Have you ever heard of influencer marketing?  You might not have used the term but I’m pretty sure that it’s a familiar concept.  Simply put, influencer marketing is getting people who hold sway over other people’s decision-making to endorse your product or service.  On a really basic level it might be the audiophile friend you consult before purchasing your new speakers.  Maybe there is another person you know who is very into tech and can help you choose a new phone.

Influencer roles throughout the decision process

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you take that from the realm of your personal friends to more prominent people – journalists, celebrities, experts – you’re moving to more broad influencer marketing.  To a certain extent, influencers are simply people within a subject area who already have established trust with an audience.  Finding them and messaging them in the hopes that they will say nice things about what you’re selling is influencer marketing.

There are some big plusses with this tactic, the biggest of which is that there is a demonstrable effect on sales.  According to a Burst Media study, advertisers who implemented an influencer marketing program in 2014 earned $6.85 in media value on average for every $1 they spent on paid media for such programs.  That’s an excellent return.  Obviously, it’s not easy to find market specific influencers, especially as you drill down to the consumer level but there are firms that do this.  I could write a few hundred words more on how you can work your own data to do so but that’s not my thought today.

Instead, I have a couple of caveats should you be considering – or currently doing – influencer marketing.  The first is that there is a tendency to get fixated on quantity and not quality.  Maybe you identify someone who has a large social audience – lots of friends on Facebook, hundreds of thousands of Twitter and Instagram  followers.  That person may have  a large megaphone but very little influence.  One mom who can get her 5 close friends to buy your product is better than a mommy blogger that’s widely read but mostly ignored.

More important is that there are a lot of fake important people out there.  I can point you to several people who claim to have large followings and, therefore, great influence.  Having run their accounts through the tools that identify fake followers it’s pretty obvious that they’ve bought hundreds of thousands of them.  When 97% of your 1,000,000+ followers are fake, that’s not an accident.  Don’t get fooled!

Influencer marketing isn’t new – some people trace it back to the 1940’s.  As with so many things these days, the tools have changed but the marketing smarts that drive their use haven’t.  Stay smart!

1 Comment

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One response to “Influencers

  1. Hi Keith. The paragraph where you wrote “To a certain extent, influencers are simply people within a subject area who already have established trust with an audience. Finding them and messaging them in the hopes that they will say nice things about what you’re selling is influencer marketing” is a good summation of influencer marketing. There’s also a relationship building part of it – For example, as an influencer I was invited to a viewing party for Mayweather-Pacquiao at a cool venue. The agency who invited me didn’t expect anything from me other than to show up. I feel that that should be the norm in influencer marketing, meaning, the agency should be aware that the influencer has influence and therefore not a mercenary and that he/she will create content only if it’s compelling. A mercenary (faux influencer) generally doesn’t have standards. Their opinion is malleable depending on the value of what they get (They have a WIIFM mentality (What’s in it for me?)) Anyway. Great article. I was ready to slice and dice it before making it to the second paragraph but halfway through and at the very end I noticed I was shaking my head in agreement with what you said. As for drilling down into data to segment influencers, yes, it’s good practice, but I’ve seen tons of agencies interpret data incorrectly. I even created a hashtag on GooglePlus #datamisinterpretation which is all about data misinterpreation from the PR side. Keith, I’d love for your participation in an upcoming panel about social media influencers and PR.

    Here’s the info 🙂

    I hope to hear from you.

    Alex Yong
    PR industry watcher

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