I’ve been using social media since 2006, and users like me have moved from early stages of platforms like Friendster, to more current platforms like TikTok. Social media continues to evolve. One of the aspects of it is regarding digital influence and Influencers. Influencers are individuals who are trusted by their followers or recognized as experts in their fields, and some have developed communities on social media that are in the hundreds of thousands or millions of users. The Age of Influence, by Neal Schaffer (HarperCollins Leadership, 2020), discussed how these influencers have power to amplify the brands that they know, like and trust.
The Age of Influence is the latest of Schaffer’s four books. Before this one, Maximize your Social (Wiley, 2013) was more of a guide for social media strategy, while this one is specific to helping marketers break through the clutter in social media with more precise strategy, tactics, and tools collaborating with influencers for greater ROI.
In this book, Schaffer points to the value of influencer marketing as part of the marketing mix. He refers to the early days of social media when there was free content that was viral and organic. It’s hard to make happen today due to the deluge of platforms and amount of digital content posts in the trillions. There are many ways to pay for placements because now your followers rarely find your messaging in their social feeds. With a paid campaign, whether on traditional media like TV or social media, the message time frame is finite; Once it’s over, that’s it. With influencers, the impact can last longer, and it can be even greater than expected, but it is not a guarantee.
Influencer marketing is like word of mouth (WOM) marketing and is very powerful, according to Schaffer. It basically leverages other people to talk about you.
Artificial intelligence and algorithms favor people in their rankings and visibility over brands. The trust factor for people is higher than for brands. For those who are looking to get into this area, Schaffer says to begin with the end in mind. That’s what the ROI teaches marketers, to ask what success looks like ahead of time. That success will look different for every instance, based on the needs at the time, just like with a paid ad campaign.
How can a firm find the right influencers for them? One way is to search for and find bloggers who are writing about your topics. You can request that they promote to their audiences. Compare the attribution. UTM tags compare results on other marketing channels and so the wise marketer can adjust the budget accordingly.
Some celebrities only want to work with big brands. One suggestion for a smaller niche is to find a micro or nano-influencer, even potentially with as small as 500 followers but someone who has a highly engaged audience. Schaffer provides a whole chapter in his book on the various tools that you can utilize to achieve this.
Brand affinity is a key point that was very relatable in the book. Schaffer says that firms don’t always, but should look inward beginning with their own employees of your firm and get their buy in. A relationship with employees can make a big difference, not just asking them to post your weekend sale prices, but to really understand your goals and finding ways to collaborate by treating them as an influencer.
In addition to employees, Schaffer suggests other people who have strong brand affinity that you can potentially leverage as influencers: Partners: Distributors, Affiliates, Customers, and even your followers on social media.
In an age where it’s hard to get people together due to the Covid-19 virus, marketing is going to be harder than before. However, people will reach out and continue to trust those that they have relationships with both offline and online. If your company has not been able to establish these online relationships and trust with social media users, taking Schaffer’s advice in The Age of Influence and finding ways to collaborate with influencers might be one strategy to consider in the months ahead. Even if your marketing budget is on hold, taking the time to better identify and develop relationships with influencers will reap dividends well after this pandemic ends.