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'Influencer Marketing' on the Rise, Study Says Brand managers can increase their success by finding and building relationships with passionate consumers, employees and other social-media rock stars.

By Beki Winchel

This story originally appeared on PR Daily

It's no surprise that word-of-mouth marketing is effective, but when brand managers combine it with the power of social media, they see greater campaign success, all while spending less money.

A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found people on social media often form opinions or make judgments about products and services based on the opinions of those they follow.

A recent e-book by Tapfluence and Influitive supports those findings. In their study, researchers found that 92 percent of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source. Considering referrals are found online 81 percent of the time, social media and word-of-mouth combine to form new and powerful marketing strategies.

The study identifies two types of strategies that marketers can use in 2015 to boost their brands online: "influencer marketing," in which brand managers partner with people who have large followings on social media platforms, and "advocate marketing," which harnesses the ideas and power of a company's consumers, employees and partners.

Both types of marketing can help brand managers launch products, drive brand awareness, build followings and relationships on social media, create content and rally support during a PR crisis.

Although marketers have previously focused on their consumer audiences, employees and partners with social media efforts, there are many bloggers, photographers and other social media stars who can contribute to campaigns.

According to Advertising Age, the top 20 brand-friendly beauty and style YouTube channels have between 1.59 million and 41.2 million views each month. The large viewership benefits marketers, who can get a big bang for their bucks by advertising on these channels. Vloggers also are doing quite well: Most make more than $4,000 each month through their channels, with the largest taking in more than $54,600 monthly.

Influencer and advocate marketing aren't just popular with the beauty and fashion industries, either:Skift reported marketing pros with travel and hospitality clients are working more with consumer audiences to tell their stories.

High-profile examples

For marketers still on the fence regarding these strategies, success stories from brands such as Kraft and Silk might convince you of the value in influencer and advocate marketing.

Kraft asked fans to create and share recipes across social media platforms, which garnered them more than 760,000 blog post views, 178,000 pins and 16,000 clicks to product coupons.

Silk's employment of its passionate consumers on social media in its cashew milk campaign gave the company more than $1.04 million in media exposure and a reach of 24.9 million potential consumers.

This kind of marketing is not just changing the way communicators create campaigns and messages; it also helps them decide which social media platforms to use. More brands are posting to Instagram than Facebook now due to the availability of audience partnerships on visual and mobile social media platforms.

These new partnerships aren't always easy to navigate, however.

According to a study released by Augure Marketing + Communications in January 2015, more than half of communications professionals say identifying the relevant people with large followings for their campaigns is a challenge, as are developing and maintaining profitable relationships with them. Almost half of the communicators surveyed said measuring the ROI of these campaigns proved to be a challenge as well.

Once brand managers can select the proper audience members to partner with, the TapInfluence and Influitive guidance offers ways to foster that relationship—such as letting them tell authentic stories; being clear on expectations; giving them proper attribution for their work; and increasing the value of their content by using it in company blog posts, webinars and other marketing campaigns.

Beki Winchel is a contributor for PR Daily

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