8 facts about influencer marketing to understand
There is a lot of buzz, both good and bad, about influencer marketing these days, and if you're like any of the marketers I meet, you probably have a lot of questions about influencer marketing such as this one published earlier on this very blog: Is influencer marketing dead or alive? In fact, I’ve gotten so many questions that I wrote a book about it, entitled The Age of Influence. As my book has yet to be published, I have rounded up some quick facts to help answer some of the most common influencer marketing questions I receive.
Whether you are utilizing influencer marketing strategically or not, influencer marketing IS capturing steadily larger proportions of marketing budgets.
Influencer Marketing Can Help any Brand
Yes, this seems like a staggering claim. After all, many of you probably think of influencer marketing as the newest toy for marketers hoping to capitalize on the twenty-somethings who like Instagram. However, influencer marketing can be beneficial to almost any brand out there, including government agencies and nonprofits. For example, the local child protection agency can use influencers to increase the number of well-qualified foster families available for children in need. Or, a local charity can use influencers as a way to raise awareness and increase donations. You never know who shares your values and can be inspired to join your brand journey until you reach out. Often, the people you need are hiding in plain sight. Influencer marketing helps bring them out. Those brands that create an effective influencer marketing program are those that reap the long-term benefits.
Influencer Marketing is Nothing New
Again, this seems surprising to many of you. But think about it: people have been trying to influence potential customers to buy their goods and services for a very long time. Ever since there was competition, there’s been a need to stand out from the crowd and build a customer base. An early book about influencer marketing is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. While most people think the book is about tact and diplomacy, it’s also about influence. Certainly, if you’re in business it is important to deal with customers in a tactful way sometimes, especially when you need to negotiate a better price or worse, have made a mistake. People get angry, people want something that’s unrealistic, or perhaps they just need a reason to buy from you instead of the competition. Effective communication and good customer service are among the best advertisements out there. Satisfied customers refer their friends, and so on.
Influencer Marketing Goes Beyond Instagram
Given that we’ve been doing influencer marketing for many centuries, it stands to reason that influence marketing is much more than Instagram stories. In fact, Instagram celebrities are just a new breed of influencer. Not only that, but there are influencers who are quite effective on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and even LinkedIn. Even being a thought leader or big name in a field gives plenty of opportunities to introduce new products and services to an audience. Name the forum, and chances are there’s an influencer in your industry who is effective at selling things. The potential is limitless, and that includes the potential for B2B influencer marketing.
Influencer Marketing is About Community
Really, the original influencer marketing was both great customer service and referrals from one friend or neighbor to another. Now, it’s much wider. For instance, an early Internet form of influencer marketing used to be based on bloggers. Sometimes, it still is. You get a blogger to talk about your product or service, and people who read that blog learn about what cool stuff is available. Maybe they’ll buy it. In these situations, you’re using that blogger to reach his or her community. It helps find people who should be interested in your product, but aren’t yet. Have you ever had to sell candy or other products for your child’s school or know someone who has? This is another form of influencer marketing that’s based on the local community. Because sales help a good cause and are driven by cute neighborhood kids, it’s harder to resist. That's why I always like to say that influencer marketing is about community, not a campaign.
Affiliate Marketing? Yep, It’s Using Influencers
Think about it. This is one of the oldest ways to monetize blogs and get money for sharing stuff with people who have similar interests. Once upon a time, you could sign up with companies to become an affiliate, and they’d usually accept you no questions asked. Now, it’s all about keeping competition down for a company’s affiliates. You often have to prove that you have a certain level of readership, or that people buy things you endorse. Companies want to ensure they’re getting good enough ROI, just like with other forms of affiliate marketing.
Don’t Neglect Your Brand Advocates
To be sure, these aren’t always paid influencers or producers of industry-specific content on the Web. But they can’t be ignored as influencers, either. Sometimes, the best brand advocates out there are your employees or friends. It’s a similar principle to turning happy customers into your best advertising. Another way to get brand advocates is by building a great relationship with certain influencers over a long period of time. Sometimes, the payoff goes far beyond the original free product you sent them, or that initial interview. Never overlook the opportunity to make long-term friends. Remember: Your customers just might be your biggest influencers.
Influencers Help you Conquer Social Media
Remember that on social media, people trump brands every time. Advertisements are prone to being ignored, especially if you have to pay for them. Even worse, business social profiles aren’t promoted like individual profiles are. These networks weren’t meant to be primarily marketplaces, so you sometimes have to get in through the back door. In fact, I haven’t even turned my LinkedIn account into a business account, because the downsides outweigh the benefits of doing so.
Need Event Buzz? Invite the Influencers
There are several reasons for this. Inviting influencers can get them to talk about the great event they plan on attending. Or maybe even speaking at. Invite influencers to attend a trade show you’re attending and give them a VIP pass. Get them to come over to your product booth and check out the most awesome new product ever. No matter how you do it, influencers at events can turn into promoters of your products later.
Have the above helped you better understand and think more strategically about the business value of influencer martketing? I hope so. If not, feel free to ask additional questions in the comments.