The number one question I get asked from marketing executives these days is all about influencer marketing – one of the least understood yet most powerful forms of marketing available to marketers today.
Even if you are skeptical as to whether or not influencer marketing is a fit for your business, once you understand this core concept that influencer marketing is about community, you will begin to understand its potential for every business.
Questions about influencer marketing crop up so often these days, I have decided to dedicate writing a book – The Business of Influence – on the topic.
As a brand in social media, you have a singular, lonely presence among hundreds of millions of users, and in the case of Facebook, that number is over one billion users.
All companies begin with an organic presence, and then due to declining reach – because of supply and demand, and the way that social network news feed algorithms work – social media marketing becomes a pay-to-play initiative. Most companies have literally bought into this fact and thus paid social has become a mainstream form of marketing.
The problem with paid social is, no matter how effective it seems to be, it is still a paid advertisement.
Social media users who have no affinity for your brand might be exposed to your brand’s presence through an advert, but whether they decide to join your community or interact with your content will depend on a number of factors.
Obviously, the greater affinity a particular user has for your brand, the greater the chance they will interact with your advertisement.
As you begin to amass a community of users who follow or like you, though, you will realize you are still only reaching a small number of the potential community you could be tapping into.
Compare yourself to your biggest competitors, and unless you’re the gorilla in the market, you might find that others have more users than you on one or more social networks.
This is the delta in potential user engagement that will require a lot of paid social to bridge the gap, without any guarantee those who have never engaged with you suddenly will through your adverts.
Go to Facebook Ads Manager, and regardless of what industry you are in, you are bound to find that Facebook will tell you there is even a greater number of people out there who have an interest in what you might be selling. This data comes from Facebook users interacting with various Facebook pages and content, so we can only assume it is an accurate figure backed by data.
In other words, there are potential “lookalike” audiences that exist but might not have converted from your campaigns.
This is where influencer marketing comes in. By tapping into the trust the fans of an influencer have in a community that is not yet engaging with you, you have the ability to expand your market reach in social media in a way that might not even be possible with paid social.
It all comes down to the fact people trust people more than ads. No matter how much you pay, if someone with influence over a particular community says something great about or even exposes your company to their community, there is going to be an ROI of some users engaging with you, potentially for the first time.
This is why influencer marketing is about community and not a singular initiative to meet a specific KPI for a particular campaign.
There are always potential customers out there who don’t know about you – or perhaps don’t know things about you that you want them to – and it is in tapping into the trust that social media users place in other people that will help your brand get positive exposure.
This concept is not just for consumer-facing companies who want to appeal to a millennial demographic on Instagram or a female demographic on Pinterest: it is a universal concept that equally applies to B2C brands as it does B2B companies or even nonprofit organizations.
There is no company that cannot benefit from tapping into the power of influencers in their particular industry, and when you start to see the potential and the different ways in which you can collaborate with an influencer in authentic and mutually beneficial ways, you begin to unlock the power that is influencer marketing.
As influencer marketing budgets rise, holding true to the tenet that influencer marketing is about tapping into, building affinity with, and being trusted by a larger community of social media users will certainly benefit your company’s bottom line over time.