“Influencer Marketing” is all the rage. It is popular – and should be – because influencers can affect how people perceive your brand and, ultimately, whether consumers purchase your product or service.
Who Are Influencers?
Influencers are anyone who tends to set the opinions of others. This could be your Aunt Jane when it comes to how to create a dinner party. We talk about “early adopters” in the world of technology who are the first to purchase new products. More recently, the term influencers has come to be correlated with those who have online communities of followers in a specific subject area: bloggers and social media users.
There are three must-have attributes for an influencer:
- An audience or community of people who listen to the individual
- Expertise or at least perceived expertise in a subject matter
- Credibility or the belief by the audience that the influencer is speaking the truth
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Traditional marketing is you telling your customers why they should purchase your product or service. Public Relations is different, in that someone from the media tells your story for you – ideally in a positive way but this is not in your control.
Influencer Marketing is sort of a combination of traditional marketing and traditional PR: brands engage influencers (ala marketing) to tell their story for them (ala PR). This engagement can take the form of a sponsored post on the influencer’s site, an endorsement, social media (written, photo, or video), or other forms.
There are multiple ways to engage with influencers but I’ll divide them here into two main strategies:
Work With the Stars
Some brands have decided to work with the stars. This could include those with national fame, like Kim Kardashian who has 120 million Instagram followers. But it could also include the relative “star” of the niche you are pursuing – that wine blogger whom everyone labels as the cream of the crop. This method involves quite a bit of work:
- Identify potential influencers
- Calculate the size of their audience
- Determine the “quality” of their audience as it relates to you
- Contact influencers you believe are a good fit
- Create a working relationship with those influencers (ie pay them)
- Provide them your product or service
- Reinforce their social media postings with your own social media accounts
- Follow up to ensure they do what they say they will do
Another strategy is to worry more about an influencer’s niche and less about his or her reach. So, in the wine world, rather than that star social media influencer, this strategy would suggest pursuing a number of wine bloggers with less reach but who have great credibility with their audience. Forbes Magazine suggests this strategy is the Marketing Force of the Future.
As an example, consider a wine blogger who has 200,000 followers and who writes about the wine industry in a fun, snarky way. His readers might or might not read every blog and social media post and might or might not pay attention to his recommendations. On the other hand, consider a wine blogger who has a following of 20,000 but who writes only about Pinot Noir. Her followers do not follow her unless they are interested in Pinot Noir and interested in what she has to say.
Engagement as a Metric
Size of the audience does matter in influencer marketing. But marketers are now looking at more than just audience size. They are looking at engagement: open and click through rates of emails; likes and shares on social media; and comments or replies to posts made by an influencer.
An influencer who has an engaged audience and who writes about a subject relevant to you is very likely to have real influence over his or her community when it comes to your brand.
At our three influencer conferences (Wine Media Conference, International Food Blogger Conference, and Beer Now) you can pursue both strategies but the second is the most relevant. Yes, the stars attend and you can make relationships with them. But the real benefit of a blogger or influencer conference is to bring hundreds of micro-influencers together in the same room.
We do not limit attendance to our conferences based on their reach. (Although we do get some powerful influencers – see this post about 20 top influencers at IFBC19.) Instead, our attendees are self selected because they are passionate about their subject and it is this passion that makes them credible with their audience. As a sponsor, you can then serve your product or present your message to these folks without having to spend the time and money to analyze, segment, and narrow down to get what you hope will be the right fit. And when you have access to hundreds of influencers at the same time, if your message is good then good things can happen.