As marketing tools, ‘influencers’ are often associated with being most effective across such industries as fashion, travel, fitness and leisure. Pioneered by the likes of the Kardashians, influencers as we now know, can build a lucrative empire on the back of endorsements, especially those targeting the younger generation.
Digital marketers often refer to the 1/9/90 rule regarding online impact. The influencers are the 1% of users who participate a lot and account for most contributions. They, in turn, influence the 9% of ‘amplifiers’ who contribute from time to time. Most marketing efforts concentrate on engaging the 1% who can then reach the 90% of ‘lurkers’ – the quiet participants who read but don’t contribute.
Social media presents all sorts of opportunities for businesses to gain visibility, and the big brands capitalise on building and engaging an online tribe or legion of fans, who readily provide feedback and endorsements. And we all know how valuable word-of-mouth recommendations are, especially from those who are seen as credible and impartial.
However, for smaller companies, particularly B2Bs, it can also be an extremely valuable marketing avenue and one that is often underplayed.
You may not label them as such, but influencers can be found across all industries.
Sometimes you have to be creative and delve deeper into your ‘ecosystem’. Your ecosystem contains many layers, including early adopters of your products, allied businesses, journalists, associations, consumer organisations and many more.
You can go down a myriad of direct or indirect pathways to engage and bring attention to your business. For example, if you are a sewing machine manufacturer, why can’t you talk about the latest fashion trends, cloth innovations, most popular DIY cosplay outfits, and find experts to blog about these subjects (and mention your latest model)?
Hiding in Plain Sight
Identifying who your influencers are and their reach can be a particularly insightful stage of any digital marketing review, and one that for my clients usually unearths great feedback and a number of surprise movers and shakers.
You may be aware of some of your more vocal fans, but often influencers are out there, endorsing your products and leaving testimonials, who you don’t know about.
This was the case for one of my clients – a large art supply business in Sydney. Recently, they experienced a surge in sales of a particular brand of pencil set. It turned out that a local YouTube artist with a significant following had recommended the brand and nominated the store as a preferred stockist. As a result, over a couple of days they sold around 20 of these high-end sets, retailing at around $500 each.
On the back of this, I was also able to identify quite a few other influencers in the art industry, including teachers who had been recommending the store and its products for some time. They were happy to be involved in the business’s social media to varying degrees, and some of them also committed to being store ambassadors.
So, if there is someone out there talking about your business, you need to make sure you are talking to them, and work out how you can leverage their interest and impact.
Monitoring the Influence
In this review stage, I am really trying to answer the questions: ‘Who do my clients listen to?’ and ‘How influential is their voice?’. Determining the return on investment or effectiveness of each influencer depends on your KPIs, and as with every stage of a digital marketing review, data and metrics are key.
The analytics from a digital marketing audit can identify the ‘communities’ of people who are talking about a particular subject, and that can be particularly helpful in determining marketing direction whether you are small, large, a B2B or a B2C. Understanding the digital channels favoured by these, i.e. Instagram, Snapchat, is also helpful.
You need to look past the ‘vanity metrics’ of ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’, and really delve into such aspects as engagement rate per social network, number, demographics and location of followers, quality and frequency of content, and many other aspects.
Also clarifying how much of their appeal is their own ‘fake’ marketing hype is another essential part of the service.
It may not be right for your business (or your marketing budget) to engage a digital influencer with 100K followers, but on a smaller scale, a testimonial here and there or a positive product review on a well-read site can make a difference to buyer behaviour and purchase decision making.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
Your review may also find that an influencer you have spent time, energy and resources on in the past is no longer cutting the mustard in terms of appeal or popularity. It may be that their activities or values no longer align themselves with what your company stands for or what appeals to your audience.
A recent example of how it can all go wrong was the #girlsmakeyourmove social media campaign. Earlier this year, the Federal Health Department spent a whopping $600,000 of taxpayer funds paying influencers (mainly models and sportswomen) to post blogs encouraging girls to engage in more physical activity.
However, some of those involved in the campaign had their level of ‘influence’ questioned and previous controversial conduct, such as partnerships with alcohol brands, racist and homophobic language also came to light.
Given the backlash, the Government stopped payment and ordered a review into the health department’s ongoing use of Instagram influencers.
There’s a couple of lessons in that example for all businesses engaging with influencers. Firstly, do your background research on anyone you are thinking of being associated with. And if a relationship is no longer beneficial, it may be best to cut ties quickly (but nicely – don’t burn online bridges) and direct your attention to others who may be a better fit.
Folding it Back into Content Strategy
Once you have identified who your influencers are, it can help you shape your marketing content strategy for more effective results. There are many ways of using them to help gain a competitive edge, from sharing their messages through your own social media right through to making them central to your marketing campaign.
Other ways include:
- Ensuring your blog and website content matches the subject matter and tone of your main industry influencers
- Engaging an influencer to write a guest blog
- Employing them as a brand ambassador in exchange for sample products/services
- Sponsoring or attending an event that your influencer/s may be attending (and grabbing a selfie with them for social media sharing).
Being proactive about finding and utilising your online influencers is one of the most neglected areas of a digital marketing strategy, but one that can be incredibly valuable.
As most companies know, having control of what is and isn’t said about you online can be like catching a tiger by the tail. Trying to influence your influencers as much as possible and utilising them in your marketing strategy is one way of taking back some control over your brand and messaging.