There’s something to be said about having friends in high places and on the internet especially, this can translate to making your social presence sound like a bigger deal than what it really is. Enter the rise of the social influencer. Influencers are noted for being persuasive in all things they do online and arrive with thousands in their following entourage, with many of those thousands ready to hit retweet, like a selfie, or reblog a post at a moment’s notice.
At first glance, the appearance of these all-powerful influencers looks like a huge, free opportunity and one that major brands must jump on. “Identifying influencers” is now a major aspect for many social media and PR agendas – by targeting those with huge social presences and giving them some VIP freebies, they will then agree to endorse your brand to their own extensive following and through retweets, favorites, likes, and comments, well… there’s no need for an advertising budget, right?
Not quite. It’s easy to fall under the impression that influencers are here to save the day for your company, but remember that only thinking from meme to meme is hardly a long-term strategy when it comes to your overall brand image.
The medium isn’t always right for the message.
Let’s say your company specializes in making leather jackets and you want to get one on the back of someone HUGE in the hopes that they’ll do a quick selfie photo wearing it. You want to aim for more than just a fashion blogger though – someone who is influential to millions as opposed to thousands like Rachel Maddow, for instance. You send over a jacket, her people confirm she got it, and she snaps a quick selfie pic and @ mentions your brand name in it on Twitter.
But as far as the conversation goes, that’s pretty much all she’ll do for your brand. Maddow is a political correspondent so naturally her primary focus will be on reporting breaking news and politics. And even though for one brief moment your jacket was in the spotlight, what does that ultimately mean for sales in the long run? Remember that the medium still needs to be right for the message you’re sending. Don’t solely rely on an influencer who is in a completely different industry than yours to be a guarantee to keeping your sales afloat for years to come.
Few influencers are universal.
Nobody wants to hear this but it’s true. In order to be considered universal, one must have an edge but also be able to appeal to the masses no matter what their age, gender, race, or financial standing is. Universal influencers also must be able to grow with time and as a person, and have an audience that not only understands this but is willing to keep up with these changes and embrace them. If you’re going to work with an influencer, keep in mind that they may change with time (since we're all only human here) and the way they change might not always align with your brand and what it’s all about.
How much trust do we actually put in influencers? 18%.
That’s what Zuberance.com recently reported in an infographic defining what it means to be an influencer versus a brand advocate. Brand advocates, on the other hand, received an overwhelming amount of consumer trust, to the tune of 92%. These same advocates were noted for not needing an incentive to make an endorsement either – they were just satisfied customers who had good experiences and wanted to share them with others.
Is being followed back by the company or nudging them to retweet them to their following something they expect? Probably not, but I applaud any major brand who takes the time to favorite a nice comment or follow these people instead of staying in a tightly enclosed influencer-only box. That acknowledgment only drives home the feeling that you’re still being listened to and your opinions matter, no matter how many or few follow you. And isn’t that what social media is all about anyway?
People who disagree with you are not the enemy.
In his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie famously said, “Don't be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.”
You can’t please everybody, but you can listen and offer to help where you can. If any brand spends the majority of their time trying to appease an elite group of influencers, they’re leaving out an entire audience in the process – one that’s actually very valuable in the long run. In the end, word of mouth still means spending money on advertising and marketing initiatives and making yourself as open, and responsive, to as many people as possible.