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Influencer marketing (also influence marketing) is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential customers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.
Influencer content may be framed as testimonial advertising where they play the role of a potential buyer themselves, or they may be third parties. These third parties exist either in the supply chain (retailers, manufacturers, etc.) or may be so-called value-added influencers (such as journalists, academics, industry analysts, professional advisers, and so on).
In the United States, influence marketing is treated by the Federal Trade Commission as a form of paid endorsement, governed under the rules for native advertising; the agency applies established truth-in-advertising standards to such advertising and establishes requirements for disclosure on the part of endorsers (influencers).
Most discussion on the generic topic of social influence centres on compliance and persuasion in a social environment. In the context of influencer marketing, influence is less about argument and coercion to a particular point of view and more about loose interactions between various parties in a community. Influence is often equated to advocacy, but may also be negative, and is thus related to concepts of promoters and detractors.
The idea of a "two-step flow of communication" was introduced in The People's Choice (Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet, a 1940 study on the decision making process of voters). This idea was further developed in "Personal Influence" (Lazarsfeld, Elihu Katz 1955) and "The Effects of Mass Communication" (Joseph Klapper 1960).
Influencer marketing tends to be broken into two sub-practices: earned influencer marketing and paid influencer marketing. Earned marketing stems from unpaid or preexisting relationships with influencers or third party content that is promoted by the influencer to further their own personal social growth. Paid influencer marketing campaigns can take the form of sponsorship, pre-roll advertising or testimonial messaging and can appear at any point in the content. Budgets vary widely and are usually based on audience reach.
As a company's brands evolve in terms of marketing, the cost in relation to the possible benefits (i.e., purchase) it can receive is very important. The airing a television spot has a high cost, conversely, working with an influencer has a negligible cost. If an influencer has 200,000 followers on their social media site, and a company gives them a product specifically a a marketing tool, which they are to expose to their audience, the company's financial outlay, by comparison would be negligible. The company will have spent less (the cost of the product), but exposed to a more focused group of followers (and theorefore potential purchasers) of the public figure.
As more people use the internet, more people are using online websites to make their purchases. This increase in the number of online purchases forces some companies to invest more resources in their general advertising - on the internet, and in particular, social networks. Marketing through social networks allows for an instantaneous purchase process; a person can see the item and typically be connected to an online retailer immediately. This decrease between lag time - from seeing the promoted item and being redirected to the product - is more effective for spontaneous purchases.
Some marketers use influencer marketing to establish credibility in the market, others to create social conversations around their brand, others yet to drive online or in-store sales of their products. The influencer marketer can also take to marketing diversified products and services leveraging, leveraging upon the credibility earned over time. The value which influencer marketing creates can be measured in several ways. Some marketers measure Earned Media Value (EMV), others track impressions, and others track Cost Per Action (CPA).
Influencer marketing derives its value from 3 sources:
Influencing factors may vary. Sellers traditionally target influential people who are easy to identify, such as the press, industry analysts and high profile executives. For most business-to-business (B2B) purchases, influential people could include shoppers and retail staff. In B2B transactions, the highest value of the influential community can be wide and varied and includes consultants, government-backed regulators, financiers and user communities.
Influencer marketing, in a commercial context, comprises four main activities:
Influencer marketing is continuously improved by constant evaluation done simultaneously with the four main activities.
There is no concensus of what an 'influencer' is. One writer defines influencers as; "a range of third parties who exercise influence over the organization and its potential customers"., whilst another defines an influencer as being; "(a)...third party who significantly shapes the customer's purchasing decision, but may never be accountable for it.". Yet, still another says influencers are 'activists, are well-connected, have impact, have active minds, and are trendsetters'. though this set of attributes is aligned specifically to consumer markets.
Exactly what is included in influencer marketing depends on the context (retail or B2B) and the medium of influence transmission (online or offline, or both), as company's are increasingly eager to identify and work with influencers.
Business is working harder and paying more to pursue people who are trying to watch and listen less to its messages. Targeting influencers is seen as a method of increasing the reach of marketing messages, in order to counteract the growing tendency of prospective customers to ignore marketing.
The first step in influencer marketing is to identify influencers. Influencers are specific to discrete market segments, and are used as conduits to the entire target segment. While there are lists of generic influencers (such as the Time 100) they have limited use in marketing programmes targeted at specific segments.
Market research techniques can be used to identify influencers, using pre-defined criteria to determine the extent and type of influence.
In a study of what traits are associated with the top influencers, one researcher found 4 archetypes of influencers
Malcolm Gladwell notes that "the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts", and identified 3 different types of influencer:
Mavens look to consume information and share it with others, they are extremely insightful with regards to trends.
Salesmen are 'charismatic persuaders'. There source of influence leans toward the tendency of others to attempt to imitate their behaviour. These 3 groups are responsible for the 'generation, communication and adoption' of messages.
Currently, most of the material on influencers focuses on consumer markets, rather than business-to-business influencers. A key distinction between consumer and business markets is that most of the focus in consumer markets is on consumer influencers themselves, primarily because word of mouth communication is prevalent in consumer environments. In business marketing, influencers are people that affect a sale, but are typically removed from the actual purchase decision. Consultants, analysts, journalists, academics, regulators, standards bodies are examples of business influencers.
Not all business influencers are equal. Some have more influence than others, and some mechanism of ranking is required, to distinguish between key influencers and less impactful people. One model for ranking business influencers looks at various criteria:
Various companies, worldwide have developed their own proprietary methodologies for identifying and targeting influencers for a market (or market sector).
Influencers can also be defined by the number of followers they have. "Top-influencers", influencers with large followings, become celebrities and generate a strong reach . However, "micro-influencers" are more available to their audiences, create more focused, retainable and attainable content and in the long-run generate higher engagement rates. 
Fake influencers have been around as long as their real counterparts have. All measurements used to determine the veracity of an influencer account can be fabricated. One social media site has shut down third-party sites and apps which provide paid services to individual accounts for buying followers, likes, comments and more. Despite these shutdowns, self-hosted automation apps such as ignored the legal actions and continued to operate.
A marketing agency recently conducted an experiment to test whether fake influencer accounts can profit. The company created 2 fictitious social media influencer accounts - with their followera built-up with bought followers and engagement (likes and comments) and applied to campaigns on popular influencer marketing websites. They published their experiment online with step-by-step explanation of how the accounts were created, and the brands which sponsored them.
An analysis of more than 7,000 UK influencers, showed that about half the followers of influencers with up to 20,000 followers are "low-quality", due to the inclusion of mass followers, bots, and other suspicious accounts amongst their followers'. More than 4 of 10 engagements with this group of influencers are "non-authentic".
A study of UK influencers which looked at almost 700,000 posts from the first half of 2018, found 12% of UK influencers had bought fake followers. 
Web services can be used to trawl social media sites for users that exert influence in their respective communities. The social influencer marketing firm then asks those influencers to try client products or services and discuss them on their respective social networks. Clients can then observe, through an enhanced digital dashboard, with metrics that measure the dissemination of brand mentions across numerous web platforms.
There are at least 70 companies offering online influence measurement. Advocates of this online-only approach claim that online activity reflects (or pre-empts) the trends in offline transactions. For example, Razorfish released one of the first social influencer marketing reports, entitled Fluent. The report discusses many theories surrounding social marketing, including the importance of the push/pull dynamic and online consumer empowerment, authenticity and importance of buzz marketing.
In addition, online activity can be a core part of offline decision making, as consumers research products and review sites.
Critics of this online-only approach argue that only researching online sources misses critical influential individuals and inputs. They note that much influential exchange of information occurs in the offline world, and is not captured in online media. Indeed, the majority of consumer exchanges occurs face-to-face, not in an online environment, as evidenced by Carl. He notes that "an overwhelming majority of word-of-mouth (WOM) episodes (nearly 80%) ... occur in face-to-face interpersonal settings, while online WOM accounted for only seven to ten percent of the reported (WOM) episodes."
Carl concludes that "The majority of the WOM action still seems to be happening in the offline world. These findings are especially provocative since they emerge at a time when more and more organizations are paying attention to how their brands are discussed online and recent academic research has focused on online WOM. Thus it is important for organizations to keep both online and offline conversations on their radar screen."
Keller Fay announced in 2007 that "While experts have previously estimated that 80% of marketing-relevant word of mouth takes place "offline" (i.e., face-to-face or via telephone), the new results indicate that this figure is even higher - 92%."
More recently, Nate Elliott at Forrester observed that "the huge majority of users influence each other face to face rather than through social online channels like blogs and social networks."
With any marketing strategy, risks are involved, and there have been reports of brands dropping their influencers because of the controversies that surround them. One such influencer is famous YouTuber PewDiePie, who's use of antisemitic and racist comments lead to canceled deals from Disney and widespread backlash.
Sources of influencers can be varied. Marketers traditionally target influencers that are easy to identify, such as press, industry analysts and high profile executives. For most B2C purchases, however, influencers might include people known to the purchaser and the retailer staff. In higher value B2B transactions the community of influencers may be wide and varied, and include consultants, government-backed regulators, financiers and user communities.
Forrester analyst Michael Speyer notes that, for small and medium-size business, "IT sales are influenced by many parties, including peers, consultants, bloggers, and technology resellers". He advises that "Vendors need to identify and characterize the influencers in their market. This requires a comprehensive influencer identification program and the establishment of criteria for ranking influencer impact on the decision process."
As well as a variety of influencer sources, influencers can play a variety of roles at different times in a decision process. This idea has been developed in Influencer Marketing by Brown & Hayes. They map out how and when particular types of influencer affect the decision process. This then enables marketers to selectively target influencers depending on their individual profile of influence.
The influence of bloggers and other social media users is a topic of much discussion. This is covered in depth in Paul Gillin's The New Influencers. Brown & Hayes also cover the subject but are less convinced of the importance of the impact of social media, particularly in B2B settings.
In order to achieve the purpose of the business clients, influencers should deliver a change in attitude towards the client's brand or product. The change of the attitude from the viewer takes places from the contents that influencer produces. The change itself is believed as a psychological process in human mind. The psychological process can be explained under the RACE model. RACE stands for reach, act convert and engage. These four steps are designed to help brands engage with their customers throughout the customer lifecycle.
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