“The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated” – Influencer Marketing

At Traackr, we have the amazing privilege of working with leading marketers who pave the way for influencer marketing. The only downside of working with such an innovative group of customers is that at times we forget that the work they do isn’t necessarily a reflection of mainstream marketing just yet. So, it’s good to be reminded from time to time.

My reminder recently was this piece by Greg Satell, “3 Reasons to Kill Influencer Marketing” – Being the BuzzFeed sucker I am, of course clicked the article with the tempting title! Though there is much I don’t necessarily agree with in this piece, what stood out most is that the “influencer marketing” the author wants to kill has been dead for some time now… it’s time to put it to rest.

When Klout launched around the same time we did, both companies were seemingly fighting for leadership of the tech platform to support influencer marketing. However, each of us had a very different approach and a diametrically opposite definition of influencer marketing.

  • Klout’s definition of influencer marketing takes after the populist appeal of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller. A small number of people make things “go viral”. This sucked in quite a few brands, but predictably never really worked. Klout went belly up; Kred did too; PeerIndex pivoted.
  • Traackr’s definition of influencer marketing is based on the fact that around any industry or issue set, a small number of people play a disproportionate role in making a company or product successful. Building a strong relationship with these individuals is a critical part of success. This practice is alive and kicking, and has gained the respect and been adopted by huge leading brands and organizations, like Philips and Asos.

The business of influence marketing is evolving before our eyes. It’s no longer defined by social influence scoring platforms but the ability to sway the beliefs or actions of a business’s target audience. – Sam Fiorella

These differences are the key ideas being confused in Satell’s piece: touching a group of people with a special gift to “create” virality vs. utilizing a niche audience of your key stakeholders to elevate your message. Going viral is simply not the point of influencer marketing, and you definitely can’t plan it – if anything it’s an outcome, a very rare one, not an objective of real influencer marketing. And an influencer by Lee Odden’s definition does not necessarily have a special gift, but has “subject matter authority, credibility amongst a network and most importantly, the ability to affect actions amongst a network.”

Influencer marketing may be a buzz word, but influence is not a new idea. In Margaret Mead’s words, Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have”. In today’s digital world, influencers are selected by their community as those with valued knowledge to share and are trusted with their opinion. Curating relationships with those opinion makers is an essential component of success for the modern marketer.

So in short, if you get into influencer marketing for your video or product to “go viral,” save your money. True influencer marketing can elevate your brand messaging, fuel additional marketing efforts like content creation, boost sales, prove social media ROI, and so much more. But as everything in life, there’s no shortcut to success. Smart influencer marketing requires smart and dedicated marketers to drive results.