Last week we published our white paper called The Definitive Practical Guide to Influencer Relationship Management.
First thing’s first- what does the white paper cover?
This guide is both definitive and practical (yes you guessed it- hence the name). It’s definitive because it provides clarity and best practice to a relatively immature industry; it’s practical because it provides guidance and frameworks to help marketers get going right away. Wherever you are in your journey, use this guide to take you from ‘aspiration’ to ‘execution’, with guidance and wisdom passed on from expert marketers and influencers. We’ll provide clarity on what influencer marketing is; why you should be doing it; how to define your strategy and objectives; how to identify and engage with your influencers, right the way through to measuring your success. Dare we call this the influencer marketing bible?
This white paper is extensive and exhaustive, with each section covered deserving of its own limelight. So, each week we’re going to bring you an easy-to-digest blog post covering each step of the influencer marketing process as per the definitive practical guide.
This week we’re going to start at the beginning: What is influencer marketing and why should you do be doing it?
So, what is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing has become quite the buzzword, with many different definitions and forms- as you would expect in such a fast moving and evolving category that’s still nascent and fragmented. Although the industry category and buzzword is ‘influencer marketing’ we are going to focus more on the Influencer Relationship Management approach, which is the most organic form of influencer marketing, where relationships and partnerships are at the heart of a successful strategy.
Influencer marketing is the practise of building organic and lasting relationships with influencers that are relevant to your brand, on an equal value partnership basis- delivering value to you, your influencer and your target audience through influencers’ networks. Working with influencers on a paid, owned, earned and borrowed basis- borrowing their reach, creativity and credibility, as explained by Tim Mcloughlin, Hotels.com.
As it stands, there’s confusion as to when influencer marketing is just outright advertising. Examples of this are influencer marketing strategies inclusive of paying celebrities for product placements or to endorse or sponsor products. True influencer marketing focuses on building genuine relationships with influencers, which, dependent on the circumstances may or may not be activated with financial rewards.
In short, there’s no right or wrong definition, so long as there is a genuine connection between you and the influencer and that you are providing value to your target audience. The end goal is using an influencer’s social equity and influence to tell your brand’s story in such a way that compels your customers to move down the funnel and convert, as explained by Tamara McCleary.
Here are two definitions from leading influencer marketing experts:
“The act of identifying, monitoring, engaging and measuring the role of influencers in the market perception of a brand and its products.”
Jamin Spitzer, Global Director of Communication Insights, Microsoft
“For B2B marketers Influencer Marketing is the practice of engaging internal and industry experts with active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.”
Contrary to popular belief, influencer marketing isn’t new
Let’s set the record straight- influencer marketing is not a new concept. Word-of-mouth, social influence, PR and Public Affairs are highly relevant to the way we should be approaching influencer marketing. So, this isn’t the latest marketing craze that you should be jumping on, it is slightly different way of doing things we’ve always done. Brands have always associated themselves with popular and influential individuals, but influencer marketing involves building partnerships and relationships- this is a longer term, more authentic and organic approach. As Konstanze Alex at Dell says, influencer marketing should be embedded in your ‘business as usual’.
“People do not buy goods & services. They buy relations stories & magic.”
Seth Godin, Marketing at Seth Godin Productions
The rise in social media channels
Since 2006 there has been a meteoric rise in social media and digital channels. Individuals and brands can now publish content through multiple media channels, creating billions of new digital voices and an enormous rise in content creation.
Influencers are also more accessible and open to partnering with brands that they like or that help them build their profile and audience. To engage with influencers 10 years ago you would often need to go through a PR firm with the contacts at magazines, whereas now it can be as simple as sending a direct message (DM) or easily accessible email. With this said, for relatively little financial investment, influencer marketing can reap great success.
Brand loyalty and trust are decreasing
At the same time brand loyalty and trust are at an all-time low, consumer attention spans are shorter than ever before. Consumers are trusting logos less and humans more; no longer are they treating newspaper and television adverts as gospel, but they’re trusting recommendations from their peers and even strangers more.
“We’re trusting strangers’ recommendations on Amazon and staying in their homes through Air bnb”
“There comes a time when every marketer faces the challenge of how to build brand credibility. For many businesses, the answer is to build an army of influencers who will provide your product the positive word-of-mouth it needs to stand out among competitors.”
Bryan Kramer, CEO, Pure Matter
Traditional advertising isn’t as effective
With the above said, traditional advertising isn’t as effective as it used to be. The demise of traditional advertising is down to a number of factors: Ad blocking is minimising the amount of content viewed; there is increased competition for Pay-per-click (PPC) meaning that businesses often out price themselves from the competition and increased media exposure has meant that consumers are more savvy about brands only pushing their agenda.
“Your brand thinks that your products and services are the best thing in the world? Customers just don’t buy into self-congratulating marketing anymore.”
Owain Williams, Influencer Marketing Blogger
” You see, none of us believe what brands say about themselves, so why do we delude ourselves into thinking that anyone would believe our pitch or paid ad? This is where highly strategic influencer marketing comes in. We crave honesty, transparency, and integrity and we are much more likely to pay attention to and believe what someone else says about a brand, especially someone that we know, like, and trust.”
Tamara McCleary, CEO & Brand Ambassador, Thulium
Influencers can make your voice louder in the noise
In this period of mass content and noise, society has turned to the key influencers they trust to make informed judgements about brands, products and issues. Building relationships with the right influencers can therefore be the catalyst to improving brand value and increasing sales. Being associated with the leading influencers gives brands a credibility & trust that they cannot get anywhere else. It is a halfway house between advertising and PR that many brands feel is the best way for them to communicate their messages effectively. Since the economic crisis of 2008 there is a new found cynicism associated with politicians, newspapers and large brands and this lack of trust makes it hard for brands to get their marketing messages to consumers
Shift from ‘deference’ to ‘reference’
As Marketing Week published back in 2009, there has been an “evolutionary shift from deference to reference; deference being people accepting what they are told and reference being people asking advice from peers.” We are at the “age of emotional proximity”, where peer recommendations surpass all other marketing.
It’s cost and time effective
Compared to social media community management, influencer marketing is extremely cost effective – especially if you are struggling for internal marketing resource. A Forrester research study shows that “6.2% of key influencers are responsible for 80% of the influence in social media”. Engaging with a select group of influencers with the potential to deliver impact across your wider marketplace will deliver the best bang for your buck.
Tim McLoughlin maintains that co-creating content with influencers both improves quality and saves time on content creation.
Influencers are experts
Influencers are often consultants, practitioners and authors in their fields, hence their opinions are highly regarded and influence the marketplace. Angela Lipscomb at SAS stresses that partnership with industry experts can inspire customers, prospects, innovation and cutting edge technologies through borrowing their thought leadership.
For the full white paper, click the below button to download.