We know that people trust their friends more than they trust ads; this was the case before social and digital media, and it’ll be the case when we move on to the next innovation in communication. While influencer marketing might seem like a new development for the modern age, it’s really just a new name for tried and true word-of-mouth marketing. In many ways, marketers wanted to apply the old models to the new mediums and channels, but even that is changing as digital influencer marketing matures.
Until recently, influencer marketing was all about reach and impressions: The more followers you had the more influence you had. Popular bloggers, models, and Hollywood celebrities were the ideal influencers because they had the biggest followings, and impressions were an easy measure of success. That model is on its way out. Reach and impressions are nothing if people aren’t listening, and marketers are realizing that people are more influenced by trust than by popularity. Ask yourself who would you trust more, a popular blogger or a friend?
In this next evolution of social media influence, trust is paramount. Everyday consumers have a relatively small but loyal social media following of friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors and closely held social media connections. The average consumer is more likely to trust the people with whom they have closer relationships, based on real, authentic connections. These “micro-influencers” may or may not have professional expertise, but they definitely have personal experience, and a network that trusts them to offer relevant and authentic recommendations. These more intimate relationships are the ones that facilitate high levels of engagement, measured in the form of clicks, likes, comments and shares on product recommendations -- ultimately influencing sales.
This is good news for brands. When aligned with their values, lifestyle, interests and hobbies, everyday consumers are enthusiastic about the opportunity to influence their network. In fact, alignment between the product and lifestyle is an essential factor in this type of influencers’ ability, and willingness, to make an authentic recommendation. Keep in mind, these influencers are not paid like popular bloggers; they often just receive free product. So if the product doesn’t fit with their personal brand -- and everyone has a personal brand in this day and age -- these influencers won’t talk about it. If they do talk about it, their network will sniff out the inauthenticity a mile away and their influence will be diminished.
In addition to identifying them based on lifestyle, values and interests, everyday consumers can be targeted based on where they live, how they shop, and what they buy. If you’re a brand marketer launching a new dairy-free dessert in California, it might not make sense to enlist a popular vegan blogger with a large, nation-wide following. Instead, you could offer a couple thousand dairy-free consumers in California a free coupon for your new dessert, redeemable at their local natural retailer, and measure the results based on in-store redemptions and social media mentions about your product.
So how do you find these micro-influencers? You can choose to tap into a niche online community, and sample your products to targeted consumers in exchange for an online review or a social post. The benefit of a third party solution is in their ability to scale and execute a campaign quickly, manage the logistics of the product sampling, and track the social media engagement. Or you can activate the power of micro-influence within your own community by inviting your most loyal fans to try your new products for free in exchange for an online review or social post. These micro-influencers will not only be thrilled to try your latest product, but will also be happy to rave about it to their friends and family. Some brands take it one step further by promoting a contest on their product packaging, inspiring customers to share their product experience on social media -- tapping into the power of micro-influencers.