influence marketing – how to use influencers to the best effect

Am I an influencer? The rise and rise of influencer marketing

Getting the most out of influencer marketing.

Influencer Marketing is a hot topic at the moment, and every client, brand and marketer I speak to wants to leverage this “new” targeted approach to engage with their audience.

Defining an influencer

Marketing buzzwords come and go but brands have been using influencers for years in some capacity. Coca-Cola first used British ballroom dancing champions to endorse the brand in 1956, and there are countless other examples of celebrity endorsements covering everything from washing-up liquid to toothpaste.

Today, we are far less loyal to specific brands than we used to be. Advertising and content marketing help us form opinions of a brand before we’ve even sampled its products and practically every purchase decision is researched and investigated down to the finest detail. It’s this that makes influencer marketing even more attractive, adding credibility to a product and doing much of the ‘heavy lifting’ for marketers with comparatively little effort.

TripAdvisor exploded onto the scene in 2000 with a customer review site that offered true insights and honest authentic opinions to give consumers real information before making purchasing decisions. You could call its model one of the first iterations of crowd-sourced opinion, a form of influencer marketing. Trip Advisor (and many other reviews sites) reward frequent reviewers with status within the network, ultimately creating its own ‘micro-influencers’.

Influencer with a capital ‘I’

As technology has increased our reach and given everyone a voice, the world of blogging and vlogging has become big business. Vast amounts of money change hands from brands to influencers to allow brands to talk and play in spaces where they’d otherwise struggle to achieve cut-through.

According to the GroupHigh Influencer Marketing Report, 69%* of influencers reported that labelling paid or sponsored posts doesn’t affect how much a consumer trusts their recommendation.

Personally, I’d challenge this statistic given that influencers are unlikely to suggest that brands shouldn’t be paying them, but the truth is that true influencers do set trends and fashions, launch technologies, and sway opinions — and all by simply offering their thoughts and insight across a variety of topics.

So what defines an Influencer with a capital I? That is, an individual who fits the brand.

How do we find them, make sure they are going to endorse (and not distort) the brand… and how can we ensure that they do what we want?

I think the key to managing expectations with influencer programs is to always make sure you select the right fit for the brand.

There shouldn’t be a tick box of how many followers they have to determine if they’re right. It comes down to their community, how active and engaged their followers are and how well their tone and attitudes match the brand in question.

Only then can you manage a program that is mutually beneficial to both sides and tell truly engaging stories.

The last thing you want is to emulate some of the brands who – via, shall we say, ‘less-engaged’ influencers – have committed the below gaffes:

influencer marketing fails
Just a small selection of branded influencer fails…

Your influencer needs to buy into your brand in the same way you’re buying into them.

Influencing influence

You can’t convince someone to like or trust your brand overnight just because someone they are following suddenly endorses it. We’re all pretty savvy now, and most of us can see straight through any influencer who simply promotes everything they’re offered.

I think the best way to work with influencers is to treat them like journalists and use an editorial model to allow them to create content around the brand.

Work with them to create a compelling narrative that works for their audience. Dictating to an influencer and using their audience to achieve your own ends will result in a lukewarm response.

But challenging an influencer to come up with their own approach that highlights synergies between their brand and yours, and then creating content that sympathetic to, and crucially useful to, their audience pays big dividends.

This approach makes it much more likely that we’ll create authentic, honest content in relation to the audience that will be digesting it.

So am I an influencer? Well, in the context of my own home, my wife certainly seems to think so. Or is she the influencer? I think you probably already know the answer…

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