Sam Fiorella, co-author of Influence Marketing, describes influence as “the swaying of beliefs, behaviors or actions.” This concept of influencer marketing can apply to brands, companies, individuals, salespeople — just about everyone! Until recently, big brands would rely on celebrities and popular bloggers to promote and market their brands but today the wave is shifting from companies and corporate accounts to users and consumers, who are playing a new key role as the influencers who control the very markets that they shop in.
And there are probably lots of examples of this happening in your daily life. Maybe you tried a new airline on a recent trip because your friend said it was an amazing experience or a great deal. Think of that new gadget that you never planned to buy, but when you saw your coworker using it in a meeting, then suddenly you knew you had to have it! This is the power of authentic influence and it’s not a celebrity playground anymore, just us, the common folks, who wield greater power than ever, due to our use of social media.
And brands are taking notice. A recent McKinsey study states that marketing involving word of mouth generates twice the sales of paid advertising along with 37% higher customer retention rate. Of course, the rise in social media has played a crucial role in this shift – since it acts as a shared platform where peers actively recommend and share details on purchasing decisions. This growing role of peer recommendations, likes, shares and retweets on social media provides more evidence of the importance of influencer marketing. As Scott Cook, CEO of Intuit said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” And in 2016 we are sure to witness the continued acceleration in the use of influencer marketing.
But it’s not just about products and big brands. We can also be influenced by people, and we can influence other people ourselves. Maybe you call this being a thought leader, or maybe you call it becoming a ‘Guru,’or a ‘Social Media Rock Star,’ but whatever you call it, it can be a way to expand the reach and influence for your personal brand.
We’ve talked before about how to get in contact with influencers who can help you build your personal brand, but just imagine what it would be like for YOU to be the influencer. You could be the one using social media to plant the seeds of your ideas in the minds of your followers — creating raving fans and a loyal audience for your viewpoint.
So it shouldn’t surprise you that the principle behind influencer marketing isn’t rocket science, but it can be as simple as:
Know -> Share -> Track -> Revise
- Get to know your community: Identify your audience and start to understand what’s important to them, and what they need and think about. In order to show that you care, you’ll have to know the things they care about and invest time in them – so that they can see the value in following you and engaging with you. And don’t be afraid to start small. It can help you stay focused and carve out a niche space. Go for quality when starting out, and worry about increasing your follower count later.
- Share quality content: Give people substance when you interact with them. This means writing and reading quality content in your topic area of interest. Generic likes or shares won’t cut it anymore, if you plan to be an influencer. So put in the time to find cool new blogs, videos, podcasts and information that your community finds useful and engaging. Put together a shortlist of the most important topics of the day, and maybe the most controversial! Then start working on your viewpoint of them, and what you think could be or should be done. If you want your audience to eagerly await the next big thing from you, you’ll have to pull out the big guns, i.e., get good research done, and find the right angle for your content, to make sure your voice can resonate. When you’re ready, move beyond social spaces, and get into speaking engagements. And you can even decide to write that book that you’ve been thinking about.
- Track your reach: Use social media measurement tools like Buffer, or Hootsuite, or Mention, that can help you track and understand the buzz you make in the social media space. You can use these tools to judge the level and depth of influence that your personal brand has, and respond to conversations with your followers and fellow thought leaders. Be part of the conversation, and commit yourself to always pushing the thinking further.
- Revisit your results and learn from your mistakes: Since you’re using the latest analytics and tools to measure your progress, occasionally you’ll want to step back and see if you’re still on track. What kinds of content worked, and got a lot of positive response from your community? What kinds of topics did you participate in where you maybe didn’t come across as an expert? Or maybe someone else stepped in and answered a difficult question better than you did. Don’t take these “mis-step-moments” as set-backs, but instead look at them as chances to learn, and improve your content.
2015 saw a real time deployment of influencer marketing by brands like Jaguar and Capital One. And a new group of consumers-as-influencer-marketers are just now emerging who have the power to become ambassadors of brands, products, services and even themselves. Since you are the most important product that you work with everyday, you will need to grow your personal brand and its reach in meaningful ways to establish yourself as a real player.
And that’s how you’ll unleash your inner Rock Star.