Getting the Skinny On Influence Marketing

In a day and age where anyone’s word can carry across entire continents, it’s obvious that protecting and maintaining one’s reputation is the number one defensive measure businesses have to take when operating in highly competitive industries. But on the flip side, the Internet’s ability to spread the word also allows businesses to leverage content and hard work in order to produce a measurable, valuable result: influence marketing.

Influence marketing is the art of building a marketing campaign for a business specifically tackling its reputation and influence in the local industry. If you’re a restaurant, then influence marketing is about making sure people in your area know what you’re offering, and why you’re the best restaurant in your chosen cuisine in town. If you’re an IT consultant, it’s much the same way — only you want to build your influence in the world of information services, establishing yourself as the go-to cloud guy, or the CRM expert, or the application development guru.

While influence marketing is easy enough to describe, it’s much harder to actually put into action. How do you go about becoming the one service or business everyone talks about?

Simple: you meet the influencers. 

What is an influencer?

An influencer is an authority within your given industry or niche specializing in that industry. Travel bloggers, food writers, and makeup gurus are examples of common influencers. These are individuals that aren’t usually affiliated with any single company, and spend their time reviewing products or services, discussing in-depth the details of their interest, and taking their hobby to its most absolute level. They typically entertain thousands with regular, consistent, quality content, and some even earn a living through sponsors, advertisement deals, and donations from their fanbase.

Influencers, aside from sharing their love for whatever hobby they pursue, also tend to have a huge impact on the buying decisions people make. If people are unsure of what gaming capture card to purchase, they may turn to their favorite online gaming channel on YouTube to query them on what they use to capture their in-game footage. Likewise, gaming channels often review their peripherals, from headphones to keyboards and mice, and feature them in complementary “face cams”.

There, the opportunity for retailers to make a profit exists in collaborating with such content producers and influencers by sending them a free product, in exchange for the distribution of a promo code and link to encourage purchases on the retailer’s website. However, there is a clear difference between your typical content producer and a real influencer — especially one of value to your business. Here are the tell-tale signs you should be watching out for:

  • They are the authority in their field. 

It should be a given, but the key to working with a great influencer is that they’re in fact capable of influencing the decisions of their readership. As such, you’ll want to work with someone who makes the biggest impact in a demographic that is relevant to your business. That’s the key here — your customer base and their audience should mostly overlap, and then you’ll want to make sure that they’re the best and brightest source of information for that demographic.

  • They have the most consistent growth.

You don’t want to work with an influencer whose statistics and numbers are declining, but you also don’t want to work with an overnight success where deterioration in content quality is starting to become an issue. Content creation is not an easy thing — dedicated influencers are also master content creators, and they draw success, not from just the pure individual quality of the content they put out, but the dedication and sheer quantity of content they release. Seek out the most consistent voice in the crowd, and you’ll net yourself a long-term business partner.

As such, this may mean you don’t always have to single out the largest, loudest voice in a bunch if you’re looking for long-term profit opportunities. Instead, seek out the most consistent voice in the crowd, and you’ll net yourself a better-suited long-term business partner.

  • They openly review products or services.

As common sense would have it, it makes little sense to put the time and effort into contacting a content producer or influencer when they refuse to do sponsored content. While influence marketing does rely on the integrity and trust people have towards their influencers, a good influencer will ensure that their true opinions come through and deliver the message to the audience, while still creating an opportunity for brand awareness for you.

That being said, many people still aren’t sold on the efficacy of influence marketing, and for a simple reason — it’s relatively new. That being said, it’s not untested. Influencers play a huge role in the way people make purchasing decisions, and many a large company has in fact profited from long-term relationships with bloggers and other content producers. As such, here are a few key facts to keep in mind:

Regarding Customers

There’s no doubt that trust matters when defining the relationship between businesses and customers, but trust matters more today than many people would realize. While among a large percentage of the population it’s pricing and availability that matters most, among customers seeking products or services online with the budget to choose between a competitive range of providers and retailers, the trust put in any given product or brand is what ultimately affects the final buying decision.

  1. Customers rely on the Internet and its plethora of review websites a lot. BrightLocal shows that over half of their survey respondents check reviews 6 times a year and the figure is growing year after year.
  2. Furthermore, over 70 percent of respondents said that positive reviews equaled an increased trust in a brand or product.
  3. Lastly, positive reviews create a growing effect of positive opinion. Over 60 percent of customers spread the word on a good product or service via word-of-mouth.

Regarding Influencers

When it comes to the efficacy of influencers — major content creators and third-party personalities with a large following online — the stats speak volumes as well. Anyone with effective budgeting skills, a little nifty networking, and the communicative skills to get influencers interested in your product will be able to do more with that type of marketing than traditional avenues of advertisement — and the smaller the influencers, the better, according to AdWeek. We live in a day and age where people begin to seek out more genuine content — and it becomes harder to maintain integrity and honesty when you’re progressively looking like more and more of a sellout. With a few distinct exceptions, fresher talent is better.

Finding influencers is easy. The Internet is full of them. But targeting and getting to work with the right ones still isn’t an art that’s been mastered — and a lot of this has to do with understanding content, Internet subcultures and being able to get a general feel for a community and their potential as clientele. Any Internet fandom or following is susceptible to monetization — but if you don’t do it right, you’ll draw the ire of hundreds or thousands of dedicated and angry fans.

Ending it Off

The thing about influence marketing is that you have to have a clear picture of what you’re looking for. Influencers look and function differently for every single industry, and the shape and form they take — and the content they deliver, right down to the way they deliver it — is vastly different from one industry to the next. Makeup channels on YouTube are a whole different brand from gaming channels, or Instagram models, or DIY experts on Pinterest. Quit having a single image for an influencer, and instead try to create the most accurate general depiction of the best influencer in your specific line of business.

All successful influencers are masterful content creators, which should be their first significantly noticable quality. From there, their potential for growth depends on you.