Friday, October 23, 2015

That person must really, really like that brand: the rise of influencer marketing.

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Odds are if you're on social media these days you're "following" someone whose regular posts or tweets are, every-so-often, interrupted by a shout out to a company or brand. That's no coincidence. That's an influencer at work. Companies can no longer just advertise brands through traditional channels and hope it's enough to get people to spend money. The advent of online culture, and especially the aforementioned social media, has made it necessary to seek out those who can use their clout to promote your brand. Thus began the rise of the "influencer".

Don't get the wrong idea. Brands have always used the cache of celebrity to promote
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themselves. Any TV spot with an actor or sports star is influencer advertising at its core. The thing is that now it's harder to figure out who is selling stuff to you and why. 

Based on our research we've found that an influencer can fulfill of these three roles, and here's how you can tell them apart: 

Influencer is an all-encompassing term that stretches from those with some clout in niche markets to celebrities that have the attention of huge swaths of the population. Influencers usually live on multiple platforms such as TV, print, social, online video, etc.; and are usually compensated in some way, including money or in-kind payments. Influencers live off their reputation and, as a result, are very much concerned with protecting their own brand (which is why you never see these commercials in the States). They treat their public personas - blogs and social media- as a business. Because influencers are brands in themselves they tend to only align themselves with brands/companies that are a good fit for their image, and they are usually used only on a short-term basis by brands

Brand ambassadors are are a more defined type of influencer. Unlike general influencers, brand ambassadors build long-term relationships with the brand or company they represent and are kept on retainer. Brand ambassadors are essentially spokespeople. If you've ever spent more than a few minutes on Facebook or Instagram you've certainly come across brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors wear brands like a badge of honor, almost to the point of hilarity. They are considered knowledgeable about the industry related to the brands they represent (as opposed to most influencers) and add credibility to a brand's claims. For example, fitness professionals are believed to be knowledgeable about health and wellness so they elicit much more trust when they promote a supplement or diet product.   

Advocates tend to be super fans that are extremely brand loyal and willing to go that extra mile to promote a brand they truly love it. They may also be contacted by the brand or company they love and be asked/encouraged to participate in promotional activities in some way, but they generally do it out of love and no because they're compensated (though they might receive perks). While they may be more well known than you're average fan advocates will usually not have a huge sphere of influence of their own, but their enthusiasm can be contagious in the right environment (like advocates for Salesforce at an event like Dreamforce).

When deciding whether to include influencer marketing in the marketing efforts for your company there is something to consider. It is necessary to remember you're putting a lot of stock in the reputation of the influencer. Whether it's an athlete found to be cheating or an expert found to have lied about his or her qualifications, anything that damages the trust an audience had in someone can adversely affect your brand. 

Are you considering using influencers in your marketing? We'd love to know! Leave us a comment below. 

At SkyPlanner, South Florida's Salesforce consulting company, we love to hear from ours clients and supporters so please feel free to comment or email us with suggestions for future content.