Is Influencer Marketing a Trendy or Smart Strategy?

Influencer Marketing

Around 2003, many businesses were built by buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads on the cheap.

A similar opportunity exists today, but this time around, social media influencer marketing is the trendy strategy. It’s a strategy to which advertisers — including small businesses — are paying close attention.

If the history of PPC is any indication, influencer marketing ad budgets — and prices — will continue to rise as more businesses pile on to what works. So it makes sense to get onto this trend early for your own advertising needs.

In an introduction to the 2014 Influencer Marketing Benchmarks Report from Burst Media, the company explains:

“On average marketers who implemented an Influencer Marketing program last year received $6.85 in earned media value for every $1 of paid media.”

Facebook is an obvious channel for some of this influencer marketing. Facebook advertising has been considered a game-changer. But concern exists that Facebook ad prices have risen to levels which might limit the potential for large returns.

And so the hand-wringing continues over which mix of channels and content-type can deliver the best ROI for influencer marketing.

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Sponsored Selfie Added to Influence Marketing Mix

Influencer marketplace Tomoson is adding a new option to that mix in the form of so-called sponsored selfies.

As the name implies, influencers creating sponsored selfies just post a photo of themselves using, wearing, or posing with an advertiser’s products.

There’s an attempt to avoid the inconsistency in disclosure problematic in some influencer marketing campaigns too. Tomoson sponsored selfies are always marked with the #ad hashtag, along with #TomosonSelfie.

Businesses have paid Tomoson members to create sponsored tweets, blog posts and videos. So selfies are merely the latest option being offered to the company’s advertisers.

Why selfies?

Selfies are arguably the fastest to create and they’re a normal part of life for millennials and Generation Z.

In an email interview with Small Business Trends, Tomoson CEO Jeff Foster says simple product pics fall flat on Instagram. And when that happens, there’s abysmal social engagement — or none at all.

Selfies, on the other hand, have a record of promoting engagement on the photo sharing platform.

“We have influencers of all sizes, which is perfect for small businesses. Selfies drive real engagement and provide an excellent ROI.  If you have a budget of $500 to $1,000, that can go very far,” says Foster.

His company expects to roll out sponsored selfies to other platforms, including Facebook and Twitter too.

Influencer Marketing

Not a Guarantee of Success

A few caveats must be mentioned, of course.

The success of an influencer marketing campaign will depend on the creativity of the influencers with whom you choose to work. For example, their ability to create engaging content is important.

Images, ideally, should be strong enough to convey a message with one glance, in contrast to a blog post which has the advantage of many paragraphs to make a point.

And even Tomoson admits the selfie method will work better for some products than for others. (It’s probably easier to promote a pair of sunglasses or a line of handbags than a new social network or CRM software.)

Instagram selfies are also not a magic bullet for boosting sales. Like any other marketing effort, you’ll need to use analytics to determine effectiveness.

But it is also a marketing strategy that must be committed to over time in order to see results.

“Influencer marketing is not something you can just buy, like at the grocery store,” says Dennis Yu, CTO of BlitzMetrics. “It’s something you embrace fully,” Yu says in an email interview with Small Business Trends.

Yu adds that marketing messages will still depend upon proper optimization and upon being targeted for an audience likely to convert.

Influencer Marketing

Utilizing Sponsored Selfies in Influencer Marketing

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital advertising, innovative approaches are continually emerging to capture consumer attention and drive engagement. Sponsored selfies have emerged as a new option within influencer marketing, offering unique benefits for advertisers and businesses seeking to enhance their brand visibility. Here’s an overview of sponsored selfies as a strategic component of influencer marketing:

What are Sponsored Selfies?

Sponsored selfies refer to images created by influencers in which they showcase themselves using, wearing, or posing with a brand’s products. Unlike traditional product photos, sponsored selfies incorporate the influencer’s personal style and perspective, making them more relatable and authentic to their audience. These selfies are always marked with disclosure hashtags such as #ad and #TomosonSelfie to ensure transparency.

Why Selfies Matter in Influencer Marketing:

  • Engagement Magnet: Selfies have a history of promoting higher engagement rates on platforms like Instagram. They resonate particularly well with millennials and Generation Z, who are accustomed to sharing their daily lives through selfies.
  • Quick and Authentic: Selfies are quick to create and provide an authentic glimpse into the influencer’s lifestyle. This authenticity fosters a stronger connection between the influencer and their followers.
  • Visual Storytelling: In the world of visual content, selfies convey messages effectively with just one glance, making them ideal for promoting products and brands.

Influencer Marketing

Benefits of Sponsored Selfies in Influencer Marketing:

  • Engagement Boost: Selfies drive real engagement, generating likes, comments, and shares from followers who connect with the influencer’s content.
  • Cost-Effective: Sponsored selfies offer an excellent return on investment (ROI) for small businesses with modest budgets. A budget of $500 to $1,000 can go a long way in driving engagement and brand awareness.
  • Relatability: Selfies create relatable content that aligns with the influencer’s personal style and lifestyle, making it more likely to resonate with their audience.
  • Quick Turnaround: Selfies are easy to create and require minimal production time, allowing for efficient content creation and delivery.

Considerations and Strategies:

  • Influencer Selection: The success of a sponsored selfie campaign depends on the creativity and engagement potential of the influencers you collaborate with. Choose influencers who align with your brand values and have a history of creating engaging content.
  • Visual Appeal: Ensure that the sponsored selfies are visually appealing and convey your brand message effectively. Strong imagery can capture attention and prompt immediate engagement.
  • Product Suitability: While selfies are effective for various products, consider the suitability of the product for this format. Items that naturally lend themselves to visual representation are more likely to succeed.
  • Long-Term Commitment: Influencer marketing, including sponsored selfies, is a strategy that requires consistent effort and commitment. Success may take time, and results should be tracked and analyzed using analytics.

Expanding Platforms: While Tomoson introduced sponsored selfies initially, the concept is likely to expand to other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This expansion offers businesses the opportunity to engage with diverse audiences.

What are Sponsored Selfies?Sponsored selfies are images created by influencers showcasing themselves using, wearing, or posing with a brand's products. These selfies incorporate the influencer's personal style, enhancing relatability and authenticity for their audience. They are marked with #ad and #TomosonSelfie hashtags to ensure transparency.
Why Selfies Matter in Influencer Marketing:- Engagement Magnet: Selfies historically promote high engagement, particularly on platforms like Instagram, resonating well with millennials and Generation Z. - Quick and Authentic: Selfies provide a quick, authentic glimpse into the influencer's lifestyle, fostering stronger connections with followers. - Visual Storytelling: Selfies effectively convey messages at a glance, making them ideal for product promotion.
Benefits of Sponsored Selfies in Influencer Marketing:- Engagement Boost: Sponsored selfies drive real engagement, generating likes, comments, and shares from engaged followers. - Cost-Effective: Small businesses benefit from high ROI, as budgets of $500 to $1,000 can yield substantial engagement and brand awareness. - Relatability: Selfies align with the influencer's style, enhancing resonance with their audience. - Quick Turnaround: Selfies are easy to create, allowing efficient content delivery.
Considerations and Strategies:- Influencer Selection: Success hinges on influencers' creativity and engagement potential. Choose those aligned with your brand values and experienced in crafting engaging content. - Visual Appeal: Ensure visually appealing sponsored selfies that effectively convey your brand message. - Product Suitability: Evaluate if products suit the selfie format, impacting campaign success. - Long-Term Commitment: Consistent effort and commitment are vital for sustained influencer marketing success.
Expanding Platforms:Tomoson's sponsored selfies, initially on Instagram, are likely to expand to other platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This expansion diversifies audience engagement opportunities for businesses.

Influencer Marketing

Balancing Authenticity and Promotion in Influencer Partnerships

Balancing authenticity and promotion in influencer partnerships is crucial in influencer marketing. Authenticity is the cornerstone of influencer effectiveness, as audiences are drawn to influencers who genuinely resonate with the brands they promote.

When influencers align with a brand’s values and aesthetics, their promotional content appears more credible and engaging to their followers. This synergy can significantly amplify a brand’s message and foster trust among potential customers.

However, maintaining this balance can be challenging. Overemphasis on promotion can erode the perceived authenticity of an influencer, leading to a disconnect with their audience.

To counter this, brands should seek partnerships with influencers who naturally align with their products and ethos. Influencers who are passionate about the brand are more likely to create content that weaves promotion seamlessly into their narrative, maintaining authenticity while effectively endorsing the product.

Furthermore, allowing influencers creative freedom is key. Micro-managing content creation can lead to forced or inauthentic messaging. Instead, brands should provide guidelines and objectives but trust the influencer to deliver the message in a way that resonates with their audience.

This approach not only preserves the influencer’s authentic voice but also cultivates a more organic and meaningful connection with the audience, enhancing the overall impact of the influencer marketing campaign.


In the dynamic landscape of digital advertising, trends emerge and transform the way businesses connect with their audiences. Just as pay-per-click ads reshaped the advertising landscape in the past, influencer marketing has emerged as the contemporary strategy to captivate consumers. Sponsored selfies have become a prominent facet of influencer marketing, offering a creative and authentic way for brands to resonate with their target audiences.

As history suggests, influencer marketing’s impact is poised to grow, and early adoption promises to yield benefits for businesses of all sizes. The convergence of influencer marketing and selfies has created a potent blend that fuels engagement and fosters genuine connections between influencers and their followers. By presenting products within the context of influencers’ personal lives, sponsored selfies infuse relatability and authenticity into advertising.

The remarkable resonance of selfies, particularly among millennials and Generation Z, has paved the way for a strategic avenue to elevate brand visibility. Businesses can leverage sponsored selfies to enhance engagement rates, drive brand awareness, and foster authentic relationships with consumers. With costs well-suited for modest budgets, sponsored selfies democratize influencer marketing, allowing businesses to access the benefits of genuine engagement without exorbitant spending.

However, the success of sponsored selfies is not guaranteed. The effectiveness hinges on the influencer’s creativity, ability to engage, and the suitability of the product for the format. In a world driven by visuals, strong imagery and concise messaging are paramount for conveying the brand’s essence effectively.

As influencer marketing evolves, the expansion of sponsored selfies onto various platforms offers new avenues for engagement. The strategy’s compatibility with diverse products and its potential for authentic resonance make it a viable option for many businesses. Success requires commitment, time, and ongoing optimization, reminding marketers that influencer marketing is a holistic approach, not a quick fix.

In the end, sponsored selfies represent more than a trend; they embody the progression of marketing strategies that forge meaningful connections with consumers. By embracing the power of visual storytelling through sponsored selfies, businesses stand to unlock genuine engagement, strengthen brand loyalty, and ultimately thrive in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing.

Selfie Image via Shutterstock

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Alex Yong Alex Yong is a staff writer and host of the Small Business Trends Livestreamed Livelihoods interview series featuring sessions with today's movers and shakers in the livestreaming world. Alex was named a must-follow PR resource in Cision North America’s list of the top 50 Twitter influencers utilizing rich media tweets, alongside Guy Kawasaki and Lee Odden.

30 Reactions
  1. Alex– thanks for the insights. Ethical issues aside, how do brands and advertisers measure the value of these influencers?

    • For vetting, I have anecdotal evidence to strongly believe brands for the most part trust in agencies who in turn trust unqualified interns. Scary. All this = mess = increases the frustration brands have with agencies. For measurements after the fact, Lord only knows. Probably willy nilly too. Just because you’re 22 years old with a Facebook acct does not mean you understand digital PR or digital marketing. of course I’m preaching to the choir. Thank you for being a great journo’s Dennis

      • Alex– I wish you were wrong here, but it’s completely true.

      • I realize I’m a bit late to the game, but not very firm is like that. My firm handles influencer marketing campaigns, and I assure you that we do not leave anything in the hands of interns.

        Influencer marketing has to be done better than sites like Tomoson, which takes an almost completely hands-off approach. Sellers shouldn’t be expected to know everything about every aspect of marketing to be successful, but I believe there should be marketing firms that people can trust.

        We build each campaign strategically, in an effort to ensure our clients’ success. We carefully select influencers who have a solid website, a strong level of engagement with their audience, and a proven track record of developing high quality content. We have specific strategies that allow us to amplify the content further than one influencer acting alone could do.

        After each campaign, we provide our clients with amplification reports and in turn, our clients often provide us with their numbers, so we can compare notes and ensure future successes as well. If we find that one influencer’s content didn’t perform well, we want to know why and it may even result in that influencer being struck from our database.

        The reason we do things differently from most agencies is that, as an influencer myself, I wanted to treat the client’s investment with respect and ensure they get the most bang for their buck, AND I wanted to honor the time and energy most *true* influencers have expended to build an engaged audience. Our methodologies have paid off: our campaigns typically exceed our clients’ goals by 2 to 2.5 times.

        Having watched other agencies work on these projects and seeing how they handle things, I knew that, with 15 years’ experience in digital marketing and on the other side as an influencer as well, I could do it far better. My firm’s been around for a long time, and I suspect we’ll continue to be around a lot longer than many of the companies pretending to be influencer marketing companies today.

        It’s not all bad seeds out there. The bad ones make the rest of us look bad. But I assure you that there are some of us out there who understand the complexities of influencer marketing and who understand that it CAN be done well.

  2. Right on, Alex! This is not a just a new trend, it’s the popularization of an old trend that was once available only to the really, really big boys. They would round up the Gold Medalists and triple Platinum artists and fork over wheelbarrows of gold to have them endorse their products.

    Now smaller companies with smaller wheelbarrows of copper (still quite valuable, mind you) can round up lesser influencers. Thanks to the Internet, lesser influencers actually exist. And thanks to the Internet, you don’t need a huge media buy to do promotions.

    • Yes! Hi David. and this will help ad spend match up to the actual social engagement of the person. Right now things are willy nilly (see my comment to Dennis) so the more stringent AND SMART agencies become the better. this isn’t done through gut instinct which leads to willy nilly -smart happens because of measurements

    • This is still happening in Television, Movies and Radio. This is not a dead practice but is now trending higher than ever due to social media. Thanks to social media, the smaller fish now have the ability to use this very powerful and ever popular way of advertising. Social media has definitely evened the playing field, and it’s about damn time.

  3. As marketers find ways to measure results they will more fully embrace influencer marketing. Complex tools like Oktopost will allow them to know exactly what social shares generate leads.

    Easier to use, simpler solutions like MavSocial will allow anyone to measure what social shares are getting the most interactions, allowing them to determine which influencers are most appropriate for their outreach.

    For brands spending large amounts on influencers, measurement is essential. Small businesses can apply common sense to choose wisely and get results.

    • Yes, something as simple as a twitter eyeball test can show if an account is all push messages or if people are actually talking to the account and if the account is talking back. why agencies don’t bother with an action so simple a 9 year old could do it is atrocious/ inexcusable

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Alex. You don’t have to hit all the pins when bowling… the kingpin will do.

  5. Thanks for the interesting article Alex! Influencer marketing is quite prevalent at the moment, many bloggers and social influencers are paid big dollars to promote companies. It seems as though consumers are responding well to this strategy.

    • Thanks for your comment. One important thing Tomoson told me is that they don’t believe in making brands overpay for social media users who aren’t big influencers. What a breath of fresh air. I say this because I see tons of agencies making clients overpay for “any old person regardless of engagement or audience size” and hello that’s not leadership. Pay should be congruent with engagement and reach!! Brands are also to blame for misunderstanding social, and for trusting agencies who ALSO misunderstand social. I call it the blind leading the blind

      • Tomoson bases influence pricing entirely on the numbers (so only reach), not on engagement.

        Our system is based on both reach and engagement. To be successful in influcencer marketing, you do have to understand digital marketing and it can’t be just about numbers of followers, which are far too easy to fake.

        There’s also an art to influencer marketing – it’s not always about finding the biggest fish in the pond. Sometimes a small influencer can really surprise you and out-perform someone with a much larger audience.

  6. Is this an example of the Long Tail?

    • What? For a good summary of why it’s bad/stupid for brands to seek instant unrealistic short term gratification, they should listen to the latest podcast by Pam Moore, “the marketing nut” (@PamMktgNut on Twitter)

  7. Alex, great post buddy! This is an excellent topic that enjoy a lot. Thanks to social media, the playing field of influencer marketing has been leveled out. Before now only the big dawgs could afford to use such an efficient technique. For decades now, big brands such as Wheaties have been putting superstars like Michael Jordan on the cover of their cereal boxes and in their commercials to sell more product. Organizations use it to spread awareness, politicians use it to win elections, and music promoters use it to sell tickets. Let’s face it, it works.

    • Yeah just today I said something semi negative about Postachio on Slack and someone, to my surprise said, something like, “thanks I’ll scratch it off my list” or something. I was like, whoa. Who knew my opinion would be so … influential. I wasn’t aware he had Postachio on a shortlist

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