Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rise of Influencer Marketing

The increased presence of social media has given consumers a lot of power and it's becoming
increasingly difficult to distinguish who the real and ethical influencers are. With this power, there comes a need for marketeers to build an influencer marketing strategy.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influncer marketing is the type of marketing that focuses on using experts or leaders in a specific domain to drive a brand's message to a larger audience.

According to a May 2015 study by Schlesinger Associates, 84% of global marketers expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the coming years, and 81% of those who had already done so reported they were happy with the results.

With this trend picking up, it's important to understand what makes someone an influencer considering everyone on social media is an influencer in some regard.

"The potential to influence can be zeroed down to three important pillars: Reach, Resonance and Relevance." - Tejas Krishna

When we talk about an influencer, most of us think of of it as a person with large number of followers on twitter or a huge fan following on social networks. That's a very myopic way of identifying an influencer.

Anyone with followers above a threshold, provided they are not bots, can claim to be an influencer today. I recently read a story in Mint, where a 17 year old boy with close to 23K followers on twitter, considers himself to be an online influencer. Brands pay him to tweet and reach out to a wider audience. Is that a right approach to influencer marketing?

In my opinion, *Absolutely NOT*

If a brand's target is to reach out to a wider audience through influencers who have a massive following on social networks, then they must target the people (including celebrities) who 'truly believe in brand's value and what it has to offer to its audience.'

In the above example, a teenager is making his pocket money just by tweeting. With multiple brands reaching out to him for their campaigns, makes him believe he is an online influencer. He isn't an expert in a specific domain, he doesn't believe in a particular brand but is ready to work for multiple brands at the same time to earn extra bucks! This example makes me believe that most brands are getting 'Influencer Marketing' wrong.

What makes for an ethical influencer?

  • An influencer is someone who is an expert in a specific domain
  • A huge follower base is indeed a plus for an influencer. However, the quality of the followers matters just as well. It's important to identify those who have grown their following organically over time 
  • Massive follower base isn't a necessity to qualify as an influencer but what matters the most is content & engagement 

"A good sign when you've become an influencer is when that authority goes unquestioned and folks trust you automatically"- Hemant Gaule

It's often said that influencer marketing is paid for. While in most cases, influencer marketing is "assumed" to be paid for, it doesn't hold true for every campaign. However, it's important to be transparent and open about such an engagement.

"Brands are identifying ways where they can let influencers experience something great and not link it to money directly." - Tejas Krishna

That said, I do believe that it isn't necessary to always pay influencers to market a product/service. A lot depends on the kind of relationship you share with them. If brands develop strong relationships with its customers, then they can leverage those customers on social media as their biggest influencers.

But hey, what's more powerful? - voice of a customer or voice of an influencer
A cutsomer's voice goes a long way in making or breaking a brand! Your customer is the king BUT if an influencer has the power to change the decision of those customers, that makes an influencer's voice more powerful.

If you are looking to engage influencers for your brand, do take a note of the above points and use social media platforms to identify, engage, interact and build relationships with your influencers.

What do you think it takes to be an ethical influencer on social media? I'd love to know your views in the comment section below.