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Influencer Marketing Isn’t New, But Are You Still Getting It Wrong?

AR on a tablet device

Although it seems influencer marketing is a new thing among marketers today, it truly is not. Perhaps it’s better to think of it as a reemerging mode of brand promotion. The truth is, it’s one of the earliest forms of marketing.

Brands are changing their marketing strategies. They have to. As consumers change their buying habits and buying process, marketers and businesses have to adapt. Several years ago, SEO was a thing, and everyone was into keywords and backlinks. Then came the social media frenzy, which made all businesses put up Facebook pages in the hopes of tapping into its large pool of users. Most businesses still implement these methods today, but an increasing number of them think the older forms of digital marketing no longer suffice.

Word-of-mouth influence

Consumers are getting smarter. They now recognize marketing gimmicks. They’ve gone deaf to ads everywhere a long time ago. They immediately see signs of product promotions and turn them off before you can even make an offer. Now it seems the old ways of getting to them is coming back. Consumers are listening to other consumers, taking cues from what other people have to say about someone’s products or services. That means brands have to look for people whom consumers are paying attention to.

Back to organic influence

More than 15 years ago, the celebrities, actors, renowned athletes, and TV hosts were the influencers. People looked at their style, clothes, watches, choice of detergents and toothpastes, and holiday destinations. People wore what celebrities wore, shopped where celebrities shopped, and ate whatever celebrities ate. That was why TV and magazine ads were a thing. Huge businesses spent so much money on celebrity endorsements.

The 2010s, however, changed things in the digital world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube rose to prominence, becoming staple parts of people’s lives. These social channels also spawned their own celebrities and authority figures. They became hubs not only for people looking for social connection and interaction but also for people looking for authentic and trustworthy information. Consumers gravitated towards niche authorities, who became part of consumers’ buying process.

Misunderstood concept of influencer marketing

In the last five years, social media sites became influencer hubs and then influencer marketing platforms. Brands and marketers are jostling their way through crowded social networks to be noticed by social influencers.

As more people seek Facebook or Instagram “celebrities” and authorities, an increasing amount of information about influencer marketing is being churned up online. While some information is accurate and helpful, others are confusing and plain untrue. Thus, many marketers get the concept wrong.

These few tips should clarify what an influencer marketing strategy should look like.

  1. Influencer targeting is also about the audience.

This tip can be misunderstood and misinterpreted as finding influencers with the most followers. While following size is crucial to the success of influencer marketing campaigns, it’s not everything. It gets to a point when having more followers doesn’t really cut it. Informed marketers now identify niche authorities with follower counts between 10K and 100K to be the most ideal for driving engagement for brands. In fact, it’s possible to start influencer campaigns with Instagram users with only one thousand followers.

Past these numbers, there’s a more important, albeit underrated, metric: engagement. It doesn’t matter whether your potential social media partner has one thousand or one million followers. What matters more is their engagement. If their audience isn’t engaged, something is wrong with their messaging, and maybe they’re the wrong person to tap. You see, just because you have fifty thousand Instagram followers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an influencer.

Wait! There’s another crucial information that is often neglected: demographics. Whom your influencer is talking to is an essential piece of information for influencer marketing. Japan influencer agencies work by matching brands with appropriate influencers. Whether an influencer is appropriate to your brand partly depends on their audience demographics. If you’re catering to young people, you need influencers that cater to young people. If your business is operating only in Dallas, you need ambassadors in Dallas. The idea is simple. Choose an influencer whose audience is your audience.

  1. Finding the right influencer marketing platforms is a factor that determines your success.

It’s hard to jump start influencer outreach without knowing where your influencers are. The irony is that today there are millions of micro-influencers everywhere. That’s a far cry from just about a few thousand information gatekeepers and trendsetters several years ago. So finding them should be easier now than ever before. But it seems the contrary is true.

Many businesses struggle to find bloggers, niche experts, and social media enthusiasts online who are willing to help them promote their brands. A common mistake is relying on just one influencer marketing platform: Facebook. Well, not everyone is on Facebook. Many young people spend more time on Instagram. And if you’re looking for fitness enthusiasts or renowned chefs, you probably should check them out on YouTube, not Twitter.

We understand the challenge, and that’s why we use influencer targeting tools at the outset. There are tools that make it easier to match influencers for your brand based on a number of factors, including demographic and psychographic data.

  1. Authenticity is a huge factor.

There is a good reason why a camera manufacturer may not work with someone like Justin Bieber or why protein supplement manufacturer may not enlist James Corden as their endorser. No, it doesn’t mean they’re ineffective as endorsers per se. It’s just that smart manufacturers will work with endorsers and influencers whose endorsement or advocacy would look authentic. Bieber isn’t a professional photographer, and his audience aren’t photography enthusiasts either. Corden wouldn’t be an effective fitness advocate. If he tried, his audience wouldn’t take him seriously, and the brand’s reputation would suffer.

Authenticity of influencer campaign is a function of effective influencer targeting. If you know who to tap in your niche or field, then you’re closer to the people you’re supposed to be marketing to. And if you know that they have a well-engaged audience, you know there’s a bulk of people out there who will pay attention to your campaigns.