Influencer Marketing: Stop Looking for the Pied PiperOne of the big focuses in social marketing today is influencer marketing.

The idea being that if you can get one person to tell something to their large audience, their audience will listen.

For organizations this is seen as less effort and potentially high response.

In reality, things aren’t that simple.

Let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind when you approach influencer marketing.

What Are You Trying to Influence?

When we talk about influence there is always the conversation about how you define influence, and thus define an influencer.

Let’s ask a different question – What are you trying to influence? This will dictate what you measure and how you approach the situation.

Most people can boil it down to two things on social platforms:

  1. Get your content to spread and be consumed by your target audience; or
  2. Get your target audience to respond to your call-to-action.

Different objectives may define different influencers.

Context is King

We form relationships within a context. As you and I talk about a specific subject such as social media marketing, we begin to build a relationship around that specific topic. If we build a trusted relationship around this subject, you will be likely to consume the content I share on this subject over time.

If, all of a sudden, I start giving you parenting advice, you may look at me like I’m nuts. You don’t have any idea if I have kids or if I’m a good parent or a bad parent. We consume and act on information we find credible because of the source. Different sources (your relationships) carry a different weight of trust based on the subject.

Relationships are Dynamic

The more we talk to each other the more of a relationship we build. Over time we have the opportunity to build trust. If we stop talking, our relationship starts to decay. These relationships form the paths in how people share and consume information.

I might listen to you today, but not in a week because our relationship has changed. This is the most challenging aspect of dealing with social networks. They are extremely dynamic, and that creates an environment where what you knew yesterday may not be true today.

Influence is Defined by the Person Being Influenced

I don’t believe in the magical influencer. There is not one person who speaks to the masses and *voila* everyone does what they say. Influence is a very personal thing and it is unique to every one of us. It is much more about the behavior of the person consuming the information, as opposed to the person pushing a message.

We like to focus on people who can push a message to a large group of people, because this is what mass marketing platforms such as television have taught us for the past 60 years.

People who have a ton of friends and followers are interesting and they create hypothetical impressions, but the real questions are:

  1. Who consumes their messages?
  2. Who passes their messages on?
  3.  Will those people respond to their calls-to-action?

Let’s use an example. Assume you have Susan, Mike, and Tim. Susan may consume the running content Tim produces because she trusts him on that particular subject, and Tim may do the same when Susan speaks. Simple. Now let’s take Mike. Mike may hear content on running from Susan, and not consume it. He may hear it from Tim and not consume it. But when he hears it from both Susan and Tim, he does. It is more about the behavior of the person consuming than the person sharing.

All of these points are examples of the relationships between two or three people. Expand this to thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people, with hundreds of thousands of social actions, and it gets complex quickly.

Influencer marketing will not succeed if you’re looking for Pied Pipers – the most influential or popular people the market considers today. It is time to evolve our thinking and fulfill the promise that social originally promised. Community.

Matt Hixson

Matt Hixson is CEO and co-founder of Tellagence. With co-founder Nitin Mayande, Matt is pioneering a new front in big data and communication:  identifying how human interactions with technology influence social media outcomes. The son of an entrepreneur, Matt possesses a deep reservoir of curiosity, inventiveness and energy – supported by an extensive educational background. Claiming both an MBA and CPA, he asks colleagues not to hold that against him, and somehow manages to be rather charming in spite of his many degrees and accolades. 

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