A version of this post appeared on Edelman Australia Magazine.
The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that “a person like yourself” is as credible a source for information about a company/brand as a technical or academic expert (all three at 60 percent). Influence no longer comes from the top, but predominantly through our peers. Although this is something that most of us have not questioned, we have never truly understood the value or impact of peer-to-peer communication until now. As my colleague Steve Rubel notes, there are three major inversions taking place that all marketers and communications professionals need to be aware of – or probably already know – and need to take seriously: influence, attention and distribution.
Influence is defined as the capacity to impact the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. This definition is important to keep in mind as you develop plans and/or briefs to influence consumers in 2017. So, why it this important when building an influencer marketing strategy?
- Own your program: You have a list of influencers, they all have a larger following and you want to engage with them. Stop. Wrong way. Go back. This approach failed way too many times in 2016. This year, start by considering your overarching goal, what your consumers want, what they are talking about and who they are talking to. Understanding what forces impact them and your brand will help you design a program accordingly. Then consider casting it by choosing the right people – ensuring it is measurable by throwing in an old-school feedback loop.
Remember that ‘influencers’ are their own people with their own thoughts, opinions and cameras. Respect their creative process and relinquish some control but be sure to align on goals/outcomes and go forth and partner with them. You may even influence someone along the way.
- Understand the rise of micro-influencers: Peer-to-peer influence is not a justification to give a fitness blogger with one million followers on Instagram your entire campaign budget to post an image of their choice. Consider micro-influencers, classified as social personalities with approximately 1,000 to 10,000 followers (100,000 followers in the U.S.). Micro-influencers often have deeper engagement and therefore actual influence over their communities, who generally act with more passion as they feel a greater sense of relatability to the influencer. This Digiday Podcast presents an interesting perspective on the “influencer bubble” and the prediction that it just might burst this year. Now, that is not to say there is no place for brands to implement influencer marketing, just that some things need to change.
- Don’t use gimmicks: Consumers today have a limited attention span and do not want to give waste energy on any ol’ brand, for any ol’ reason. 2016 brought great developments in augmented reality, VR, live streaming and other immersive technology to the masses – making ‘shiny new gadgets’ more accessible than ever. Not only do consumers have access to great content produced by all the biggest and best brands, but they now have access to the equipment to make themselves. This access in 2017 means brands need to think practically about the application of new technology and the opportunity it presents to connect with consumers – by focusing on the purpose and storytelling that will make them engage because it either adds value to their lives or at the very least, their news feeds.
- A good story is not told by robots and algorithms: Last year, there seemed to be a growing focus on using the latest technology and tools rather than achieving business or marketing objectives. This year, it is important to be careful not to focus too much on the tools but think about the story, purpose and objective. A bot might be an important component to a campaign but it should not dictate it. Let’s not forget that every time new technology is introduced, Facebook and Google get creative with algorithms.
- Community matters:Like anything, content does not exist in a build-it-and-they-will-come type scenario. With the collision of technology and media, we see a greater importance and power of platforms. As trust in media declines, trust in community and actual “people like me” continues to rise. Marketers need to consider consumers and their community in every interaction. When thinking about distribution, it is critical to consider how your community may respond to a brand communication and whether there is (or should be) an opportunity for them to interact (or react).
- Distribution is not about amplification, it is about planning:As easy as it can be, distribution should not be an afterthought but at the very outset of campaign planning. Thinking about distribution from the very beginning is critical for delivering good and effective ideas. Note: this is not a trend, it is best practice.
This is the year of greater access to technology, greater strength in community and the greatest decline of trust in media. So, to brands, marketers, agency professionals, or anyone who reads this: be curious and keep an open mind, but always keep your eyes on the prize.
Pauline Linton is an associate director, Edelman Sydney.