The answer might just surprise you. Why? Because so many influencer agencies and a fair number of brand side marketers don’t believe there is a difference between the two. But, as my friend Jason Falls says in his new book, Defining Winfluence, that pesky little “R” at the end makes all the difference in the world both in terms of definition and more importantly, success of your influencer marketing programs.
So let’s talk about influencer marketing today because frankly, based on what I’ve seen over the last year, it’s woefully broken for any brand that isn’t a beauty, food or demonstrable device brand.
Influence vs InfluenceR — The Difference
The Webster Dictionary defines Influencer as: a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.
The Oxford Dictionary agrees, with their definition of Influencer: a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by recommending it on social media.
But here is the key… look back at the bolded, italicized words in those definitions. Those aren’t from either dictionary, they’re my addition.
And those phrases are the KEY to understanding the difference between Influence and Influencer Marketing. An influencer is simply a media vehicle… someone with a significant following and that following gives the influencer a platform. This platform is what gives them the ability to influence at scale.
But just because a 100,000 people follow an influencer because said influencer is funny, super good looking, or any of the myriad of reasons consumers choose to follow anyone on social media, that doesn’t instantly translate into influence (no R).
To see why, let’s look back to Oxford and Webster — Oxford defines influence as “the effect that somebody/something has on the way a person thinks or behaves” and Webster says influence is “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.”
And that’s why that little “R” at the end of InfluenceR Marketing is so damn important. If you fail to confirm that your influencer actually has influence over their followers in terms of the product/service you sell, then you likely plan to fail in your influencer marketing efforts.
The Problem With Influencer Agencies
Ok… let’s get something out of the way up front… this section paints with a VERY broad brush. In my work with clients who hire influencer agencies vs having Converse Digital manage their influencer marketing programs, I’ve noticed a few alarming trends that all ladder up to a single insight.
Influencer agencies don’t really care about the “R” because they view influencers like media vehicles. The only thing they really focus on is potential reach just like media vehicles who base their rates and clout on subscriber/viewer/listener counts.
But when you do that, aren’t you just buying ads vs influence? Sure, there is probably some benefit to the fact the content is crafted by an influencer vs an outright ad from a brand. But, does that really justify the cost-per-influencer engaged that these agencies charge?
So if you’re like me, and that “R” really, really matters to you, you end up going round and round with these agencies just trying to get an approved list of influencers to work with on a campaign or brand.
I think there are tons of other issues that I’ve noticed, especially around media amplification, reporting, etc., but that’s another post.
How To Create an Influence Marketing Program
If you truly want to create an influence vs influenceR marketing program, here are the six steps I’d recommend.
- Spend some serious time and likely a wee bit of money fielding a really well done Social Reconnaissance effort to uncover potential influencers that YOUR customers and potential customers actually follow.
- Determine what your true goal(s) are for your influencer marketing program – are you just looking to get eyeballs on your brand/product to drive awareness and interest that can be converted to sales? Or are you hoping to develop your influencers into true brand ambassadors that don’t just pimp your brand because of or when you pay them to but truly love or fall in love with the brand/product/service and organically support you even without pay to play money behind every mention or post.
- Set a realistic budget and success metrics
- Begin building relationships with those influencers. Follow them, consume their content and introduce yourself. You know… make friends.
- Then begin outreach. In my mind, this is where the art really comes into play. You don’t always have to lead with “hey do this and I’ll pay you that” offers. Nope, if you really get to know the influencers first, you can get creative and develop truly win-win programs that aren’t just money based.
- Once you have your influencers lined up, messaging built and communicated… GET OUT OF THEIR WAY. Yep, while every brand manager bone in your body will want to influence or control their content… don’t. Let them do their thing. If you’ve done your research correctly, there should be little to no real potential for brand damage. So just let them do their thing and help deliver the goals you’ve established for your influence marketing program.