PR Daily reported yesterday that “influencer marketing” is on the rise. A pair of recently released studies have outlined a few of the ways that brand marketing is evolving, and what some of those strategies can and should look like. Among the most compelling findings are the stats about consumer behavior – like how (according to one study) 92 percent of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source, and referrals are found online 81 percent of the time.
If you’ve been paying any attention to consumer behavior in the last decade, these figures shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you. What is surprising is the number of brand managers that are still wary of establishing one-on-one relationships with their customers – particularly those that represent not what they brand is now, but what the brand should be in one, three, five, ten years.
As a whole, brand managers are acknowledging that the “spaghetti on the wall” approach to promotion is, at best, for short games only. Brands that are here for the long haul need to master subtlety and persistence – the art of growing and changing with their customers over time so they can maintain deep, daily relevance. And while it’s important for any brand to stay prominent in the minds of primary [current] audiences, the secret to everlasting vitality lies in partnering with the social leaders of the future. Here are three things to remember:
1. Don’t dismiss an influencer out of hand because they don’t draw a large crowd. You’re cultivating relationships based on more than numbers, aren’t you? What about personality, socially conscious behavior or quality of content? If the individual shows great potential to be an innovator in your industry, be among the first to support them. You don’t have to afford them all of the perks that go to your Big Guns, but regularly including them in your promotions or empowering them to create on your behalf will do wonders.
2. What they do online is only part of the story. If they’re new to your crowd, they may not have had time to develop a large audience. Instead, they may be spending their time in front of actual people by teaching, speaking, organizing events or building new initiatives. Take a moment to consider their plans for getting out into the world over the next year. The online audience will come later.
3. You might not have the time, but we do. PR Daily cited another study that found that two of the biggest challenges to influencer marketing revolve around not having enough hours in the day to identify relevant people and then develop and maintain those relationships. If this is your reason for not investing in influencers, pull in a team that can do it for you. Before you hand them the keys and send them on their way, however, insist on setting clear expectations for the people you want to find, what you’ll provide to the influencer, what you expect in return, and how you’ll measure your progress every 3 months.
Remember: influencer marketing is only partially about immediate goals. The best brand/influencer relationships can last for years on end, and if you regularly reach out to new people that best embody your brand’s most meaningful qualities, you’ll have a rare chance to look into your brand’s future.