#Influencers: Purchasing content to build brands 

Let’s set the record straight. Customers build brands by recognizing a product as the sole solution to an unmet need or unresolved problem.  For customers to build a brand two criteria have to be met: the brand has to be trusted and the tone and the content of the advertising needs to resonate with the customer.  Trust is built when products live up to or exceed their promised expectations of durability, reliability and serviceability.

Advertising works when the “messaging” is personalized to the target audience and the communication method matches the audience’s identified focus of attention.  Own a print shop? Instagram might not be the right medium for selling print, but a YouTube video tutorial on the print finishes for a business card might just be what a person is searching for when they are attempting to distinguish their calling card from their competitors’. Now let’s get real. 

The prime directive: Social media

In 2017 RapidBoost reported that Canada has one of the most advanced broadband networks in the world where over 96% of Canadians have internet access from their home. Yet, only 39% of Canadian businesses have some sort of online presence and just 24% actively engage their consumers daily on social media. Plus, research has shown that 90% of customers trust peer recommendations and 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media. 

With Canadians spending over 44 hours every month plugged into social media, the prime directive for national businesses is to be present on social media.  Business owners must educate themselves on the power of social media. Allocate time, money and human resources to develop a social media presence to enhance their band. 

Using social media influencers is one of the best ways to build brand awareness and loyalty because user generated content is 50% more trusted by internet users than traditional media. More importantly influencers cannot be silenced by desktop ad-blocking software that in Canada has a penetration rate of 24%.  So, what’s the disconnect?

There isn’t enough data to support a single conclusion, but the common objection appears to be just plain apprehension on the part of business owners: who will care about my business on social media? What could I say to get people to follow me? How will I find my audience, and how will they find me?  That’s where a social media influencer can assist. 

Influencer marketing 

Influencer marketing is a hybrid. It’s a mashup of the celebrity endorsement placed into a modern-day, content-driven social media environment. Influencers are recognized social media authorities who provide frank opinions on products in their field of expertise. Influencers work because the information is genuine and helpful. No responsible and respectable influencer would risk their reputation on partnering with a product that is shady.

Influencers work because they rely on both social networks and content marketing strategy focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. It’s that interconnectivity that drives profitable customer action.  Influencer strategies use content marketing to build a win-win situation. There are no advertising tricks and no disingenuous celebrities smiling over a product they couldn’t care less about. 

Online influencers work because they sway the sentiments of their online audience in a particular direction regarding a brand, idea, business or person. Partnerships between an influencer and a brand are symbiotic, collaborative and relational. An influencer isn’t anything new. Before the digital revolution, celebrity endorsements were the go-to tactic to promote media attention, influence key stakeholders and build brand awareness.  

With 3.028 billion people actively using social media – that’s 40% of the world’s population sharing information –the amount of positive and negative content being exchanged among individuals is incalculable. That makes it a top priority for companies to understand how influencers can make or break their brands.  Influencers function because they create a personalized social interaction. 

The dating game

Building brand awareness through social media influencers is a courtship. First comes dating.

That’s where the brand looks for a socialite to court. A blogger, for example, that has built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise. One that makes regular posts on his or her personal media channels and has gathered a reasonable cohort of followers that reposts, passes on and retweets the bloggers opinions. 

Engaging a well-respected go-to graphic artist blogger who is willing to incorporate your printing shop’s customer service and finishes into his or her blog posts exponentially increases an already targeted audience’s awareness of your business. 

Spoiler Alert Be warned the power of the influencer is not in the number of followers he or she has. The power of the influencer lies in the downstream density of their followers’ networks of social media contacts. It’s called the majority illusion. And it’s a paradox with an exponential multiplier effect.  Here’s the math:

An influencer with 100 followers who each have one connection each has a potential influence sphere of 100. But, an influencer with 50 followers who have ten connections each has an influence sphere of 500. It’s the density of the followers’ network – the reach – that is important, not the number of followers the influencer has. Good influencer characteristics are:

Wide, Loyal, Active Networks of Followers.  Have dense networks of Twitter followers, Facebook friends or heavy blog traffic. These follower networks amplify the influencer’s message. 

Credible Content

Influencers are recognized opinion leaders and good storytellers whose content strikes a chord with their audiences.

Early Adopters Set Trends Not Fads 

Influencers are among the first to try new products, post authentic reviews and establish trends.

Courtship

To establish a sustainable relationship, businesses need to court an influencer. Spoiler Alert – if a business owner is just looking to create a spike in profits don’t waste time looking for an influencer. Hire a viral celebrity, pay a king’s ransom and hope for a flash-in-the-pan spike in sales. Selecting the right influencer requires a slow-steady courtship. One that allows for each party to develop a mutual respect for the authority, credibility and symbiotic benefits that will accrue to each party. It’s naïve to believe that joining forces with an influencer is an easy way into the pocketbooks of followers. It’s not that simple. For a business to ally with influencers or the influencer with a brand, trust and respect have to be earned. That all takes time. 

Forward-thinking companies treat social media influencers as brand ambassadors, not paid advertising. Social influencers can be bloggers, content creator, and micro influencers. The fastest growing category is micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are everyday people who gained an online reputation as experts in their field. Using their abilities, knowledge and skill they write engaging, informative and truthful content about products that drive their devoted followers to change behaviour. 

Influencers create one-of-a-kind content and then share it with an audience they’ve painstakingly won over. Influencers invest time, money and creativity into this process. Some micro-influencers happily promote a brand for free, while others may charge a fee. It makes sense that influencers charge for their work of helping you deliver the perfect custom-made message to your target market.

Marriage

Smart companies recognize that, once the ring is placed on the finger, the relationship still needs to be managed and cared for. Alice Audrezet and Gwarlann de Kerviler found that influencers appreciate it when their style and voice are taken seriously by the brand. They report that over time influencers become friends with the people in charge of the brands through a highly customized communication. In many instances the brand and the influencer become synonyms. Like when people say they’re going to “Xerox” a document instead of “photocopying” it.

Maintaining a harmonious and productive relationship with influencers requires constant attention with knowing each other’s interests, strategies and goals. It also means tracking new social networking analyses that requires quantitative and qualitative performance metrics. Such as referral traffic, brand awareness traffic, engagement rate, trackable links and conversion goals. Check out Socialbrite’s 14 Free Tools to Measure Your Social Influence. 

Influence: What it is and what it isn’t

In 2017, Häagen-Dazs partnered with millennial lifestyle influencers in New York City to get conversations happening around ice cream. They did and it worked. Overall, the campaign generated 14.3 million impressions and 27,400 social engagements. That’s leverage. Influencer marketing is not a one-off advertising. It’s about building a relationship that, when nurtured, increases profits. 

Resources used

Ad-blocker penetration in Canada: study 

http://mediaincanada.com/2016/09/27/ad-blocker-penetration-high-in-canada-study/

 

Audrezet, A. & de Kerviler, G. (2019, April 1). How brands can build successful relationships with influencers [blog post]. Harvard Business Review, Retrieved from  https://hbr.org/2019/04/how-brands-can-build-successful-relationships-with-influencers

 

Germin8 5 Reasons why Social Media Influencers are Important http://www.germin8.com/blog/5-reasons-social-media-influencers-important/

 

Lerman, K., Yan, X., & Wu, X. (2016). The “majority illusion” in social networks. PloS One, 11(2), e0147617. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147617 https://arxiv.org/pdf/1506.03022v1.pdf

 

RapidBoost 2017: Canadians love social media but Canadian Businesses hat to embrace it! https://rapidboostmarketing.com/canadians-love-social-media-but-canadian-businesses-hate-to-embrace-it/

 

Sherpa Marketing Canadian Social Media Statistics (Updated 2018). 

https://www.sherpamarketing.ca/canadian-social-media-stats-updated-2018-471

 

Socialbrite’s 14 Free Tools to Measure Your Social Influence

http://www.socialbrite.org/2010/12/16/12-free-tools-to-measure-your-social-influence/

 

Try These 12 Strategies to Establish an Influencer Relationship

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/03/01/try-these-12-strategies-to-establish-an-influencer-relationship/#6ac0ed19584b

 

What is Influencer Marketing: An in Depth Look at Marketing’s Next Big Thing

https://influencermarketinghub.com/what-is-influencer-marketing/

 

Three Billion People Now Use Social Media

https://wearesocial.com/blog/2017/08/three-billion-people-now-use-social-media

 

Three Steps to Identify Influencers in Your Industry

https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/06/identify-influencers-industry/

 

Why Branding is Important to Marketing

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/why-is-branding-important-when-it-comes-to-your-marketing-2294845

 

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