It is a common misconception that all online influencers have large social media followings, but this thought process fundamentally conflates popularity and influence. As influencing necessitates a change in behaviour, thinking or viewpoint, an influencer is someone with the power to alter perceptions and to prompt people to do something they wouldn’t necessarily do on their own initiative.

What is Influencer Marketing?

In a marketing context, an influencer is someone who can effectively get someone to buy a product or service from a particular brand. To do this, influencers utilise three distinct tools and skill-sets.

Reach

Although reach is undoubtedly an important factor, it’s not enough to drive results alone. Numbers also don’t always tell the full story as influencers with a relatively small reach (commonly known as micro-influencers) might have more developed sales skills and a higher level of credibility among their hyper-engaged followers.

Sales skills

The best influencers have developed a strong voice and style of communication that provides them with the ability to clearly convey their thoughts and opinions in ways that appeal to their audience.

Contextual credibility

Individual influencers all have areas of specific expertise. So, for example, a high-profile film critic will have high levels of credibility when recommending movies but comparatively low credibility on another topic.

What influencer marketing definitely is not

Influencer marketing isn’t simply about identifying someone with a large social following and offering payment in return for a few positive words about your brand. The best influencers have invested a lot of time and effort into slowly building an audience of engaged followers that trust and respect their opinions. They won’t be willing to jeopardise that in return for a quick pay-out.

Just as connecting with the right influencer will reflect positively on your brand, collaborating with an untrustworthy influencer could cause significant damage to your credibility. At a time when authenticity is of paramount importance, approaching influencer marketing with a slow-and-steady mindset will help you to reach genuinely engaged audiences who care about what you do.

The key to influencer marketing success

So, what is Influencer Marketing? Well, for brands it’s fundamentally about marketing TO influencers. Brands pursuing a traditional social media marketing strategy would observe their audience and identify and nurture their organic brand champions over time. The primary issue with this approach is that many natural brand champions simply don’t have enough influence to make a noticeable impact on key metrics.

The power of influencer marketing has demonstrated that time is better invested into marketing to influential figures with interests and opinions that align with a brand’s values and identity. In practice, this means engaging with influencers in ways that extend beyond simply ‘liking’ their content.

Commenting on their pictures and replying to tweets or Facebook posts in ways that demonstrate a strong brand personality and showcase valuable knowledge will ensure that your brand is on the radar of both an individual influencer and their audience. You shouldn’t adopt an overtly promotional tone and should instead focus on being an active member of the community, which will ultimately enhance your credibility. Additionally, when you do decide to approach an influencer with a collaboration proposal, they will recognise you and be able to identify whether your offering is a good fit for them and their audience.