The Rise of the Influencers – What is Influence Marketing?

You have probably heard the term Influence Marketing, but perhaps you have not been sure of what it is or how it could be incorporated into your current digital marketing strategy. I like to think of Influence marketing as a bit like the unruly niece of its austere aunt the traditional public relations model. Enjoying many of the same benefits, it also meets with many of the same challenges, as I will look at here.

Social influence marketing is using influential people on social media networks to help brands build relationships with audiences. Traditional PR employs methods such as working with journalists to influence their reader, the use of celebrities for endorsement and product placement. Much the same, Influencers give product reviews, brand mentions and event coverage to their loyal followers.  Brands can sponsor content or even allow influencers to run their social media account for a limited time.

This enables brands to reach new audiences through a trusted source. People were always more likely to pay attention to a message from a real person especially if it’s one they like and respect.

Unlike with advertising, the audience is seeking out the content meaning they are much more receptive to the message. Adblocking is a growing bugbear of advertisers with one survey by Mediatel showed “40% of laptop and PC/Mac users have installed an adblocker.”

Influencer Marketing is not just about working with celebrities and social media stars; brands are increasingly seeking out influencers with far smaller, niche followings, known as Micro-Influencers.

Finding the right influencer to work with, however, can be difficult and time-consuming. Engagement numbers, the size of the audience, reach, and audience demographics are all things to be considered carefully.

Ultimately audiences are looking for authenticity. They want to engage with real people who they can identify with.

A referral from someone like this is akin to a friends recommendation and is incredibly valuable. But how valuable? Tracking influence, evaluating ROI and reporting overall is difficult in both traditional PR and Influence marketing.

Lack of control has always been a peril of endorsement. Celebrities sponsoring products have been liable to get up to all sorts of mischief, threatening to bring carefully positioned products into disrepute. There was never any guarantee a journalist would give a favourable review or write-up, and social media influencers can be as unpredictable. Especially as they have their brands to uphold and strategies to follow.

Positioning your brand and defining it with a personality that resonates with audiences will always be a priority of any marketing strategy.  Influencer marketing like some of its public relation ancestors is an effective way of doing this. But also one proves difficult to manage and measure.