The internet and social media have made mass communication democratic – anyone can speak to anyone now. So, anyone who puts out engaging, entertaining, useful content can be discovered by peers and can rise in popularity so long as their content remains relevant to their audiences. Such people, in a nutshell, are ‘Influencers’. Influencers become known for their special knowledge about their topic(s) and are seen as reliable go-to people for anything related to their topics. Naturally, they wield tremendous soft power on their followers’ purchase decisions. Hence the term ‘Influencer’.
Influencer Marketing uses this phenomenon to get the word out about a brand or product among carefully considered audience segments. For brands, Influencer Marketing works very well. They get to ride the trust that defines the relationship between influencers and their followers. The flip side of this, of course, is that the brand must fit well within this relationship. The brand’s promises and ethos must fit into the theme that the influencer has built as the basis of their relationship with their followers.
Influencer Marketing involves marketing to the influencer just as much as marketing to the end audience. Everything that a business does to engage their market, they must also do to build relationships with influencers. Businesses must find influencers who are just right to reflect and amplify the brand, target them, convince them to enter into a relationship with the brand, engage them formally, and provide them with ‘product support’, viz., namely product/brand experience and specially purposed information, which they can then use to tell their audience about their experience with the product/brand. The best Influencer-business relationships are patiently built and are genuine. The outcome from such relationships tends to be deeper and longer-lasting brand loyalty from the influencers and their audiences.
It’s about finding opportunities to build relationships with people who touch your potential customers in some way. These are the people who will help you achieve more, with less. If you earn their trust, you will be invited into those new audiences you crave.
Influencers are classified by the media they most use and their audience reach.
Blogs, podcasts, vlogs, and social media platforms are the media most commonly used by influencers. Every audience has a signature use-pattern across these media, which depends on the characteristics of both, the particular audience and the media platforms. For example, professional groups tend to use long-form written formats like blogs, whose appeal is the possible depth of content. On the other hand, a food appreciation group would gravitate to the visual appeal of photograph-sharing platforms.
By reach, influencers are mega, macro, micro, nano, with mega-influencers commanding their influence over very large audiences, often in the millions, to micro in the tens of thousands, to nano-influencers guiding opinions of intimate groups, no larger than a few hundred. The size of the audience has a definite impact on the type and quality of conversations possible. For example, a B2C brand looking to generate brand awareness in a new market may choose to engage with a celebrity mega-influencer to become visible to a huge audience. A niche luxury brand, on the other hand, would do well to identify an appropriate micro or nano-influencer to speak intimately with their small, discerning audience about the brand’s specialties.