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What is influencer marketing?

What exactly is influencer marketing? It is a type of marketing in which focus is placed on engaging and collaborating key individuals (influencers) rather than the target market at large to drive brand awareness and achieve business goals. These key individuals will have active networks within your target market and may serve as some sort of industry expert.

In the past, “influencer” was primarily associated with someone who had celebrity status or some level of fame. Today, however, influencers have broadened ––everyone has influence to a certain extent. And in fact, as audiences have become more segmented, influencers who reach niche groups, are often more effective than those with mass appeal.

This is particularly true for the B2B market. These niche influencers have been referred to as “micro-influencers” because they have a smaller (but mighty) social following ––typically in the thousands to tens of thousands. Micro-influencers tend to have a specialized area of focus or operate within a specific vertical. More on this in a later post.

What it isn’t

Influencer marketing tends to be confused with word of mouth marketing and even advocate or ambassador marketing, and indeed there is some gray area. But here’s the difference: Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is more of the vehicle used for the communication to happen between influencer and audience. In other words, WOMM is part of influencer marketing, but not all WOMM marketing originates solely from influencer campaigns.

With ambassador or advocate marketing, you’re focused more on engaging your current customers or raving fans, rather than seeking influencers who may or may not already be engaged with your brand. Though it can be argued that these brand ambassadors do in fact have a certain amount of influence.

Why influencer marketing?

Reaching, engaging and activating prospects has become more challenging than ever because of ever-increasing competition, noise in the marketplace, and consumers’ overall numbness to advertising and marketing messages. As a result, we’ve had to become more creative and tailored in our marketing approach than ever before. And influencer marketing offers a way to establish connections with new audiences and build deeper relationships with prospects in an authentic way.

Third-party sources are often considered more trusted, and more credible. They’re viewed as the impartial source of information. And as such, building relationships with influencers (or collaborating with them) can provide a number of advantages, such as:

  • Giving authenticity and credibility to content. It’s more likely to be perceived as valuable content than a marketing message
  • Adding a layer of expertise to content that may not otherwise be available within your internal team
  • Supporting in content creation
  • Expanding the reach of your content to influencer networks

Influencer marketing campaigns can stretch beyond driving awareness and reach. In fact, when structured right, they can also be utilized to drive lead-gen and demand-gen through influencer-directed content and marketing offers.

Ultimately, you have to start with your business goals. How could an influencer marketing program support those goals? How will you measure it? Will it be through website traffic, impressions, reach, lead-gen, demand-gen, conversions, number of relationships built with influencers, downloads, demos, business inquiries, share of voice, etc.?

In the next post, we’ll cover how to identify influencers and build relationships with them.

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