These days, it seems like influencer marketing is all the rage. We live in the era of endless podcasts getting more views than network news, YouTube stars and Instagram models hawking everything from hair and skin products to cosplay prosthetics, and Twitter mentions becoming show preparation for traditional media broadcasters. But does that mean a winning approach to marketing has to be completely transformed? Well, yes and no. When it comes to marketing and consumer public relations in the modern digital era, many of the rules have changed, and much remains the same. And, while influencer marketing seems like a “today” trend, the roots go back as far as advertising.
The Meaning of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a type of market-facing communication in which key leaders, subject experts, or influencers are hired, or otherwise compensated, to push a brand’s message into a targeted market. Instead of traditional commercial messages, where the brand speaks directly to the consumer, they bring in a familiar, trusted face to help get the word out.
Influencers are people who have power or “influence” over the thoughts, actions, or opinions of a group or groups. In traditional brand marketing, one might think of sports superstars like Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Tiger Woods. Or, models who went on to influence everything from the Cola Wars to major fashion trends, such as Cindy Crawford and Brooke Shields.
Exploring the Meaning of Influencer Marketing
The key first step in defining influencer marketing is understanding that each brand must identify the specific people who are already working as influencers for the people the brand is trying to reach.
While, in previous decades, the majority of influencers used in marketing were already household names, this is shifting in the digital world. With the continuing fragmentation of market segments, influencers that are well-known in certain circles could be relative nobodies in others.
While consumers still listen to superstars, there’s a growing trend of people who are decidedly not superstars gaining a lot of traction or influence in various different markets niches. Many of these people rocketed to influence thanks to social media moments. While they may not be – and may never be – household names, they are legends to their committed legion of fans.
So, don’t just assume someone is or is not an influencer. Instead, find someone who has the ability through their voice or actions to cause other people to act on a message. Here are a few influencer traits to look for in order to understand how influencer marketing works:
Influencers have the authority people respect. Maybe not all people. In fact, these days, some influencers will have as many detractors as they do followers. That’s okay. Who is that brand trying to reach? When trying to reach the fans of that influencer, consider a message that won’t aggravate their detractors, but the more important factor is leveraging the authority that influencer has with their followers.
Influencers have knowledge people want. They attract followers because they have information, and they know how to convey it in a way that people appreciate or find applicable or entertaining.
Influencers also have relationships people appreciate. Famous or relatable people recommending products or services has always been a great way to sell, but influencers are able to convince their fans because they’ve built a special level of trust due to the interaction available on social media.
To summarize, influencer marketing is about leveraging the authority, knowledge, and relationships that other people have within a market or niche in order to introduce a brand to the consumer in a way they will appreciate.