Is the demand for online influencers going to last?

July 1, 2016


Everyday, there are 300 million photo uploads to Facebook and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared (1). There are 100 million daily active Twitter Users (2). Over 80 millions photos are uploaded to Instagram each day. Pinterest has 100 million active users each month and 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (3). Social media continues to be an ever evolving beast and companies are trying hard to keep up.

Social media is a treasure trove for marketers for two reasons:

  1. Social media collects so much information making it extremely valuable to marketers because the targeting can be so defined. If you are looking for a mother of two in Milwaukee, you can reach that person purely based on the data they have shared about themselves.
  2. Quality content on social media travels fast. Six Degrees of Separation is the theory created by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 that proposes that everyone and everything is only six steps or less away from any other person in the world. Social media is reducing the number of steps laid out in this theory. In a recent report from Facebook they announced that each person in the world is separated by 'an average of three and a half other people. If you think about this in terms of how content travels on social media, it means your content has the ability to reach a lot of eyes in a very short space of time if it is high quality and shareable.

Social media behaves like a network in that it has connectors linking people together. Think about how train systems work. Trains take passengers from A to B to C and some train stations have lines to many different places and other stations only have one line. Social influencers are the main connectors that link to more people than others in much the same way that the main train stations link to many other stations. Social influencers also stand at the middle of their niche subject as an authoritative figure or leader. They help to spread thoughts, opinions and content like wildfire to all their followers.

The Growth of Online Influencers

For the past 50 years marketers have been using in-depth research on consumer habits to try and inform their choices around their marketing campaigns. They focused on habits, values, behaviour and opinions of their target audience and chose between TV, magazine, newspaper, direct mail and radio channels to broadcast their message. For the most part, consumers were fairly oblivious to the marketing they were receiving and in many cases this type of marketing was neither measurable or really that reliable.

With the dawn of social media, blogs and online advertising, marketing to consumers has changed. Consumers are more aware of how they are being targeted by companies and they expect a much higher level of engagement than was previously required. Consumers expect marketers to provide them with a meaningful campaign that meets their needs where they are in their consumer journey and helps them to trust the brand and make a purchase decision. Consumers are chatting with their peers and reading reviews about products in much more detail than they have ever done before. It is this conversation that brands long to be involved in and one way they seek this out is through social influencers. Social influencers offer an authentic opinion that their readers trust because it appears that they aren't biased to the brand.

What is a Social Influencer?

The introduction of blogs and social media platforms has made it extremely easy for anyone to build their own personal brand around a niche subject such as fashion, politics or fishing. Influencers create quality content that speaks to their experiences which appeals to their audience because of its genuine nature. As these influencers have grown their content, and in turn their following, their reach has become very valuable to marketers.

Nowadays, an influencer can have millions of followers along with a trustworthy reputation and considerable expertise on social media networks.

Why Influencers Are Good for Business

Recruiting an influencer, or several influencers, to spread the message of your brand is a good idea for three reasons:

  1. Reach: By earning the advocacy of an influencer you will boost your brand awareness and trust amongst your target audience as well as potential encourage an influx of new followers.
  2. Trust: Trust is huge for consumers. If they even get a sense that your brand can't be trusted you will never see them again. Influencers help to secure that trust - 51% of consumers trust an endorsement from an influencer.
  3. Current trends: An influencer is so powerful because they are passionate about their niche market which means they will stay on top of the current trends. Showcasing your brand alongside a current trend helps to give your brand the same reward in terms of passion and consumers appreciate this message.

What to Look for in an Influencer

As with any successful marketing strategy, before you go diving into endless opportunities with different influencers, you need to understand your goals. What are you hoping to achieve from this campaign and how do you plan to measure your success?

Once you understand this, you then need to review your current assets and assess whether you have anything really tangible to offer an influencer? If you want them to share a blog, do you have a good blog to share? If you want them to share a video, is your video high quality? If you don't have good content, then you may need to pop your influencer strategy in the parking lot until you do.

If you feel prepared to take on an influencer, you will first want to categorise your prospects by niche and research which influencers would match your brand and voice. You want to find an influencer who will compliment your branding.

It is also important to carefully consider the amount of influence they have as the amount of reach they have will significantly impact price. Be realistic with yourself - don't go for an influencer with millions of followers if you aren't prepared to pay for what you get. It also pays to choose some more niche influencers with less followers, because you will attract the attention of your target audience.

Once you have your list of top influencers, you need to research them thoroughly and understand where they post their content and what existing content they have already published. This will help you to understand what type of content you should be focused on in your interaction with them.

How to Find Influencers Relevant to Your Business

The amount of Influencers online is vast and it can be very difficult to penetrate the market without using a software that tracks your mentions and conversations as well as offering you analytics to draw actionable insights from. There are several available including: Brandwatch, Buzzsumo, Synthesio and Sysomos.

Steps to Contact and Engage Your Ideal Influencers

Once you have done your due diligence with research and purchasing a suitable software program to manage your influencer outreach, you need to start building relationships with your influencer list. There are many different approaches to this stage of your strategy because by now, influencer know their worth, and they aren't afraid to ask for what they think they deserve. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Begin by interacting with their content and approach it as a genuinely interested participant
  • Become an active member of their community by starting engaging conversations, commenting on their content and sharing their work.
  • By this point they should be aware of your existence and have respect for your opinion and approach. This is the time to send them a private email outlining the idea you have in terms of working with them.
  • Negotiate. As mentioned above, influencers know their worth and will ask for it. This doesn't mean they can't listen to your story and adjust appropriately. So long as you have done the leg-work in the beginning, this stage should be an open conversation about possibilities.
  • Lastly, don't think the effort ends once you have entered into an agreement with your influencer. Now you need to maintain and inspire your influencer to continue writing about you and your brand. If you enter into an affiliate network (ideal for retail and travel companies) you will need to contact your influencers once a week at least and the same can be said for an in-house managed campaign. You have to keep the relationship going to see the fruits of your labour.

Are Online Influencers Here to Stay or a Passing Trend?

More recently there has been a lot of talk surrounding the shelf-life of influencers and whether they are worth the thousands of marketing dollars they receive today. The answer is, there is no answer. As consumers become more attuned to the role influencers play in their journey with a brand, and as they understand that they may not be as authentic as they seem with a huge cheque driving their recommendations, the trust factor may disappear. Customers may consume the influencer's content but they may not let it impact their decisions. Influencers are also considered to be very top-of-funnel, brand awareness in terms of strategy, and these marketing efforts are usually the first to be cut during an economic crisis. There really is no way of knowing where influencer marketing will end up. BUt one thing is for sure, it is important today.

Let us know if you want to chat further about influencer marketing - email us here. If not, come join the conversation on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.


Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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