Instead of counting the number of followers, brands are now being asked to consider how influencers can help spread the brand’s message. Influencers have expertise, credibility and reach; they know a lot about a topic and know the right people to influence on that topic. They, ultimately, can be a key component of your overall marketing strategy.
Inundated with traditional advertisements, consumers are hungry for authenticity. They want connections with people and prefer peer recommendations over branded content. Businesses that embrace influencer marketing have increased their conversion rate by at least 3 to 10 times and show no signs of slowing down. Traditional advertising alone won’t deliver results for your businesses anymore.
This Blue Paper® will provide the history of influencer marketing, describe influencers, discuss their effect on marketing, and outline how marketers and entrepreneurs can tap into influencers’ expertise to boost brand awareness.
What is influencer marketing?
Instead of merely focusing on businesses to inform their purchase decisions, consumers are increasingly looking to each other. As Steve Cook, co-founder of Intuit®, put it, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is; it is what consumers tell each other it is.” For marketers and entrepreneurs, the thought of consumers, not them, having greater influence and control of purchase decisions may be a scary proposition. However, the rise of this approach to consumer decision making offers marketers and entrepreneurs exciting opportunities to boost brand awareness and, ultimately, increase sales and revenue through what has come to be known as influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing can be defined as identifying individuals who have the strongest influence over potential buyers and positioning marketing activity around those influencers. Influencers are typically third-party individuals who shape a consumer’s purchasing decision and have a greater than average reach or impact in a specific marketplace. Expertise, credibility and relationship-building ability are key characteristics of influencers, and tapping into influencers with those characteristics can drive results for your brand. Don’t think of influencer marketing as losing control; rather, think of influencer marketing as another mechanism—an ever-growing one—for dialogue between a brand and its target audiences.
The growth of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing loosely developed from “The People’s Choice,” a 1940 study about political communication that linked influence to opinion leaders and secondhand information. While that study may have officially laid the groundwork for what we know today as influencer marketing, the explosion of social media has helped propel this marketing approach to the forefront during the past few years. It has become and stayed a key part of many business’s marketing plans because the concept is quite basic and has worked for many.
People—consumers in this case—typically trust recommendations from a third party more so than from a brand itself. Think about that idea in your professional, or even personal, life for a moment. Are you more likely to trust and be drawn to a professional who approaches you and incessantly brags about his or her accomplishments, or are you more likely to trust a mutual friend or professional who vouches and speaks highly of that person? Influencer marketing allows your customers—those identified as influencers—to connect your brand to other potential buyers. Reaching out to consumers through a voice they trust makes them feel more confident in their potential purchasing decisions. This helps businesses not only make that essential first sale, but it helps establish long-term customers.
Everyday consumers are becoming influencers, a title that had traditionally been bestowed on celebrities, athletes or journalists with notable press time or exposure. With the right connections and social pull, anyone can become an influencer. Those with a strong niche social media following are typically the best influencers. They are individuals who already have an authentic connection or following in a specific industry, not one created merely in the name of influencer marketing. As mentioned earlier, they have expertise, credibility and relationship-building ability for a specific industry or niche.
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