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Influencer Marketing Isn't Just for Fashion, Beauty and Food Anymore. No wonder financial brands want in: Influencer marketing experienced a 198 percent increase last year alone.

By Kamiu Lee Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Towfiqu Photography | Getty Images

Influencer marketing has seen substantial growth in the past year, experiencing a 198 percent increase last year alone, according to a study by Klear. But this growing social media marketing tactic isn't limited to just consumer brands anymore. As influencer marketing matures, brands outside of fashion, beauty and food are catching up on its use.

Related: The Road Ahead for Influencer Marketing: 2018 and Beyond

The healthcare industry, for example, has witnessed an onset of influencers among its brands. And now even financial companies-- from banks to insurance companies to personal finance apps -- are recogining the benefit influencer marketing can pose for their brand awareness.

Indeed, financial brands have a number of unique opportunities and considerations when it comes to partnering with influencers.

Influencers can humanize financial brands.

Let's face it: Topics relating to finances -- savings accounts, retirement, loans -- can be confusing, intimidating and, yes, boring. More than that, financial institutions, particularly post-the 2008 financial crisis, have long had a reputation that doesn't put them on the list of consumers' favorite brands.

Here, Influencers are uniquely positioned to connect a brand to a personal story in a way that's superior to what a traditional print or digital ad could do. Connecting a brand and its products to a personal life journey - whether that be saving for a wedding or financing a renovation -- is all about bringing a friendly brand connotation, relatability and authenticity to these financial brands.

Prudential Insurance, for instance, connected with consumers' feelings of love and loss through its #MasterpieceofLove short film series highlighting people who'd experienced extreme loss and how it affected them emotionally or financially, plus how these people overcame the trauma.

On the flip side, financial planning brands are emphasizing how to save for focal life moments by partnering with influencers during major life events like a wedding or around-the-world trip. Savings app Qapital partnered with @girlwithnojob throughout her wedding planning to showcase the different functions the platform offered her. American Express worked with influencers who were undergoing moves or home renovations to help showcase that use of its #PayItPlanIt feature.

Related: 11 Common Mistakes You're Making With Influencer Marketing

Even if you're not working with huge financial brands but are an entrepreneur working with a smaller financial planning or savings app, hiring influencers is a smart strategy: It not only communicates your company's values but also shares what may be complicated information in a way that's understandable and approachable.

Influencers can highlight philanthropic efforts.

We have found that many financial brands already support a number of philanthropic causes but find it difficult to really portray these efforts in a relevant way. The reason: Heavily promoting your brand's good deeds can seem disingenuous. To remedy this Catch-22, financial brands can partner with influencers to both drive support for as well as publicize their philanthropic initiatives.

When, deciding on the right influencer, It's important for a brand to partner with one that has a personal connection or passion for a cause in order to ensure the partnership is not only authentic, but also drives a deeper community engagement.

In our recent research, we found that programs that give back also drive stronger brand recall. When asked about their favorite fashion and beauty social media and influencer marketing campaigns, nearly 50 percent of micro-influencers we surveyed chose (unprompted) one with a social responsibility message. Further, 70 percent of millennials polled said that they would spend more on brands supporting causes they care about (AMA).

One cause that's attracted particular attrention is women business owners: JPMorgan Chase continues to highlight this segment of owners through its #ChaseSMB series. Ellevest, a financial platform for women, has an ongoing series, "Five Minutes With," where it shares interviews with female entrepreneurs

For small brands, even startups, that are hosting philanthropic events or spearheading seasonal campaigns that have a charitable aspect, adding an influencer to the mix can be a helpful tool to share the company's philanthropic efforts with its target audience and encourage participation, via donations or event attendance.

Financial brands need to avoid problems with the FTC ... and FINRA.

Unlike consumer brands, financial brands must abide by regulations set forth by not only the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but also the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA.) Specifically, financial companies need to be careful that their own content, as well as that posted by influencers, doesn't recommend any particular product or investment strategy.

For example, even a retweet in support of a particular company stock or investment idea could trigger FINRA's suitability rule, and be deemed a "recommendation."

Like any brand working with influencers, financial brands must also be privy to the usual FTC regulations that relate to disclosure. Because there is typically no clear product placement occurring in a post about a financial brand, marketers must be especially diligent in providing and requiring clear disclosure around an influencer's paid post.

Savvy marketers know that influencer marketing is no longer just about product placement, but rather an opportunity to share their unique offerings and brand values with target audiences. Of the products and services those marketers promote, financial brands' values are rooted in personal life experiences, and influencers are uniquely positioned to drive personal stories around products (whether tangible or not).

Related: What I've Learned From Spending $10 Million on Influencer Marketing

As such, it's extremely wise for financial companies -- whether they be corporations or startups -- to incorporate influencer strategy into their overall marketing mix ,if they haven't done so already.

Kamiu Lee

CEO, Activate

Kamiu Lee is CEO at Activate, with 10 years of experience in influencer marketing, social media, digital media, venture capital and investment banking. Activate partners with brands and influencers to tell engaging and compelling stories across social media, at scale. In the last 12 months, the company has engaged over 75,000 influencers and creators, publishing more than 6,500 pieces of collaborated content per month. Lee started her career in investment banking and venture capital, as well as business development and strategy roles at Rent the Runway, Refinery29, and Ralph Lauren.  


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