Photo Credit: Hudson Hintze
You could be arguing that influencer marketing doesn’t matter, but you would be arguing with yourself. Like it or not, and many do not, we know that the connectedness of social platforms and society at large require new methods for engaging consumers, customers, and fans. Influencers certainly aren’t the only solution, arguably they are a very small part of it, but they are a readily available resource to companies looking to bridge the gap between what they know and what they’re missing.
Influencers, now referred to as “Creators”, provide a much-needed link to the clusters and cliques that have formed across the internet and into real life. Taste has always been an elusive characteristic and when magnified through the prism of connectivity, we suddenly find that even the best of us cannot keep up on our own. We need an army to scale, to succeed; influencers provide us the ranks.
As with most emergent systems, natural paths are worn making it easier for those who come along later. Today, we know that influencers are much more than simply a new form of distribution, though that remains a powerful model for engagement. Influencers have the power to impact your business, both internally and externally. There are 6 primary methods:
Notions — ideas that can inspire us
- Audience (research)
- Alignment (product/message)
Motion — messages that tell our story
- Agency (creative)
- Advertising (reach)
Emotion — stories that inspire others
- Authority (validation)
- Advocacy (loyalty)
These engagement models feed each other, working from the heart of the business outwards to the world at large.
Product development is centered around delivering solutions to a known audience. All audience members are readily available to an organization. Sometimes they are hidden within a group, needing to be drawn out. Other times, they are already biased and incapable of offering impartiality. Most of the time, though, they are not necessarily capable of articulating their needs in a way that can drive action.
Influencers, having grown their own following, have an audience on tap. They know the sentiment and frustrations of these large and niche large cohorts. By leveraging their networks, it is possible to assemble ad hoc audiences to test and evaluate new ideas with.
Partnering with an influencer for your initial research and understanding can help future-proof your investment.
Be it a new product or marketing message, every brand runs the risk of coming off as tone deaf when they venture outside their comfort zone. Too often, consumers find ourselves asking “who was this intended for?” after a new product or campaign launches. This can be prevented.
Influencers can provide a steady sounding board for new initiatives. By working closely with a vetted set of insiders, it is possible to have a better approximation of how valuable our next thing will be to the outside world. Of course, who you go to is critically important here, so choose wisely.
New things test our understanding of the world. Right or wrong, they’re often met with skepticism and hesitation. It is no coincidence that peer and social proof are the most respected and valuable forms of input for consumers.
New entrants usually need some form of shoulder to stand on. Influencers, specifically those who believe and support your effort, offer every company the opportunity to have credibility on Day 1, along with a narrative to bridge the gap between the old and the new. Better than a stack of logos who use your product, the living endorsement of key personalities are worth their weight in gold.
Influencers love to be insiders, making this approach mutually beneficial.
Every brand knows, begrudgingly, that they must effectively be a publisher now. For many, this has forced new types of employees, extended agency engagements, and an always-on editorial cycle. Much of this change has been hard, and it’s not over yet.
Influencers are creators. They have honed the craft of creating media on a regular basis and have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t. This resource is priceless for burgeoning brands looking to scale this new paradigm. Even the best agencies cannot offer the creative scale possible with a network of influencers.
Cultivate your message as close to the source as possible.
Messaging requires reach. While advertising grows increasingly programmatic and targeted, it is still often ignored and lamented by the average customer. Still the domain of interruption, advertising has all its initial limitations.
Influencers have grown audiences that opt-in to their voice and message. Their shared interest gives them trust, their mutual compact gives them resiliency. Great influencers will never put their audience in jeopardy — first, because they care about them and second, because it’s their lifeblood.
Influencers offer an alternative method to convey a message — direct to consumer. The power to be in the primary rail, and not the side, is hard to deny.
Every brand needs an ally when they hit a difficult situation. The only true thing that separates a great brand from a good one is the loyalty of its customers. More specifically, it is the willingness of those customers to advocate on the behalf of the brand that comes to fore when things turn bad.
While larger influencers have the power to drive authority, an active, engaged based of micro influencers provides the perfect level of protection in times of need. With the support of thousands, action speaks louder than words — no single voice can take you down.
Most importantly, well-guided brands build advocates naturally, without the need for external incentives.
Influence has evolved from an alternative to advertising into a full-fledged business ecosystem. Every brand would be smart to foster not just surface-level relationships, but real bonds with their customers, advocates and influencers. As products become harder and harder to discern, it is the community of customers that stands out as the primary differentiator.
Special thanks to David Richeson, Reed Berglund, and Mike Prasad for their contributions!