Expertise First, Influence Second: When Influence Is A By-Product Of Expertise

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In this guest post, Taryn Williams, CEO and founder of influencer and creative talent marketplace theright.fit, explains why influence should be a by-product of success, not the foundation for it…

Like any form of advertising and promotion, influencer marketing is not without its controversies. Earlier this year Australia’s Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, ordered his department to stop paying social media influencers engaged as part of a campaign designed to encourage young women to exercise more. Concerns about the return on investment from the $600,000 of taxpayer dollars, along with worries about brand alignment, led to the minister putting the kybosh on any further spending.

Analysis by Lumio found that while many of the Instagrammers contracted by the government may have boasted impressively high numbers of followers and healthy engagement rates, they may not have been as influential as they claimed to be. In fact, Lumio’s origin story is one on the perils of influencer marketing – when they launched they engaged 87 influencers over three campaigns, but only five accounts led to any sales.

The story serves to highlight the importance of choosing the right influencers to partner with on social media, and the potential pitfalls in getting it wrong. There is plenty to be gained from influencer marketing, but as in all things due diligence is required. Artificially inflated follower counts, poor brand alignment and accounts that drive clicks without necessarily improving KPIs are all unfortunate realities of the practice.

Fortunately there are ways to evaluate social media influencers to make sure they are a good fit for your brand and business. One tactic is to seek out influencers who are famous for their expertise, rather than simply famous for being famous.

Unlike some social media stars out there, experts build their influence the old fashioned way – by knowing their stuff and creating consistent content to prove it. Experts may not always have the same reach as other influencers, but their followers are often much more loyal and seriously engaged. A good word about your brand from an industry expert might reach only a fraction of the numbers than if it came from an account with a larger, broader audience, but research shows that consumers are more likely to take action on recommendations from voices they trust.

A study by Nielsen comparing the effectiveness different sources of content found that expert content lifted purchase intent 38 per cent more than branded content and 83 per cent more than user-generated reviews. In fact, the research found that branded and user-generated content become more effective once a stable foundation of trust has been established through the channel of third-party experts.

Consumers play a huge role in keeping brands accountable and demanding authenticity and honesty in marketing campaigns. This means that brands must become more socially aware and truly understand what consumers want in order to effectively connect with them.

We’ve seen the power of this strategy play out time and again at theright.fit. For example, last year we helped source talent for AAMI Insurance’s International Women’s Day TV commercial, ‘Her to Hero’. AAMI were looking for strong, sporty and active models and actors to play AFL women’s stars in the shoot. Imagine how thrilled they were to learn that we already had three AFLW players from the Western Bulldogs on the books! Using real AFLW stars lent the TVC a far greater level of impact than could have been achieved by having actors play the part.

Our recent partnership with Pinstripe Media is another great example. In the two years since launching, theright.fit the platform has grown to a database of over 6,700 talent, but we recognised a need to provide credible business experts in specific categories like finance and tech. Our new B2B database contains more than 50 leading business experts like Airtasker chairman James Spenceley and ShowPo founder and CEO Jane Lu.

It’s easy to game the social media system, but trust and authenticity must be earned. Building credibility with your audience takes time, but businesses willing to go the extra mile to find voices and create content that really resonates will reap the rewards.

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