We can hardly venture onto a news or social media platform nowadays without encountering the terms “digitization”, “digital strategy”, “digital marketing”, “influencer” and “influencer marketing”. We are told “this is the future”, “blue chip companies are channeling marketing spend to influencers” and so it carries on? And being inundated with so much information we tend to get confused and hyped up?
Must I climb onto the band wagon and spend less on traditional marketing and more on influencer marketing?
Then we also read newsflashes that say that Instagram changes to the publication of “likes” will affect influencers and on reading the article, the influencers interviewed actually welcome the move!
Yet again we read of an influencer with two million followers who could not sell a mere thirty six T-shirts!
What is Influencer Marketing?
Before we decide to join this “new” marketing approach we need to understand what influencer marketing actually is.
Let’s start at the beginning and “rewind” to days gone by, before the advent of digital marketing.
Then, we had marketers and sales representatives. The marketers focused on trends, content and platforms, as they do today, with the aim of “throwing information out there”. Printed media (newspapers, posters, flyers, billboards), later radio, then television and then the internet were used to promote brand and product awareness.
The marketers were followed up, or rounded off, by sales representatives physically canvassing and visiting prospective and existing customers or clients.
As far as actual success and influence was concerned, if we are completely honest, people took notice of these efforts but could simultaneously be hesitant to react, because one would expect a marketing or sales employee to puff their brand and product? People knew and accepted that these people mostly earned commission on sales turnover, so they obviously would avoid prejudicing their brand or product in any way.
The best marketing and sales tool back then was undisputedly, word of mouth. The endorsement of someone whom you knew and whose judgment you trusted was what got you sold? But given the restricted availability of such endorsements you ultimately had to venture on blind faith in many instances.
With the advent of the digital era and the internet of things, things were bound to change. And they did!
Suddenly a handful of potential solutions were replaced by hundreds, even thousands, and we can literally buy anything from anywhere in the world! So, my acquaintances often don’t have the exposure and experience to provide the word of mouth reassurance that I might need to influence my choice of a specific solution to a specific need.
That is why “review” sites became quite popular: I can go to one of these sites and see what people are saying about a specific manufacturer, distributor, their products and aftersales service.
But this takes a bit of time and effort – visiting sites, reading reviews and trying to sift (sometimes) unreasonably negative comments from the positive and arrive at a decision. Time is one thing that we are short of in contemporary times?
So, enter the Influencer. Put quite simply, an influencer is someone with a following of people (whom they mostly don’t know from a bar of soap), who is admired and trusted by their following, for some or other reason.
Influencer marketing is consequently digital word of mouth endorsement on a much larger scale than traditional word of mouth endorsements. As such it is nothing new, just an old phenomenon in a new presentation!
Should I join the hype?
This question requires a two-legged reply.
In the first instance we have everyday people, some just socially interacting and others aspiring to be influencers. Never mind which, unless you are digitally dumb (no reflection on intellect but referring to merely taking in information and never expressing an opinion by way of “Comment” or “Like”) you are already an influencer!
To become a “professional” influencer will take somewhat more digital clout than mere “Comments” and “Likes”, which can take time to establish and develop.
That being said, it can be very satisfying developing your digital influence and given the importance of a digital presence, I personally believe that everyone should develop their digital sphere of reach, if not influence – go for it.
In the second instance we have businesses considering a shift from the traditional approach to marketing to digital marketing and especially influencer marketing.
With influencer marketing there are many questions one needs to answer for yourself before you hire. What do you hope to achieve? Is your audience a niche or target audience? Will you require a “general” influencer with wide reach or someone with a more targeted following?
There are several other considerations that you will also need to clarify in your own mind before even deciding to hire an influencer. On deciding, you will need to evaluate the specific influencer too, which unfortunately, is easier said than done.
But first a word of caution, before diving headlong into a digital marketing strategy and campaign.
Generational differences, especially, often give rise to the misconception that a digital presence automatically translates to a digital marketing strategy. Any digital marketer knows that the two are linked but essentially differ like night from day.
Going “digital” is not just about having a website nor about placing an ad now and then on your website or some social or professional platform. It is much, much more and this is why so many digital specialists are advocating a “written” and structured digitization strategy.
It requires an analysis of your current business, planning marketing goals, identifying audience or prospective customers and clients, canvassing such, launching content or getting exposure, analyzing response and the ever important return on investment (ROI), to name but a few.
This sounds more overwhelming than it actually is, but without a thorough strategy you will probably be wasting your time and money.
An important question is cost. Depending on strategy, costs will obviously differ.
With the right strategy it can cost from next to nothing or it might cost a considerable amount of money, depending on your choice. Any strategy should be formulated according to the company’s goals, available internal and financial resources and can even be set out in such a way as to increase investment as and when resources permit.
The advantage for any business is that YOU ultimately have the power to decide how far and how fast you need or want to go.
Whether you would like to be more of an influencer in your social sphere or a “professional” influencer, there are certain considerations that you need to clarify for yourself. The same applies to hiring or firing an influencer for your business.
Unfortunately a discussion of these is far too extensive for a mere article and therefor I invite you to download my booklet “NAVIGATING DIGITIZATION, DIGITAL MARKETING, SALES AND INFLUENCERS” on Amazon, get it here.