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With influencer marketing trending at the moment, many media gurus have dubbed 2017 as the year for “influencer marketing”.

So what is it and why has it suddenly appeared on the marketing landscape?

The notion of influencer marketing is not a new concept – people have been influencing people since the beginning of time. Businesses and brands have used high profile individuals for many years to influence other people on their product offerings. This, coupled with the rise of social media and leveraging prominent individuals’ social media assets, has given birth to the relatively new terminology of ‘influencer marketing’ – a mostly modern and slightly different version of brand ambassadorship.

Three things have materialised over time to heighten the consideration of influencers or ambassadors as an element of the marketing mix. Firstly, the rise of digital marketing (and social media) and the corresponding ability to reach audiences where they are consuming media more frequently, Secondly, the increased availability of influencers as more people see value in positioning themselves as such, and thirdly, the growth in the availability of cost-effective options to mobilise these influencers for campaigns.

All that is left to decide is which category makes the better influencers – the celebrity or your trusted friend?

When you think of influence, does it matter how many people you reach? Or is it more important that the people reached become influenced more effectively? Joe Tripodi, Chief Marketing Officer of The Coca-Cola Company answers that question by stating; “Awareness is fine, but advocacy will take your business to the next level”. Marketers, therefore, need clarity on their objectives before entertaining the idea of influencer marketing as there will always be a trade-off between reach and true engagement.

The Influence Pyramid

Having access to the all kinds of information at their fingertips, people quickly research what they need to know about a product/brand before purchasing it. Often, as part of this search for more information, we ask for input from friends or colleagues, that we feel may know a little more than us regarding the brand or product considered? The Nielsen study, Global Trust in Advertising, revealed that 83% of people completely or somewhat trust the recommendations by friends and family. Carefully selecting influencers, already using the brands they’re chosen to represent, ensures authenticity as they speak from experience. These influencers, or brand advocates, are motivated by adding value to those in their community and their following on social media, rather than by growing their audience.

The Kellar Faye group study on brands and word of mouth revealed; only 10% of conversations about products, services and brands take place online while 90% still occurs offline. When considering influencer marketing strategies, should you not look at the value of offline conversations too? And would you be able to achieve this from high profile individuals like celebrities and bloggers? The strength of these influencers lies in their reach rather than their ability to engage an audience and influence them. Micro-influencers are able to have two-way conversations (both on- and offline) to ensure consideration of brands prior to purchase.

There is, however, no need to disregard the use of the celebrity or “macro-influencer” channel. They play a role in meeting other marketing objectives. But, when you really consider your next purchase, you often look to those you know and trust for their input. With that in mind, would it not be powerful to unleash these mini-subject experts into their local communities? Here they can influence those around them on the products they use and by which they swear?

So when considering an influencer marketing approach do the following. Don’t overlook your existing consumers as micro-influencers and the real power they have to engage and convince those around them.

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