The Next Big Thing – Influencer Marketing

The world of marketing is changing at a rapid pace and a number of changes are taking place on how best to reach, persuade and influence people to buy your product, program, service or social cause.

The next big thing, and you will hear about it often, is influencer marketing. Instead of looking at companies or organizations to inform their decisions as they may have in the past, they now look to each other as well as their favourite personalities to inform their decisions where they are consolidating massive followings on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other platforms. Source

Influencer marketing involves marketing products and services to those who have a sway over the things other people buy. This market influence typically stems from an individual’s expertise, popularity, or reputation. Marketing to an audience of influencers is similar to word of mouth marketing, but it doesn’t rely strictly on explicit recommendations.

Although some people use word-of-mouth marketing and influencer marketing interchangeably, there’s a real difference between the two disciplines. Whereas influencer marketing is the concept of engaging key individuals to leverage their influence among friends and family, word-of-mouth marketing is the actual avenue by which this communication takes place. So, almost all influencer marketing includes word-of-mouth marketing activities by its very nature, but not all word-of-mouth marketing is driven by influencer campaigns.

Influence can come from a wide range of places. Any person, group or place could potentially be an influencer. For example, celebrities are often used to market products and social causes because they are highly respected and highly visible. Every day some entertainer or sports personality is promoting a product or service or his or her charity, social cause or nonprofit organization.

Bloggers have become important influencers because they are seen as authentic and have loyal followings. In the world of commercial marketing when a blogger recommends a product or service it seems more trustworthy than traditional marketing communications. By using influencers, companies can avoid much of the cynicism and skepticism that is directed at straight forward marketing messages. Check out the rise of “mommy bloggers”

One of the major drawbacks of influencer marketing is that it isn’t as controllable as traditional marketing. While some influencers only add to the positive image of a product or social cause, influencers who encounter legal trouble or fall out of the public light might negatively impact a marketer’s chance of success. Marketers must prepare to deal with the negative fallout if the influencers they use misrepresent or reject their cause or products.

For the visionary marketer, the rise of the social media influencer creates a world of possibilities. It opens up a new channel for marketers to connect with consumers more directly. However, influencer marketing is still new. Many marketers are still hesitant, at the risk of being left behind by the growing cohort of marketers that are embracing this new channel.

The Future of Influencer Marketing

No one can actually predict the future, but there is a lot of buzz going around about influencer marketing and it’s for good reason. Influencers and social media are changing the way we share, buy, sell and review products programs and services. Katie Carlson a contributing author with ReadyPulse believes that you will not be successful if you are not running an effective influencer marketing campaign.

She points out that there was a time where organizations used to rely on loyalty to be successful. Now with younger generations emerging, influencers are “impacting” people’s habits and evolving technology. Therefore, marketers need to revamp their strategy.

Influencer marketing is all about finding the right influencers who believe in what you are marketing, can clearly communicate your message and who have built a following made up of people who trust and value their opinion. A marketer’s success largely depends on which influencers they are able to build relationships with.

Carlson points out that many influencers are part of the Millennial generation, a group of people who like to be involved with the latest trends, see their involvement in projects make an impact and feel appreciated. Without open communication, trust, follow-up and clear direction, influencers will have difficulty delivering successful results. So the best thing for marketers to do is focus their time and effort on finding the right influencers, building personal relationships with the best influencers and guiding them down the right road to success.

In today’s marketing your audience wants to hear from their peers – real humans who have experienced a product service or are personally involved in a social cause and who can give an authentic perspective. Traditional marketing campaigns are losing credibility with their audience because they know the message is carefully crafted and tested to paint a picture of perfection. Then they are bombarded with the same message across numerous channels 24/7. So they tune out or completely block the marketing message altogether, giving marketers a false sense of reach and resonance.

Influencer marketing tends to be more effective because it’s authentic, honest and engaging. It is able to spread the message to a larger audience, and it is never the exact same message twice. Carlson states that marketing audiences are fed too much content that is not directly relevant to them, and are starving for content that’s specifically tailored to them. It makes much more sense to target them by what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis, what they love and what genuinely interests them. If you can do this, she says, they are almost guaranteed to take action.

How to Develop and Implement an Influencer Marketing Campaign

The first step of an influencer marketing plan is to set goals for the campaign. Typically, goals for influencer marketing are about increasing buzz and public awareness.

Next, identify the influencers you want to contact by researching demographics and target markets. Simple searches of Google, Twitter and Facebook can reveal who has influence over your audience. For example, a search for a specific health program would return results for health blogs, reviews of health products and programs, and health enthusiast websites. Some market research firms offer services that help marketers determine who their customers are most influenced by. You will need to decide how many influencers you want to target and then select those that best meet the goals of your campaign.

You then start analyzing where their influencers gather, who their audience is, and what kind of message they are spreading. Carefully studying the influencer’s preference makes them easier to reach out to them later. When you are ready to contact the influencer, communicate through social media or some other informal means. The goal is to form an organic relationship that is not based entirely on endorsing, persuading or selling. Influencers who are treated with respect become genuine advocates for your program, products, services, social cause or more importantly your organization

Marketers should revisit goals every few months to track the success or failure of the influencer program. If a plan is not having the desired effect, you may have to reach out to new influencers in different ways. The influencers who remain effective will need to be courted so that they continue to support your campaign on their blogs, tweets, Facebook-Linkedin posts and their websites.

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