The rise of the Influencer

I was having a chat with a UK based VC firm about the rise of influencers and their impact on the world of advertising. And it inspired this post on influencer marketing and what it actually means. It’s essentially a return to the core values of organic social marketing, the days of old when algorithms weren’t in control of who got to see what. But what really is influencer marketing and how is it successfully implemented into brand marketing?

In many cases, influencer marketing is simply seen as product placement, where brands send out their products to those who are happy to post about them, but is that really creating influence? Yes, during holiday seasons or for event strategies, these one-time pulse campaigns can generate the desired level of engagement, however, one post is unlikely to make a significant impact on the purchasing decisions of consumers if your brand is seeking long-term loyalty – and building credible relationships definitely isn’t a one-time effort!

Whilst brands can seek out the person they would like to promote their brand, influencers have a responsibility to their followers to be authentic and not “sell out” by becoming a product pusher, so there are many considerations from both parties as to whether the relationship is favourable. With the rise of ad-blockers, influencers hold even more power as they are the ones holding people’s attention, making them a focus area for many companies this year.

Brands often tend to confuse followers and reach with high levels of engagement, yet celebrity influencers with their massive social followings tend to have less credibility. This lack of relevance means they fall short of the required engagement to translate brand placement into revenue. Micro-influencers have lower-level reach but much higher relevance with their following. They work because consumers trust them far more than they trust mega-celebrities, and they provide targeted exposure to the right kind of consumer – one who is already interested and is more likely to pay attention.

Calling it ‘influencer marketing’ is just the beginning. In reality, what more and more people are learning to do is create a personal brand, and when you have this, an audience is more likely to see you as a thought leader in your specific niche and pay attention. This also brings us back to the core marketing strategy of timing. When done correctly, influencer marketing places the right message in front of the right people, at the right time.

So before all you marketing managers rush to send little care packs to those big flashy celebrities you think are influencing your audience, consider the real relevance of these people, and think about your strategy. It’s all about creating a relationship with influencers that goes beyond a single post and inspires them to purchase and continue to use your product, then you’ll start to see the magic.

One or two posts about a product are obviously promotional, but having someone influential in a relevant niche in the world of social using your product on a regular basis, posting pictures of everyday events that feature your product, along with the odd comment here and there about how wonderful it is to have this product, now that’s real, that’s transparent, that creates impact and now, finally, creates influence.