Influencer marketing is replacing traditional advertising in social media – and this scares the pants off advertisers.
This post continues a conversation started at Social Media Marketing 2012 when Luke Brynley-Jones from Our Social Times stirred up the debate by asking, “if social media was becoming just another advertising platform?”
Let’s put it simply:
1) Yes, advertising agencies and experts will attempt to apply advertising techniques and measurements to social media.
2) No, social media will not become another advertising platform. Sorry.
The reason is that social networks have fundamentally shifted the way organizations communicate. Social is not about one entity broadcasting to the masses, it is about individuals sharing content through networks. While advertising on social is a recipe for failure (as you may have already realized if you are an early Facebook shareholder), influencer marketing promises to be the next evolution of advertising.
I am aware that the concept of influencer marketing sparks a few questions… How do I reach enough people? How do I control my message? How do I measure the impact of my campaigns? These are all good questions that lead us to rethinking our traditional ways of approaching and measuring communication.
1) Potential influence derives from authority in context not from popularity
At #SMM12, I showed how defining your context is the point of entry for finding your “potentially influential” individuals on the web. Using two examples, the car industry and UK communications, we saw:
- There is little overlap of top influencers across seemingly similar topics
- You can segment influencers into “experts” who exclusively lead conversations in one specific topic and “cross pollinators” who build bridges across related communities.
2) Online influence on specific topics is exclusive to a limited number of individuals
I talked to someone at the event who said he could provide lists of up to 10,000 “influential” people on a given topic. This person is confusing influence and popularity. Authentic influence is a scarce commodity. At Traackr we limit our lists to 50 to 100 influencers, beyond that, you are getting too far away from context to exert any real, effective influence.
3) So how can influencer marketing provide meaningful reach?
If influence is so contextual, how can it help me reach 100,000 or 1M people? How does it compare to the huge number of “fans” I can amass through my Facebook page?
Let’s start by extracting some basic data from just the top 10 influencers on our hybrid cars list: 50,000 combined followers on Twitter, 500,000 on YouTube, 2 million link backs to their blogs. This is the potential audience that these people provide – and I would argue it’s a very targeted audience ready to listen. The question is not reach: reach to your audience is behind the door.
4) Activating influencers is the key to reach and engage your audiences
Gamification or perk-based marketing is becoming a go-to technique to “engage” audiences on social. Yet most marketers realize how shallow the resulting engagement really is.
Influencers, on the other hand, have earned their influential status by creating a perceived authority built on trust. When they say something, their audience engages.
5) The Holy Grail? Reaching a large audience by working with a few, targeted individuals
To maximize your return, start by segmenting your influencer base and creating attractive and relevant content that adds value to your influencers’ community. As opposed to catering to the masses, try working closely with a manageable group of individuals capable of spreading your gospel to many.
In a nutshell:
1) Simply broadcasting to the masses fails in social
2) Gamification and perk-based marketing will become obsolete
3) Smart marketers ask “how do I leverage the authority or potential influence of connected individuals to create positive engagement for my brand or product”
4) Influencer marketing is in its infancy and will be defined by the brave marketers who embrace it today
Scary? Only if you fight it.