The general concept of influencer marketing has been around for decades. Think of OJ Simpson and Hertz Rent-A-Car. Actually – scratch that – probably not an ideal example.
Influencer marketing has been heightened exponentially with advent of social media… and has been on fire the past 3 years. Why? There is no barrier to entry. Anyone can become an influencer. I’m a perfect example. I absolutely consider myself an influencer. I started as an influencer in the basketball space and have transferred to the corporate space.
How is that possible? You no longer need to be a celebrity to be an influencer. In fact, the majority of the most impactful and successful online influencers today are not famous athletes, actors or musicians.
They are normal people who have built a loyal platform of evangelists. How did they do that? They earned credibility by establishing a true connection and having an attractive charisma when communicating their perspective.
It’s important to clarify that in order to be an impactful influencer, you do not need a massive social media following. You simply need a loyal one. Being an influencer and being popular is not the same thing. An influencer is someone who has the ability to sway the perception and beliefs of other people (and can get them to think, behave and in most cases, buy differently).
Why is influencer marketing so attractive to brands? It is more innovative & nimble, more effective & efficient and less expensive than traditional forms of advertising. Not to mention it has much higher believability and trustworthiness. In today’s age of digital bombardment, we are exposed to thousands of advertisements per day. Consumers are growing immune to this white noise.
To cut through the noise, brands look for influencers that possess the 2 C’s: Credibility and Connection
1 — Credibility
Influencer marketing is the power to change people’s buying decisions. In order to do this, influencers must establish credibility. How? By earning the trust of those that follow you. How do you do that? You are honest. You are open. You are vulnerable. You are real. And most importantly, you are all of those things consistently. You also demonstrate firm knowledge and expertise in your specific area of influence.
Trust and credibility can only be earned over time. It can take months, and in many cases years, to earn the trust and build a genuine over a community. There is no silver bullet to becoming a valuable influencer.
And while it takes time to establish trust, earn credibility and build a community – you can lose all 3 in a split second. A lapse in judgment can undermine you immediately (think of my aforementioned OJ reference!). This is why influencers need to guard and protect their credibility with the same fervor that brands do. They need to be very cautious not to ‘sell out’ (only endorse or promote something because they are being paid). This is one of the quickest ways to lose credibility.
The most successful influencer marketing is centered on creating true alignment between influencers and brands. Influencers should only advocate for the brands they believe in and the brands they themselves use. An influencer should share your brand with their community because they want to – not because they are being paid to.
2 — Connection
Connection is made through engagement. As the name implies, social media is meant to be social. The most powerful influencers establish a trusted connection because they engage with their community. How do they do that? They listen. They listen to what their community wants. They listen to what their community needs. They listen to the challenges their community faces. And then they address them by curating and creating content that adds value to their following.
They also know, that when it comes to influencing a buyer’s decision, telling is not selling. They aren’t pushy. They aren’t salesy. In fact, they aren’t trying to convince anyone to buy anything. They are simply sharing their opinion, beliefs and perspective… and let their community make up their own mind.
Connection is deepened by charisma. By definition, charisma is ‘possessing a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.’ But don’t let that definition mislead you. You don’t have to as attractive as Holly Berry or as charming as George Clooney to be a powerful influencer. You simply have to be authentic. You have to be genuine. You have to have confidence. Regardless of how old you are or what you like, you will massively increase connection by being real.
In summary, effective influencer marketing takes time. It marries the credibility and connection of an influencer and their community to advocate a brand’s products and/or services.