There has been a lot of industry talk about influencer marketing and what that really means. There are influencers in someone’s family, in their career, in their customer base, or anywhere more than one person interacts. There are influencer lists. There are different ways to measure influence. There are different spheres of influence. There are even influencers that influence the influencers.

Let’s start at the beginning to get to the bottom of influencer marketing. What is the definition of influence? Merriam-Webster gives top five entries, but here are the most relevant:

Definition of influence:

  1. a) the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command  b) corrupt interference with authority for personal gain
  2. the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways : sway
  3. one that exerts influence

Using these as the basis for our definition, influence is a means of affecting another person’s thoughts or actions. The amount of effort that goes into effecting influence over another person is also another conversation for another time. Marketing and sales are forms of influence. The goal is to affect a potential customer to buy what you are selling.

Before social media that meant buying ads in newspapers or on billboards, or buying commercials on radio or television. The idea was to spend money to get your product in front of as many eyeballs as possible. If your ideal customer was a parent, you may have bought a commercial during the evening news or a prime-time television show. Or maybe you bought a spot in the Sunday newspaper with all the other weekly coupons and sales notices from other companies vying for the same limited attention of all consumers.

The amount of influence your brand had was often very undefined, unless you were Lincoln, Smart Water, or some other major brand capable of spending large amounts of money on hiring a Matthew McConaughey or Jennifer Anniston. At the core, big brands would hire a superstar, often unrelated to the brand, get them on a commercial endorsing a product and that superstar’s fans would go out and make the purchase. At the very least, the star’s sphere of influence would reach their fans and bring a higher level of awareness to the product.

Digging deeper into influencer marketing

Social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogs have created marketing opportunities with a more focused sphere of influence. There are YouTubers that focus on unboxing new toys, trying international candies, which makeup looks the best, how to find the right clothes, if you search for it, there’s probably a channel available. The same goes for bloggers and nearly every other social media channel available. This allows brands to get hyper-focused on the audience they are trying to reach with influencer marketing. If your brand is selling a new home or building concept, you could spend money on a commercial on HGTV or the DIY Network on television and hope potential customers will watch it and be moved to buy your product, or you could spend on getting a YouTuber to do a walk-through of your building on their channel of viewers that have a subscription and interest in what the influencer has to say.

Show me the data

According to a 2016 Influencer Benchmark study, social media influencers provided brands with a return of $11.69 for every dollar spent. That means for every $1,000 spent there is a potential return of $11,690 using influencer marketing. That’s a pretty hefty return, especially for small businesses. Since influencers don’t have a standard billing rate, it’s possible to find a social media influencer to fit your budget, but remember, the ones with the largest amount of reach will probably cost more per engagement.

With the technology available on digital channels it is easier to track the return on investment for influencers than with traditional channels (how sure can you be that someone bought your product because they saw it on a billboard while driving 70 miles per hour on a highway?). Some of the simpler ways of tracking are to create different links for different types of shares, or install Google Analytics on your home page so you can see how visitors arrived there. This data will help you better understand what is working and what isn’t working with your social sharing and influencer campaigns.

What you need to know

Influencer marketing is paid marketing. Knowing your market and identifying the influencers in your space can be difficult and time consuming. Connecting with them can be even more challenging. We have a team of professionals that can help!