I hear the word “influencer” used frequently, usually in the context of social media and marketing. And just about every time I hear someone use the word, I think of the often-quoted line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” It is easy to picture influencers only as Instagram or YouTube stars with large audiences. However, influencers span industries and age demographics and include journalists, TV personalities, industry professionals, and brand advocates. According to Social@Ogilvy’s blog: “[The] definition of an influencer often needs to be clearly defined for each influencer marketing programme, in order to establish the marketing objectives and to focus which individuals, for example, fit into a PR media outreach remit and what constitutes a social influencer.” Put more simply, an influencer is: “A third party who significantly shapes the customer’s purchasing decision” (Brown & Hayes, 2008) and “has a greater than average reach or impact in a relevant marketplace” (Word of Mouth Marketing Association Handbook).”
People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic. - Seth Godin
The use of influencers in marketing has become quite popular in the last few years. One of the reasons for its popularity may be attributed to the growing deafness of consumers to traditional advertising and their corresponding responsiveness to native advertising like influencers. This advertising saturation is displayed in part by a phenomenon called “banner blindness”—a point at which consumers unconsciously ignore digital advertisements. “In contrast to traditional advertising, which interrupts the consumer experience, native advertising places brands and products within the organic content, creating a more pleasurable experience for consumers and a more powerful marketing solution for brands”, according to Ad Week. Influencer marketing reaches consumers where they are and creates conversations with them. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.”
Influencer marketing is more than a marketing buzz-word. Backed by research and strategy, carefully chosen influencers can help brands reach and retain more customers and increase sales by reaching their audience in an unobtrusive way. The question is not whether influencers can help brands, but which influencers can best help brands engage with their target audiences.