Digital influence is one of the hottest trends in marketing and it is also one of the least understood. Instead of sweating over ways to identify and engage with popular bloggers online, marketers should first make friends with people, who already love them – their satisfied customers.
According to McKinsey, a recommendation from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low-impact recommendation from a celebrity, blogger, CEO, columnist, or Internet personality.
These popular people are inauthentic, but as long as many people listen to what they have to say, brands pay them (or give them goods) to convey their message to their followers. Don’t get me wrong, I follow popular people, they’re entertaining, but I’d never follow their advice, because I know they are paid to endorse brands and have no true passion for them.
Popular people can help with raising awareness, they can get your content views, but they won’t necessarily inspire action.
How to measure influence, anyway?
Influence and popularity are not the same. Determining influence is more tricky as it’s not simply a numeric value. The researchers hypothesized that users of Twitter are the more influential the more they manage to overcome their followers’ “passivity”.
I would say that influence is the balance between the number of people who follow you and the number of people who share your content. In other words, you can have 100 blog readers, and create reason for all of them to buy – that’s influence. Or you can have 100,000 blog readers and create reason for only ten of them to buy – that’s popularity.
True indicators of influence are returning visitors, because they are more invested in what you do. With regular visitors, you are able to cultivate a true relationship. Over time, those visitors become invested in your brand and truly care about what you have to say. Influence is more pro-active concept and therefore more valuable and challenging to cultivate.
How to engage influencers?
Forget about story-telling. Create a movement of passion. Movements are always powered by real people, not popular people you pay to talk about you.
Notice how big brands like Apple, Dove and Skype create movements of passion, where they don’t just stimulate buzz, they ignite passions through engaging the true believers who “get” who they are and are fanatical about their brand.
Movements of passion are about cultural ideas on the rise (think: sharing economy, equal opportunities, negative body image etc) – these movements do not start with products. But people will automatically “buy into” the brand by being part of its movement. So you won’t have any need to actually talk about products, which makes it less awkward when you reach out to influencers. The idea is not to ask influencers to cover the product, but rather to ask them to cover the movement. Unlike campaigns, movements are lasting and non-commercial by nature, which is why people are drawn to them.
Make influencers part of your movement and they’ll understand the brand and its worth far greater than if you just invite them on a factory tour or send them free product.
Because what’s going to influence your behaviour more? A vote of confidence from an online celeb? Or an overwhelming statements of support from hundreds, or thousands of actual customers who have experienced the product and love it?