. This is a good strategy, but it’s not the only reason why businesses utilise the tactic. According to the Linqia research, last year, 89% of marketers used influencer marketing to create authentic content about their brand, 77% to drive engagement, and 56% to channel traffic to websites and landing pages. These goals are very specific – so, decide what yours are, and then it will be time to find a suitable influencer.

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2. Finding a Suitable Influencer

There are a number of online tools – some of them free, others not – which you can use to identify and reach out to influencers within your industry. Indeed, there are even dedicated influencer marketing agencies that exist for the purposes of finding appropriate influencers for businesses to work with. 

We list a few of them for you to check out here:

  • Traackr – This is a premium tool that helps you discover influencers and figure out how best to connect.
  • Brandwatch – Another premium tool designed to help you identify and understand your target audience, and the find the influencers who hold sway over them.
  • Linqia – Part tool, part agency, Linqia provides influencer marketing tools and services to help you find and influencers and get the most out of them.
  • Kred – A great tool for helping marketers identify, prioritise and engage with influencers.

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(Image source: brandwatch.com 

3. Rewards

Influencers, of course, will seek compensation for any work they do on brand campaigns. The rewards, however, are not always monetary. A 2015 Augure study found that influencers were more motivated to work with brands for perks, such as free samples or discounts, than they were for financial rewards. And their top motivation was to increase their own reach and grow their own audience. 

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Even so, the more recent figures from Linqia found that the majority of marketers (57%) used a flat-rate financial reward model to motivate influencers. However, it was the performance-based pricing models – cost-per-engagement and cost-per-click – that were found to be the most effective at driving results.

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Over to You

The key difference between content marketing and influencer marketing essentially comes down to who’s creating the content. Content marketing materials will be produced in-house, whereas influencer marketing materials will be produced by the influencers themselves. Great results can be had if you can engage the most appropriate influencers with the biggest reach, though you should expect to reward them for their efforts, and will have to build this cost into your ongoing content marketing budget.

If you need help with an influencer marketing campaign or your content marketing strategy in general, get in touch with Incisive Edge today.

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