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Rethinking Influence

Influencer: one who exerts influence; a person who inspires or guides the actions of others[1].

Influencer marketing has moved from a nice to have add-on, to an important pillar in marketing communications with over 90% of marketers including it as a part of their overall strategy[2]. In less than five years, the industry has grown from $1.7B in 2016 almost $10B in 2020[3].

The growing world of influencer marketing is a place of constant evolution. Platforms come and go, algorithms continue to change, compensation models adjust, and trends are always shifting. In this industry of change, our perspective on influence should evolve too and move past building brand partnerships centered on vanity metrics like follower count.

Following is the most basic method of categorizing and vetting influencers. It is also the shallowest. Followers can be bought, leading to easy manipulation of this metric. At the same time, platforms continue to modify algorithms, prioritizing certain content and making some content more visible to followers than others. Simply, audience ≠ views and views ≠ action.

So, beyond followers, what else can we consider when looking at brand partnerships?

Consider circles of influence

Some influencers have smaller follower counts, but score well on quality, meaning they have a high percentage of followers who are influencers too. Paired with high engagement, these partnerships can be super impactful. It requires more effort in vetting, but the ROI is in the potential for amplification.

Words count too

Stop the scroll AND read the words. A lot of emphasis is placed on creating visual content that prompts users to stop scrolling through their timeline, but captions that keep people engaged until the end are just as important. Finding influencers who can engage through their copy should be a filter in considering potential partners. Even more valuable are influencers who take the time to interact with their audience in their comments creating a two-way conversation.

Go for credibility

Who has expertise, connection, and passion for your topic? Who would talk about it without you asking? Those people may be professionals in their fields and not social media stars, but they still have influence. Paid ads can bridge the gap where follower count falls short and increase the audience of well-developed content through greater reach.

Be inclusive

What resonates is not universal. The people you work with should be as diverse as the world we live in. Invest the time to understand how to reach communities authentically.  Work with members of those communities to produce content that is respectful and impactful.

True influence should be defined by more than just the number of followers. The ability to guide the action of others is based on much more than that.

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/influencer

[2] https://www.oberlo.ca/blog/influencer-marketing-statistics

[3] https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-benchmark-report-2020/

Maxine McDonald
Senior Director

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