We’re now a social, rather than simply digital-first society. One of the first ports of call for any task involving the internet is usually a social network. From research to retail, these online communities are now go-to sources of information for so many tasks.
Need advice on applying for a mortgage? There’s a group for that. Want honest product reviews? There are Twitter accounts full of them. Looking for inspiration ahead of the big day- check Instagram and Pinterest for a ridiculous number of wedding-related photo streams and mood boards.
You get the point.
Ultimately, then, we are increasingly absorbed in what you might call the digital society, and this has led to a shift towards consumers looking within their own demographic for ideas, recommendations, and opinions. The culture of sharing has created critics, talking heads and experts of us all.
As such it’s no surprise that a new specialism has emerged- The Influencer. It doesn’t matter if they have a solid grounding in a specific subject, are known publicly or they’re a relatively anonymous everyday man on the street. If they can influence others to act in a certain way- from purchasing decisions to career prospects- then brands want them on their side.
If only it were that easy.
Influencer marketing – issues and problems
This is probably the most difficult aspect of playing the influencer marketing game. How do you find the right people to suit your product or service?
The obvious answer would be searching networks with keywords and hashtags, then compiling lists of those specialising in certain subjects that have a particularly high number of followers, fans or reach. Better yet, you could pay for access to a media database that already does this, or employ an agency that specialises in this type of research.
However, the term ‘influencer’ doesn’t quite mean what it did even a couple of years ago. Consider the VW whistleblower, who outed the firm’s emissions deception- he became an influencer overnight. One of the joys of social media is the way anyone can position themselves as a key source, as don’t think this search should be limited to public figures alone. Nor should it be conducted once, and then forgotten about…
When things change
Influencer marketing is both of the moment, and based in its own specific series of moments. There’s no definite longevity beyond a few weeks or entire campaign- people move on, lose interest, stop tweeting, change specialisms, and so forth. As such there’s a real need to maintain a clear view of the current landscape by monitoring activity, thus meaning you’ll never get left with old has-beens, or miss the latest rising voice. The problem being this monitoring takes time and effort.
From vocal to outspoken
When you’re dealing with personalities of any kind there’s always an element of risk in terms of jumping into bed- even if the bed still places huge distance between brand and individual. It’s important for businesses to be careful about causes, opinions, rants and raves that can be linked to them, meaning it’s vital to carefully consider who you want to court.
Don’t let all that put you off, though.
Influencer marketing – plus points
It’s the ultimate social marketing
And not just because right now everyone seems to be talking about it. Brands are increasingly expected to engage with, not just talk at, consumers, and a great addition to any ongoing conversation is a dedicated advocate.
Although this won’t last for long, because influencer marketing is still in relative infancy at the moment there’s a degree of cost effectiveness offered. While striking the deal might cost some cash, or benefits, it’s a less time-consuming and usually less expensive than many other marketing types.
It’s only getting bigger
During 2015, ‘influencer marketing’ made it onto Google’s ‘breakout’ list of keywords, meaning it was experiencing growth in excess of 5000%.
People see it as relevant
The sheer volume of adverts people are exposed to means they are becoming increasingly immune to clear-cut efforts to make them buy something. When that effore comes through a third party they consider trustworthy and informed, the impact is similar to that of editorial- despite obvious brand links, the public are more inclined to take the message on board.
This is native advertising
Native advertising does not disrupt the consumer experience. According to a study by Dedicated Media, purchase intent is 53% higher when native advertising is used. As per another survey, by MDG advertising, 70 per cent of respondents want to learn about a product online through means outside the traditional, disruptive advertising model. Employing the services of influencers is, in effect, a non-disruptive form of advertising for your brand.
It can improve SEO
The Social Media Revolution claims that user generated social posts accounted for 25% of all search results for the world’s most popular brands in 2015. In short, the more mentions you receive on social media, the more popular Google perceives the company to be, which in turn improves page rankings organically.
We can measure success properly
Like anything digital, there is so much data we can access from relationships with influencers, their relationships with fans and followers, and the conversion rate of any branded posts made by those influencers. For Smoking Gun PR, where measurement is the core of the business, the fully targetable and trackable nature of influencer marketing is like digital PR heaven.