The Influence of So-Called Influencers Can’t Be Denied
Just when I thought I was starting to fit into my role as editor of CRM magazine—becoming someone with some level of influence in the industry—my ego was put in check and I was hit hard with the stark reality that I have very little influence at all.
At least that is what I can deduce from this month’s feature “Tapping into Social’s Sphere of Influence,” by Assistant Editor Sam Del Rowe. The article cites a recent report from Forrester Research that identifies influencers as “mainstream journalists, industry analysts, subject matter experts, independent bloggers, and certain social media celebrities who have influence in a specific topic or category.” I suppose I could make the case that I meet at least one of those criteria, but it’s probably a stretch. After all, CRM isn’t exactly part of the “mainstream” media. And anyway, I might be better off distancing myself from that crowd given the public’s distrust of the mainstream media right now.
Then came the numbers: “A common criterion for influencers is to have at least 10,000 followers on at least one social platform and to consistently generate a minimum of 1,000 engagements (likes, comments, reposts, shares, etc.) for each piece of content,” says Felix LaHaye, cofounder of influencer marketing company Open Influence, in the article. Who am I to argue? I don’t have anywhere near those kinds of numbers in my fan base. As much as it pains me to say, Kim Kardashian has far more social clout than me. Maybe she can get Mr. LaHaye to expand his definition.
In the meantime, I’ll be content to sit quietly on the sidelines with the other non-influencers while members of the Jenner/Kardashian clan convince their drones of followers which fashion designers to wear, which soft drinks to consume, and which night clubs to frequent.
All kidding—and my own sense of vanity (or lack thereof)—aside, influencer marketing is a very real and valuable strategy for companies to adopt, if they haven’t already done so. With the cost of acquiring new customers rising all the time, smart marketers and advertisers are realizing that having their products touted by internet celebrities with established followings on platforms that people are already using works much better than banner ads on generic websites that are either filtered out by ad blockers or generally ignored. Considering that word of mouth is still the best way to gain new business, influencer marketing makes a lot of sense—and cents. Some companies that have already turned to influencer marketing have reported five times to 10 times the returns on their investments.
The windfall can be great, but influencer marketing is not an easy undertaking. It takes a lot of work and a special skill set to find and enlist the right influencers, negotiate terms, manage them and the content they produce, track the results, and tie them to marketing goals. In the age of ad fraud, the vetting process is vitally important to avoid paying to reach fake followers or paying for fake page views.
Managing costs is just as difficult. Depending on the industry, some influencers don’t need to be paid; being able to say that they were the first to try out the hottest new gadget might be enough. Others will want financial compensation, the rates for which can vary widely depending on the individual influencer, the number and demographic breakdown of his followers, the number of page views, the level of engagement generated, the platforms used, the type of content created, and lots of other variables. A single campaign can easily cost thousands of dollars.
That might seem like a lot of money, but consider this: Brands typically need to create content and then figure out how to target the right people. Influencer marketing removes that challenge because the content is produced and uniquely targeted to a captive audience that is more than willing to listen to and act on whatever the influencer says. And that’s true even if the influencer’s last name isn’t Jenner or Kardashian.
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.