(A conversation between two people at a restaurant):
Person 1: So, have you decided what you are going to get?
Person 2: Umm…I was thinking about the Venison, but I might just get a burger.
Person 1: You know what is REALLY GOOD?
Person 2: What?
Person 1: The Scotch Fillet.
Person 2: You think so? I’m not too much of a steak fan…
Person 1: Yes! This is different I swear! I get it every time and it is so amazing, you NEED to try it!
Person 2: Okay…are you sure because I-
Person 1: THE SCOTCH FILLET IS BRILLIANT! YOU NEED TO GET IT!
Person 2: Jeez relax! Is it really that good?
Person 1: ORDER IT. ORDER THE SCOTCH FILLET. NOW!
Person 2: OKAY! OKAY!
The conversation above illustrates how influence marketing can affect us in seemingly the most benign situations (although admittedly, Person 1 was a bit over the top). A lot of the buying decisions we make are influenced by traditional forms advertising (TV, Radio etc.), but people we respect also influence it. Usually, we see our friends, colleagues and family as trusted sources of information regarding products and services.
It makes sense why we trust them, it’s because they have nothing to gain. A marketer needs you to think that a particular product or service is the best one for you because they are invested in the success of that product or service. However, everyday influencers have no reason to promote something that they have no financial investment in. Therefore, we would expect that their advice is completely unbiased.
This is Influence Marketing! Let’s explain this more in a strategic setting.
Influence Marketing can be defined as marketing to “Influencers” (people who have an influence on the buying habits of other people) as a way to indirectly market to customers. It is similar to word-of-mouth marketing, but it goes beyond simply the spoken word.
The most obvious example of this kind of marketing is when celebrities endorse products. Generally the philosophy is that if people see someone they like selling them something, they place a level of stock in that person’s opinion.
However, marketing with celebrities has been going on for so long that many people put celebrity endorsements in the same category as regular advertisements in terms of a ‘trusted, unbiased opinion.’ But because of social media, everyone has a platform to voice their opinions, so almost anyone has the potential to be an influencer. This has made many marketers target more ‘everyday’ influencers such as bloggers or social media celebrities.
So, how do companies go about targeting these influencers? This can be achieved by direct payment to the influencer and requesting that they mention the product or service on their particular platform. Or it may be done in a more subtle way. For example a furniture industry event was able to boost attendance by inviting the top fashion and interior design bloggers as VIP’s. This prompted the bloggers to take photos of their experience and share it on their social media platforms.
Here are some tips on the process of Influence Marketing:
- Figure out who the Influencers are – Analyse various social media landscapes in order to determine whom you need to influence.
- Contact the Influencers – Once you know whom you are dealing with, contact them and offer them an incentive for helping you influence your target market.
- Facilitate the medium of your influencers – If your influencer is a YouTube blogger, then you need to be able to provide them with high quality video, likewise for bloggers who use photos. You need to make this as easy as possible for your Influencer to disseminate your message, give it to them already half-done.
Although Influence Marketing is a great way to add credibility to your brand, there are some associated risks with it. For one, it does rely on the ‘opinions’ of people outside of your business, which means that people can influence others to go in the opposite direction to your brand. It also relies on the credibility of influencers to substantiate their (and therefore, your) opinions. This means that if an Influencer’s credibility is jeopardised (through a public faux pas for example) then it will reflect badly on your brand. However, there are risks involved with any form of marketing and Influence Marketing is one of the current directions that many marketers are heading towards to help build their brands.