Influence is by no means a new subject in the world of marketing. However, this topic has come to the forefront again - and I'm not just saying that because I recently returned from the Kred Influencer Summit in London. The question is: how important is influence in the world of marketing?
Cult of Influence
Bell Curve of Influence and Adoption by Brian Solis reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0 Let's face it, if Influencer Marketing wasn't a thing, this blog post wouldn't exist. From marketing consultants to those like Coltrane Curtis of Team Epiphany, there are plenty of people who bank on the power of persuasion to spearhead their marketing efforts. The power comes from those who are noted leaders, credible sources or otherwise influential personalities. The goal of influencer marketing is the adoption of a product or service by one of these authority figures and their subsequent persuasion of those who follow them into making a purchase. In theory, this hypothesis makes perfect sense, but where can it go wrong?
As marketers' race for influencers became more and more competitive, the monetization of influence became more and more powerful. However, this lead to some so-called influencers becoming mere endorsers to be exploited by brands in the hopes of receiving free product (This was especially true before it was mandated that full disclosure was required if you received payment for "reviewing" a product or service). Objectivity was thrown out the window because consumers had trouble determining when an opinion was real. At a time when transparency would bring the answer to light, the overwhelming discovery was that reality was being obscured or that reviewers touting a certain brand were only doing so for pay. There's a thin line between love and bait.
Another issue that spawned from the influence debate is how it could (or should) be measured. Companies such as Kred, PeerIndex and Klout have their own ways (and algorithms) for measuring online influence. At the height of Influence Marketing, when it was positioned as the new trend in digital marketing, Klout was touted as the industry leader and standard way to measure influence online. This was true until an algorithm change in 2011 started a total firestorm against the company and, to a certain extent, influence marketing as whole. Stories like this didn't help either. Is Influence Good for Marketing? By reading this, you may think that the moral of the story is that influence holds little weight or is not good for marketing. If you are thinking this, I'm sorry to tell you that this is wrong. Marketing itself is built on the idea of influence. Much of digital marketing today is built on the concept of FOMO. FOMO is heavily influenced by, well, influence. What we do as marketers is match an audience with a brand so that we can influence them to eventually make a purchase. Consumers, when researching a brand, often look for those who've already experienced the product or service in order to help them decide whether or not to make a purchase. If that ain't influence, I don't know what is.
Effective marketing has always been generated by a mix of techniques and tactics. This rings even more true when considering digital marketing. Influence is not the sole answer to success. Within the digital space, the correct mix of SEO, paid search advertising, social media, and email marketing will direct you towards the best results. All of your marketing actions and communications contain areas in which influence is important. Just remember, while influence is important, it is not the end all be all of marketing. Do you include influencer marketing into your comprehensive marketing strategy? Have any tips for tipping influencers in your favor? Let us know in the comments below or tweet at me @Mr_McFly.