In this guest post, co-founder and co-CEO of influencer marketing firm Hypetap, Detch Singh (pictured below), takes a look at what it means to be an ‘influencer’ and how to align your brand with a good one…
Enough with the smoke and mirrors
I recently came across a study suggesting that brands will fork out up to $2 billion on Instagram influencer marketing alone by 2019, a sign that the industry has solidified its rightful place within the broader marketing mix. But there’s one thing I can’t seem to get off my mind: how much of that money is being allocated to genuine influencers, and how much is instead going to people who are labelled as influencers but are actually just content creators with no real sway over their audience?
With no official guidelines in place to dictate its usage, the term ‘influencer’ is in danger of becoming a meaningless buzzword — and we’re now seeing the term thrown around loosely by brands and industry insiders alike, which is only adding to the confusion. Some use the word influencer to describe everyday people, while others allocate it to social media users with a benchmark number of followers.
It’s one thing to convolute a term, but it’s an entirely different ball game when this starts to have a negative impact on your marketing budget. At the end of the day, if you’re engaging in influencer marketing, then you’re likely looking to work with tastemakers who wield a strong and persuasive influence over their audience. Unfortunately, much of what is branded as ‘influencer marketing’ today is not actually delivering these results.
So let’s define the terms
First, it’s important to distinguish content creators and everyday people from influencers. An everyday person is just that — a layman social media user, for example you, me, your boss, or the person living across the hall.We can (and often do) make peer to peer recommendations through our social media content but we may not be very influential when doing so.
A content creator is someone who generates high-quality social media content. Think about all of the clever blog posts or breathtaking Instagram photos you come across on a weekly basis that garner little to no engagement from viewers and readers. The content is visually stunning or appealing, but if the author is lacking the ability to persuade a large group of people, then unfortunately you cannot qualify them as an influencer in any sense of the word.
Let me be clear here: if affordable, high quality content is the sole objective of your campaign, then content creators definitely serve a purpose. However, if influence is the objective, then you need to expand your options.
So what does it really mean to be an influencer?
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is this content creator a leader or a follower?
Consumers should genuinely look to an influencer as a tastemaker. Rather than hopping on the bandwagon, influencers are leaders. They decide or influence what is or will be fashionable in their field, and they shape cultural trends as a whole. Ask yourself why people are actually following an influencer, and you’ll have a better understanding of whether or not they’re a leader and a tastemaker in their vertical.
What do the metrics tell you
Look beyond the follower numbers. More often than not, marketers assume that following is correlated with influence, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The follower numbe is just a potential audience size, nothing more. It’s important to look at how engaged an audience is. How deep is the engagement? What is the sentiment across audience commentary? Does the audience’s commentary illustrate positive attitudes toward the content? All of these factors contribute to a content creator’s level of persuasion.
Does this influencer align with my brand?
An influencer may pass both of the above tests, but if their personality, interests, style, persona, and tone of voice don’t align with your brand, then there’s a good chance that your campaign will fall short. Chosen influencers are in essence advocates for your brand, and it’s important that you find ones who seamlessly convey the values that are most important to your company. Likewise, the content they create for your brand should be organic and fit in seamlessly with other content they create for their audience.
How to make sure you get what you pay for
You don’t want to fall into the trap of choosing influencers based on superficial proof points such as a large following or attractive content. You also don’t want to be tricked into thinking everyday people are influencers. Take the time to back your selection with data, insights, and examples. Don’t be afraid to challenge misconceptions when it comes to influencers. If you’re not the one finding influencers for your brand campaigns, then make sure you’re questioning the people who are.
Considering how much influencer marketing is slated to grow in the coming years, a large portion of your marketing budget may very well depend on it.