With the reach created by the huge number of people on social media worldwide, marketing has changed forever. It is no longer possible to control your message remotely – your brand needs to have the integrity necessary to withstand being out there by itself, alone among consumers with the freedom and the platforms to say what they want, when they want and to whom they want.
In fact, according to a study by McKinsey, word-of-mouth inspired by marketing is capable of generating more than twice the sales conversation of paid advertising. In addition, these customers have an almost 40% higher retention rate.
So who gets people talking about your brand? What (or who) does it take to shine the light on your brand for the world to see? The answer to this would be: The influencers.
To establish what constitutes influencer marketing (and what does not), first we must determine who and what an influencer is.
With peer communication and word-to-mouth playing such a large role in the consumer’s experience of and engagement with your brand, two different trendsetters or types of influencers have arisen.
The first is the traditional influencer – a celebrity (whether they are famous for something concrete or just for being famous) or accredited thought leader (like an industry giant or head of one of the world’s largest companies) with a huge amount of followers who wants to be just like them and will subsequently copy their actions without thinking twice. If they support your brand, their followers will too; regardless of whether the followers realise and understand that the influencer might be deliberately goading them into brand engagement.
Social media marketing is the process of reaching prospects and customers, and acquiring traffic and visibility through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many others. By utilizing the social aspect of the web, social media marketing is able to connect and interact on a much more personalized and dynamic level than through traditional marketing.
The second is a more layered group of people – they might not be famous, deservedly or not, but they have the credentials to be seen as someone in the know; they are everyday consumers – in other words, easier with whom to identify – but they have influence over their followers because their followers trust in their judgment and they have proven themselves to be on-trend and on the ball. It’s not only about the amount of followers anymore – it is people with knowledge and experience on a specific topic; people who have a strong relationship of trust with their few but loyal followers.
This type of influencer has a personal brand they have carefully cultivated, one not based on fame brought upon by celebrity or a high business profile but by slowly earned, one follower at a time. This second type of influencer may also be someone with fewer followers but whose followers and friends value their opinion highly. And it’s these “smaller” influencers who often are the last snowflake in the avalanche that changes and creates trends.
Now that we know who our influencers are, we can move on to determine what influencer marketing is. Look out for the second part of this article – Part 2: Influencer Marketing.