Influencer marketing is a relatively simple, but incredibly effective, form of marketing that focuses upon specific key individuals rather than the target market as a whole. But who is an influencer?
Influencer marketing identifies those which have the most influence over potential buyers, and orientates marketing activity around these influencers.
The history of influencer marketing, as an identifiable marketing theory, can be traced back to a 1940 study entitled “The People’s Choice” by Lazerfeld & Katz. The study analysed political communication, and concluded that the majority of people are influenced by secondhand information and by opinion leaders. However, the notion that people are influenced by high profile opinion leaders can be evident throughout history, even as far back to Biblical times.
Who is an Influencer?
There are many faces of ‘influencers’:
- Industry analysts,
- Professional advisors,
- Celebrities, and
- Individual brand advocates.
The editor of a traditional-media, national-newspaper is arguably as much an influencer as a celebrity, as is an academic or a highly viewed YouTuber like MacBarbie07 who wowed fans at our Social Media Matters event last year. Therefore, the definition of an influencer often needs to be clearly defined for each influencer marketing programme, in order to establish the marketing objectives and to focus which individuals, for example, fit into a PR media outreach remit and what constitutes a social influencer. This can differ for each brand and campaign.
We have come to understand that the line between social media and traditional media is blurring. Traditional-media national-newspapers are now available in print as well as online, and these online articles directly link to social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). Similarly, the line between what constitutes ‘media outreach’ through a journalist versus ‘social media influencer outreach’ through a journalist, is an issue that can cause debate. Arguably a journalist fits into both categories, and so there are many facets of who constitutes an influencer which is creating crossovers.
So how do we solve this challenge? The fundamental difference between media outreach and influencer outreach lies in the approach to target and engage these individuals.
Approaches to target influencers for marketing objectives
Influencer marketing compromises 4 main activities, which have well been established as approaches for targeting these individuals:
1) Identifying influencers and ranking them in order of importance
2) Marketing to influencers – to increase brand awareness within the influencer community
3) Marketing through influencers – using influencers to increase brand awareness to target markets
4) Marketing with influencers – turning influencers into advocates.
Successful influencer marketing continually evaluates against these four main activities. Furthermore, for brands to maintain and build awareness with influencers, there must be the understanding that this can be a slow and continual process in order to build relationships. Some influencers cannot be viewed through a project by project basis and approached in a cold-call influencer campaign experience. Instead, strategies must sometimes appreciate a longer timeline, and understand that a dedicated approach to fostering strong and sincere relationships with influencers can be a key to success.
Whilst the definition of what constitutes an influencer is dependent upon a marketing objective and the structural organisation in relation to the PR and communications department with regards to crossover, I like to use a definition for an ‘influencer’ which is a combination of Brown & Hayes (2008) and from The Word of Mouth Marketing Association Handbook:
An influencer is: “A third party who significantly shapes the customer’s purchasing decision” (Brown & Hayes, 2008) and “has a greater than average reach or impact in a relevant marketplace” (Word of Mouth Marketing Association Handbook).”