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Tapping Into Social's Sphere of Influence
Digital influencers are the new stars of the internet, and the endurance of social media suggests they'll continue to be valuable. Here's what marketers need to know.
For the rest of the January/February 2018 issue of CRM magazine please click here

“We used to use the term ‘influencer’ mainly in the context of traditional media, and PR was primarily focused on convincing them to cover a particular company or news item. Social media has changed all that,” says Annemaria Nicholson, the North American director of content marketing and social media at Cision, a media intelligence company. “With Instagram, YouTube, and even blogs, many people effectively control or even own a means of distributing content. Influencers can come in many different forms [and] each influencer has unique worth and value when it comes to inspiring his or her particular audience.”

THE VALUE OF INFLUENCERS

Experts agree that the trust between influencers and their audiences is invaluable to marketers. “Influencers are real people who have built a following over time and are trusted by their audiences. They are authentic,” says Holly Pavlika, senior vice president of marketing and content at Collective Bias, an influencer marketing company. “They have worked hard to build relationships and place a priority on maintaining them through content that is in their unique voice. Because of this, influencer audiences are more apt to accept the product and service endorsement and act upon the call to action because of the existing trust.”

LaHaye agrees, saying that the key benefit of working with influencers is “using the strong and trusted connection they have with their audiences.” He notes that influencers “rise to prominence thanks to their ability to create relevant content” and “enjoy a special relationship with their followers.”

For these reasons, he asserts that when an influencer’s values align with a company’s, that company benefits from “strong organic engagement and validation.”

From another angle, experts point to a lack of trust in traditional marketing methods and the media in general as a reason for marketers to work with influencers. “Overall, there is a trust deficit in advertising. Most consumers no longer respond as positively to classic forms of marketing,” LaHaye says. “Therefore, by fostering positive collaborations with influencers, brands can reach their target audiences in their comfort zone, benefiting from their associations with these trusted figures.”

Nicholson notes that though “there’s nothing wrong with traditional advertising,” in many cases it is an unwanted interruption and suffers from an inherent lack of trust among consumers because it has been manufactured by the company. This perceived lack of authenticity contrasts with word of mouth, which “is the best form of marketing,” she says, and influencer marketing “is a very powerful way to get word of mouth.”

Maria Pergolino, senior vice president of global marketing and sales development at Apttus, a provider of quote-to-cash software, agrees that voices outside the brand are more credible. “Often potential and current customers don’t want to hear promotional information from a brand, but instead want third-party perspectives about a product or industry,” she says. “Influencers provide this outside perspective.”

INCORPORATING INFLUENCERS

Experts point out several approaches marketers can take to finding and partnering with the best influencers for their particular companies. Jessica Thorpe, president at gen.video, a provider of an influencer marketing platform, says that companies first need to determine what influencer qualities will make a partnership with their brand feel genuine. She warns that “developing and managing a relationship with influencers is time-consuming and sometimes complicated work.” If organizations lack the resources to carry out an influencer program, they should consider partnering with an outside firm that already has the necessary relationships and technology.

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