When you work in marketing, buzzwords become part of your life. Explaining to others what you do turns into an exercise in creativity, finding words and phrases that people outside your office can understand and weaving them into a story that covers at least most of the bases.
Still, I’m willing to bet that, despite your best efforts, you’ve probably let slip one of the biggest, trendiest terms in marketing this year: influencer marketing.
But here’s the thing about influencer marketing: It’s not just another trendy buzzword that sounds really cool but actually means very little. Consumers are inundated by content as it is, and 70 percent of brands are planning to create even more next year. The need for trust and authenticity has never been greater; done right, influencer marketing is a powerful way to meet that need.
Unfortunately, misconceptions about what influencer marketing is, how it works, and why it’s valuable will keep marketers (and their audiences) from truly benefiting from it. So let’s clear up a few things by pinpointing three things influencer marketing is definitely not:
Imagine this scenario: You and a major marketing influencer have collaborated on a campaign, and you’re already seeing engagement with the audience you worked so hard to target. They’re interested in what they’ve seen from this influencer, and they decide to check out your brand.
What are they going to think when they get to your site and find that you haven’t published a decent piece of content in more than two months? Or when they try moving their search to Google and still can’t find a piece of high-quality content coming from your brand?
I know how I’d feel: tricked, misled, duped, bamboozled. I trusted this influencer when she said yours was a brand I should check out — that your process was innovative, that your software would help me — but you have no content to help me even start forming a relationship with you.
That comes across badly for both your brand and the influencer who advocated for you, and it could cost you customers. Influencer marketing works well in partnership with other content efforts for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the audience members you’re trying to reach need to have something to engage with when they perform a search or explore your site. Make sure they like — and trust — what they find.
As our CEO mentioned in his recent article on influencer marketing trends, “an influencer is only as valuable as the influence she has.” So if you think that simply spending more money will help you win over the right influencer for your brand, you’re wrong. The only thing more valuable to an influencer than a bigger check is greater influence.
And the thing about building your own industry influence is that it’s extremely hard to do without some form of content, whether that includes a killer company blog, guest articles on industry publications, social media content, books, or speaking engagements.
If you strategically create and distribute content, you can start building an engaged following and some influence of your own. When you can bring that to the table, you make a much more attractive potential partner to influencers than someone who can only offer more money.
In a recent report by Altimeter, marketers cite “ongoing ambassadorships” as the most effective form of influencer marketing, yet only 52 percent of influencers say that’s how brands approach these relationships. Product reviews and sponsored content beat out long-term arrangements, even though the same report stated that “many influencers are willing to work harder when they have an established, ongoing relationship with a brand.”
That’s a big problem. Using influencer marketing isn’t like buying a slice of pizza. You don’t get to walk up to the counter, hand a person some money, ask for “one order of influence, please,” and leave with exactly what you wanted.
It’s clear that influencer marketing works best when brands and influencers build long-standing relationships. Not only do both brands and influencers benefit from these commitments, but audiences will also be more receptive to the authenticity behind the content they’re engaging with.
In the past year, interest in influencer marketing has skyrocketed. We’re still learning about its incredible potential for brands, influencers, and audiences and the ways that we can maximize it. In order to do that, however, we all have to understand what it is — and what it’s definitely not.
I love cloudy days, office supplies, and rewatching the same sitcoms I've already seen a dozen times. When I'm not looking for ways to elevate content, I'm looking for opportunities to tell stories about my dog.