In the days before mainstream social media, when someone was looking for a particular product or service, they might ask their friends or neighbors to see if they had any recommendations. Those recommendations were often trusted over a phone book search or newspaper ads, but social media has redefined who our neighbors and friends are. Today, those “friends and neighbors” are social media influencers, and they are who people listen to and trust, especially when it comes to content marketing and product reviews.
So what exactly is a Social Media Influencer?
In it’s simplest form, an influencer is anyone who people trust and follow on social media. They may have 100 followers or 100 million followers. Their followers value and listen to their opinions. When an influencer shares a product, their followers are more likely to trust and purchase that product than unaffiliated advertising alone.
Now, it’s worth noting that influencers can get a bad rap. Often people consider influencers self-serving, vain, and very willing to sell themselves to make a profit. However, today, that doesn’t hold true in all corners of social media. For millennials and Gen Z, authenticity and transparency are extremely important. That means that ‘influencers’ who are just in it for the money and fame are finding it harder and harder to succeed. On the other side, influencers that demonstrate authenticity and consistently showcase the ‘behind the scenes’ or messiness of their lives have grown a loyal fanbase. Users trust them to give their honest opinions of products, services, and general life advice. The results are a familiarity and loyalty that holds great sway over followers.
Influencers offer a perception of authenticity and connection that followers trust because of the appearance of friendship. Users often follow influencers who they see as familiar, or similar, to them. This means, in the eyes of their followers, an influencer has high credibility when suggesting or reviewing a product. This credibility, and power, over audiences are one of the defining changes of the last few decades that has shifted PR, marketing, and brand management into the hands of social media influencers.
Having a spokesperson of sorts is nothing new for companies, however, the methods, recruitment, and marketing strategies have vastly changed. One of the most instrumental changes that social media brought about was the re-defining of who controls the brand’s narrative. Social media shifted the source of the conversation. Historically, brands had the vast majority of the control over how their brand was presented and their product used. With the popularity of social media building, a new, public forum for brand discussions was born, and influencers capitalized on that. And companies had a choice: meet people where they were, or continue using traditional marketing avenues that are becoming less and less effective among younger generations.
Thus, influencer marketing was born and collaboration between influencers and brands became a vital part of marketing. They are partners in reaching and marketing to their audiences. So in all this, how do you, as a small business, even begin collaborating with a social media influencer? Come back next week for Round 2: How to find and partner with social media influencers!
Too excited to wait for round 2 next week? Here’s a little something from our friends at Influencer Marketing Hub to tide you over until then: 100+ Stats on Influencer Marketing