If you google the phrase ‘influencer marketing’ you’ll see alternative suggested searches and headlines from the search engine that are really quite negative, like:
‘Why influencer marketing doesn’t work’
‘Influencer marketing: The Good, the bad and the ugly’
‘Influencer Marketing gone wrong’
‘Influencer Marketing is dead’
‘Don’t call me an influencer’
Not exactly good PR for influencer marketing is it?
Google can’t be blamed for this. It’s simply ranking the content published which reinforces the negative perception that has been building over the past few years of the ‘influencer’, i.e. a person with authority who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others.
This has resulted in the influencer getting a bad reputation. It’s become a dirty word, so to speak. Actual, genuine influencers no longer want to be described as one and others who shouldn’t be known as one popping the phrase ‘Social media influencer’ into their online bios, thinking it makes them one.
What actually is Influencer Marketing?
Think about the last product or service you bought. What made you buy it? Did you see an ad on your social media newsfeed? Maybe someone famous or an expert in your industry suggested you buy it? That’s influencer marketing.
Even though influencer marketing has been around for a very long time, it’s only in recent years that it has become a crucial element of brand promotion, all thanks to social media. In the digital age we live in, our newsfeeds are full of influencers all recommending products, services and experiences to us on an almost daily basis.
An influencer is an individual who has a big following in a particular niche or industry. Think about industry experts, prominent societal figures like the royal family and entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuck and Richard Branson – they are just some of many influencers who help shape not only our beliefs on various issues, but they also play a huge role in helping us make purchasing decisions.
Brands who work with these influencers are endorsed largely by association, either through a Facebook or Instagram advert, interviews on podcasts or vlogs and blogs. That’s what influencer marketing is – a modern day form of ‘word of mouth’ marketing.
Why ‘influencer’ shouldn’t be a dirty word
So now it’s time for me to get on my soap box a bit by explaining why influencer shouldn’t be a dirty word. Here are my thoughts.
# An influencer is so much more than a social media star
I think the problem lies with the fact that anyone can call themselves an influencer if they have a following – a teenage girl with a YouTube channel, a contestant from a reality TV show who has become a household name in the space of 8 weeks (yes Love Island, I’m thinking of you), even a cat with an Instagram profile!
In reality though, are these people / cats really influencers? To me an influencer is someone who is an expert at what they do and has a major, positive impact on the industry they’re in. For example:
- Barack Obama is an influencer in global politics (despite the fact he’s no longer POTUS).
- Steve Jobs is an influencer (and a legend) across the tech industry.
- Anna Wintour is an influencer and pioneer in fashion
These are definitive examples of influencers who transcend digital marketing – their influence is not based on their Instagram followers or how many likes they get on Facebook – they’re known across the world for what they do and have built a positive reputation for it.
# Real influencers don’t care about ‘influencing’ as it’s currently known.
They’re really not bothered by the amount of likes they receive on their latest Instagram post, endorsing products online or how many people follow them on Twitter. After all, that’s not their job (people like me are there for them to worry about that).
Their concern is their job at hand – running a country, creating new technology and fashion if my examples above are anything to go by.
# Influencers put relationships first
This is key. Real influencers are not concerned by being paid to sell the latest fad diet via YouTube before moving onto the next brand and product, they’re focused on the brand they represent – building long-term relationships, happy customers who repeat purchase, a solid reputation as an expert in their field and the longevity of their personal and business brand. That’s how they build their influence.
These influencers can impact our purchasing decisions subliminally without pushing products in our faces via our newsfeeds every day because we feel like we know and trust them. That’s the difference between them as a real influencer and the reality TV stars who make the most of their 5 minutes of fame by earning lots of money, never to be seen again.
# Influencers are a true authority on their topic
They know what they’re doing and they know it very well. They have experience in this field, opinions and thoughts they share with their audiences that are actionable and from a reliable source.
In other words, they’re the go-to expert on that topic. It could be a chef offering recipes, a personal trainer on fitness, a Sales Consultant on how to grow a business or a Graphic Designer on visual branding – wherever their expertise lies, they can give you the advice, skills and products you need to solve whatever issue it is you have.
My final thoughts …
I hope at this point in the blog, you appreciate the difference between a true influencer and a ‘social media’ influencer. I think the issue around the negative perception of influencer marketing lies in the broad definition of what one actually is.
As you can tell, for me (and many others) it means something very different than what’s being fed to us all via our newsfeeds on a daily basis. An influencer has a genuine, long term, positive impact not only on the brand he or she represents, but also the wider industry where they operate.
That’s the true influencer. That’s why ‘influencer’ shouldn’t be a dirty word.
Do you want to become the go to expert in your industry? Creating a good PR strategy can help you do that. Check out my membership site Headliners: The PR & Digital Marketing Academy to learn more.
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