Influencer marketing (also influence marketing) is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.
Influencer content may be framed as testimonial advertising where they play the role of a potential buyer themselves, or they may be third parties. These third parties exist either in the supply chain (retailers, manufacturers, etc.) or may be so-called value-added influencers (such as journalists, academics, industry analysts, professional advisers, and so on).
The idea of a "two-step flow of communication" was introduced in The People's Choice (Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet, a 1940 study on the decision making process of voters). This idea was further developed in "Personal Influence" (Lazarsfeld, Elihu Katz 1955) and "The Effects of Mass Communication" (Joseph Klapper 1960).
Most discussion on the generic topic of social influence centres on compliance and persuasion in a social environment, as exemplified in Robert Cialdini's book Influence: Science and Practice. In the context of influencer marketing, influence is less about argument and coercion to a particular point of view, and more about loose interactions between various parties in a community. Influence is often equated to advocacy, but may also be negative, and is thus related to concepts of promoters and detractors.
Payment of influencersEdit
Influencer marketing tends to be broken into two sub-practices: earned influencer marketing and paid influencer marketing. Earned marketing stems from unpaid or preexisting relationships with influencers or third party content that is promoted by the influencer to further their own personal social growth. Paid influencer marketing campaigns can take the form of sponsorship, pre-roll advertising or testimonial messaging and can appear at any point in the content. Budgets vary widely and are usually based on audience reach.
Brands are evolving in terms of marketing. While putting an ad on television has a high cost, working with an influencer has a negligible cost in relation to the possible benefits it can receive. For example, if an influencer has 200,000 followers on Instagram and a company gives them a product on the condition that he exposes it to his audience, this company would be making an investment of the cost of a product in exchange for reaching at least the large most followers of the public figure. More and more people are using the Internet and more importantly speaking in terms of marketing, more and more people are using online platforms to make purchases. This increase in the number of online purchases forces some companies to invest more resources in their general advertising on the Internet and in particular on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or those already named Instagram and YouTube among others.
Some marketers use influencer marketing to establish credibility in the market, others to create social conversations around their brand, others yet to drive online or in-store sales of their products. The influencer marketer can also take to marketing diversified products and services leveraging, leveraging upon the credibility earned over time. Therefore, the value that influencer marketing creates can be measured in multiple ways. Some marketers measure Earned Media Value (EMV), others track impressions, and others track Cost Per Action (CPA).
Influencer marketing derives its value from 3 sources:
- Social reach: Influencers are able to reach millions of consumers through their social channels and blogs.
- Original content: Influencers produce original, and oftentimes effective, marketing content for the brand.
- Consumer trust: Influencers maintain strong relationships with their audience, who have a certain level of trust in the influencer’s opinions.
Influential ecosystems and rolesEdit
The influencing factors may vary. Sellers traditionally target influential people who are easy to identify, such as the press, industry analysts and high profile executives. For most B2C purchases, however, influential people could include shoppers and retail staff. In B2B transactions the highest value of the influential community can be wide and varied and includes consultants, government-backed regulators, financiers and user communities. Analyst Michael Speyer notes that, for small and medium-sized businesses, "electronics sales are influenced by many parties, including partners, consultants, bloggers, and technology resellers." 4 He reported that "manufacturers need to identify and characterize to the influential people in your market. This requires a global influence identification program and the establishment of criteria for the classification influential impact on the decision process ». In addition to a variety of influential sources, influence can play a variety of roles at different times in a decision process. This idea has been developed in influential marketing by Brown & Hayes.1 It traces how and when certain types of influence factors affect the decision process. This then allows traders to selectively attack influential people based on their individual profile of influence. The influence of bloggers and other users of social media is a topic of much discussion. This is covered in great depth in Paul Gillin's New Influences.5 Brown & Hayes also cover the issue, but they are not so convinced of the importance of the impact of social media, especially in B2B environments.
Methods of marketingEdit
Influencer marketing, as increasingly practiced in a commercial context, comprises four main activities:
- Identifying influencers, and ranking them in order of importance.
- Marketing to influencers, to increase awareness of the firm within the influencer community
- Marketing through influencers, using influencers to increase market awareness of the firm amongst target markets
- Marketing with influencers, turning influencers into advocates of the firm.
Influencer marketing is enhanced by a continual evaluation activity that sits alongside the four main activities.
There are substantial differences in the definition of what an influencer is. Peck defines influencers as "a range of third parties who exercise influence over the organization and its potential customers". Similarly, Brown and Hayes define an influencer as "a third party who significantly shapes the customer's purchasing decision, but may never be accountable for it.". Keller and Berry note that influencers are activists, are well-connected, have impact, have active minds, and are trendsetters, though this set of attributes is aligned specifically to consumer markets.
Exactly what is included in Influencer Marketing depends on the context (retail or B2B) and the medium of influence transmission (online or offline, or both). But it is increasingly accepted that companies are keen to identify and engage with influencers. As Keller and Berry note, "Business is working harder and paying more to pursue people who are trying to watch and listen less to its messages." Targeting influencers is seen as a means of amplifying marketing messages, in order to counteract the growing tendency of prospective customers to ignore marketing.
The first step in influencer marketing is to identify influencers. Influencers are specific to discrete market segments, and are used as conduits to the entire target segment. While there are lists of generic influencers (such as the Time 100) they have limited use in marketing programmes targeted at specific segments. You can use social media tools to find influencers based on keywords or those that belong to specific industry verticals.
Additionally, market research techniques can be used to identify influencers, using pre-defined criteria to determine the extent and type of influence. For example, Keller and Berry propose five attributes of influencers:
- Activists: influencers get involved, with their communities, political movements, charities and so on.
- Connected: influencers have large social networks
- Authoritative: influencers are looked up to and are trusted by others
- Active minds: influencers have multiple and diverse interests
- Trendsetters: influencers tend to be early adopters (or leavers) in markets
In his study of what traits are associated with the top influencers, Barry found 4 archetypes of influencers
- Educators – Thrive on helpfulness and insightfulness
- Coaches – Thrive on helpfulness and engagement
- Entertainers – Thrive on engagement and inspiration
- Charismatics – Thrive on insightfulness and inspiration
Gladwell (2000) notes that “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”. Gladwell (2000) identified 3 different types of influencer:
Connectors network across a variety of people, and thus have a wide reach. They are essential for word of mouth communication (Brown and Hayes, 2008). Mavens look to consume information and share it with others, they are extremely insightful with regards to trends (Brown and Hayes 2008). Finally, Salesmen are 'charismatic persuaders'. There source of influence leans towards the tendency of others to attempt to imitate their behaviour. These 3 groups according to Gladwell (2000) are responsible for the 'generation, communication and adoption' of messages.
Most of the literature on influencers focuses on consumer markets. There is less insight into business-to-business influencers. A key distinction between consumer and business markets is that most of the focus in consumer markets is on consumer influencers themselves. This is because word of mouth communication is prevalent in consumer environments. In business marketing, influencers are people that affect a sale, but are typically removed from the actual purchase decision. Consultants, analysts, journalists, academics, regulators, standards bodies are examples of business influencers.
Not all business influencers are equal. Some have more influence than others, and some mechanism of ranking is required, to distinguish between key influencers and less impactful people. A model for ranking business influencers has been developed by Influencer50, thus:
- Market reach – the number of people an individual has the ability to connect with.
- Independence – whether an influencer has a vested interest in promoting a particular point of view.
- Frequency of Impact – the number of opportunities an individual has to influence buying decisions.
- Expertise – how much of a subject matter expert is the influencer.
- Persuasiveness – the degree of consequence in ignoring an influencer's advice.
- Thoroughness of role – the extent to which influence is exerted across the decision lifecycle.
Several other companies including Ammo Marketing, Liquid Intelligence and DesignKarma Inc. in the US, Agent Wildfire in Canada, SCB Partners in Europe and Vocanic in Asia have developed their own proprietary methodologies for identifying and targeting influencers for a market (or market sector).
Fred Reichheld, a consultant at Bain & Company, has developed a methodology to determine the extent to which firms' growth is influenced by customers' propensity to make referrals to colleagues. Reichheld distills his research down to a single question: how likely is it that you would recommend company X to a friend or colleague? From answers to this question, a Net Promoter Score is determined, which correlates strongly with a firm's growth rate.
Fake influencers have been around as long as real influencers have. All metrics that are used to determine the realness of an influencer account can be fabricated. Instagram has shut down third-party sites and apps which provide paid services to individual accounts for buying followers, likes, comments and more. Despite these shutdowns, self-hosted Instagram automation apps such as FollowLiker ignore Instagram legal actions and continue to thrive.
A marketing agency recently conducted an experiment to test whether fake influencer accounts can profit, the company created two fictitious Instagram influencer accounts grown completely with bought followers and engagement (likes and comments) and applied to campaigns on popular influencer marketing platforms. They published their experiment online with step-by-step explanation of how the two accounts are created, and the brands that sponsored them.
Web services can be used to trawl social media sites for users that exert influence in their respective communities. The social influencer marketing firm then asks those influencers to try client products or services and discuss them on their respective social networks. Clients can then observe, through an enhanced digital dashboard, with metrics that measure the dissemination of brand mentions across numerous web platforms.
There are at least 70 companies offering online influence measurement. Advocates of this online-only approach claim that online activity reflects (or pre-empts) the trends in offline transactions. For example, Razorfish released one of the first social influencer marketing reports, entitled Fluent. The report discusses many theories surrounding social marketing, including the importance of the push/pull dynamic and online consumer empowerment, authenticity and importance of buzz marketing.
In addition, online activity can be a core part of offline decision making, as consumers research products and review sites.
Critics of this online-only approach argue that only researching online sources misses critical influential individuals and inputs. They note that much influential exchange of information occurs in the offline world, and is not captured in online media. Indeed, the majority of consumer exchanges occurs face-to-face, not in an online environment, as evidenced by Carl. He notes that "an overwhelming majority of word-of-mouth (WOM) episodes (nearly 80%) ... occur in face-to-face interpersonal settings, while online WOM accounted for only seven to ten percent of the reported (WOM) episodes."
Carl concludes that "The majority of the WOM action still seems to be happening in the offline world. These findings are especially provocative since they emerge at a time when more and more organizations are paying attention to how their brands are discussed online and recent academic research has focused on online WOM. Thus it is important for organizations to keep both online and offline conversations on their radar screen."
Keller Fay announced in 2007 that "While experts have previously estimated that 80% of marketing-relevant word of mouth takes place “offline” (i.e., face-to-face or via telephone), the new results indicate that this figure is even higher – 92%."
More recently, Nate Elliott at Forrester observed that "the huge majority of users influence each other face to face rather than through social online channels like blogs and social networks."
And the Fluent report, though generally orientated towards online measures admits that "it is necessary to remember the effect that offline social activity has on purchasing decisions." It also notes that survey "respondents trust offline friends most, with 73 percent indicating near or complete trust versus just 33 percent for online friends."
With any Marketing Strategy, risks are involved. In recent months, there have been reports of brands dropping their influencers because of the controversies that surround them. One such influencer is famous YouTuber, PewDiePie[better source needed], who made sensitive racial comments regarding specific communities. Brands therefore need to understand the type of social media influencers they engage with so as to minimise their risks and maximise their online investments.
Sources of influencers can be varied. Marketers traditionally target influencers that are easy to identify, such as press, industry analysts and high profile executives. For most B2C purchases, however, influencers might include people known to the purchaser and the retailer staff. In higher value B2B transactions the community of influencers may be wide and varied, and include consultants, government-backed regulators, financiers and user communities.
Forrester analyst Michael Speyer notes that, for small and medium-size business, "IT sales are influenced by many parties, including peers, consultants, bloggers, and technology resellers". He advises that "Vendors need to identify and characterize the influencers in their market. This requires a comprehensive influencer identification program and the establishment of criteria for ranking influencer impact on the decision process."
As well as a variety of influencer sources, influencers can play a variety of roles at different times in a decision process. This idea has been developed in Influencer Marketing by Brown & Hayes. They map out how and when particular types of influencer affect the decision process. This then enables marketers to selectively target influencers depending on their individual profile of influence.
The influence of bloggers and other social media users is a topic of much discussion. This is covered in depth in Paul Gillin’s The New Influencers. Brown & Hayes also cover the subject but are less convinced of the importance of the impact of social media, particularly in B2B settings.
In order to achieve the purpose of the business clients, influencers should deliver a change in attitude towards the client's brand or product. The change of the attitude from the viewer takes places from the contents that influencer produces. The change itself is believed as a psychological process in human mind. The psychological process can be explained under the RACE model. RACE stands for reach, act convert and engage. These four steps are designed to help brands engage with their customers throughout the customer lifecycle.
- Reach: This step is about finding the available influencer and accessing the information distribution channel. Influencer has his or her own expertise, which their followers value a lot. And these followers trust recommendations from a third party more often than a brand itself. So endorsements from related influencer would function as a review of the product rather than a simple advertisement, which most followers regards as little or no credibility. In general, people who followed the influencer share their field of interest. Therefore, they are more likely to purchase the product. Landing on a proper influencer will support the brand to lock in their target customer group.
- Act: Act means encouraging participation by creating a secondary marketing campaign to generate greater awareness to reach a larger scale of target consumers. In this case, it means encouraging target customers to share their opinions on social media in order to participate in the subject. Taking this idea into practice, influencers usually share their honest review of the product or demonstrate the function of the product in real life cases in terms of solving a problem or improving the current condition. The influencer should start a discussion that leads target customers' attention onto the subject and present the solution with the product. Target customers would engage in the discussion so that they can develop their own understanding of the product value.
- Convert: In this step, influencers should convert their followers into customers of the product. After forming the understanding of the product, it is time to make a purchase decision. Influencer marketing is believed as a powerful tool to generate sales since a study by McKinsey showed that "marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising." And of those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate. The trigger is often in the format of coupon, which is only valid for a short period of time. The coupon would push the target customer to buy the product right now rather than later. Because not only they will forget about it, but also they will lose the desire for the product.
- Engage: As for this stage, building customer relationship is the key point. Influencers should turn the first time customer into a loyal customer of the product. A foundational element to unwavering loyalty that is often overlooked is a consumer’s loyalty to themselves. Brands seek people that naturally fit their desired persona and let their authentic passion shine through. In this way, customer loyalty is built through the engagement made by the influencers.
There are thousands of large social media accounts that are not connected to a personality. These pages are referred to as "themed pages". Companies looking to reap the benefits of large reach without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to top celebrities have the option to use themed pages. As of this writing, the average CPM is between $1–$3 when using these types of pages. The key is to find the sweet spot between the "influence" of celebrities and the reach of the post. Companies that are looking to promote a large product launch should heavily consider influencer marketing with themed pages. Celebrities tend to do better for brand recognition and branding.
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