In an age of constant connectivity, growing lists of contacts and digital portability, the definition of influencer marketing has gotten a bit muddled. Much of this is because of the group of online platforms that get bunched together under the umbrella term “social media.”
The Dilution of Connections
Social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, the other usual suspects) have given people the ability to maintain more connections than ever. Anyone that someone meets, even for a minute, has the potential to become a connection in the virtual space. In fact, many connections are made between people who have never actually met before in person. This dilution of personal networks with “loose” relationships has thrown a bit of a wrench into the way marketers view influencer marketing. Many see it as less effective, more expensive and far more complicated. However, the proper approach to that “wrench” actually isn’t as cumbersome as it might initially seem. Influencer marketing may in fact be more effective than ever.
Social Network Relationships Are Not Equal
Just like offline relationships, social media relationships come in different levels. No matter what network a user is on (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.), he or she is going to have deeper relationships and interact with certain friends/followers/connections more than others. Users have their best friends, friends, acquaintances, people they say hi to once or twice and, if you’re like me, people that make you say, “Who the heck is that?” Individuals may have more connections than ever, but they still maintain smaller circles of intimacy.
Leveraging Influencers through Social Networks
The key to influencer marketing is filtering through the increasingly greater number of connections that users maintain and locating a target audience’s true connections. Those influencers are different for every target, which means different strategies are needed to be successful.
Strong, strategically-sound influencer marketing filters through all of the connections, even the ones which aren’t trusted and don’t carry influence, and finds the relationships which do. For example, there are many mothers out there who happen to be Facebook Friends with their children’s friends. Those friends do not have influence over her purchase decisions. They are loose connections that dilute her personal network. However, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t also connected to her sister who happens to love your brand and has an opinion that is important.
The rise of social media has given way to a rise in the number of connections that can be maintained by people, which means that a greater number of user connections don’t carry influence and don’t have a great deal of trust. Even though more loose connections are being created and maintained, influencers and people of credibility are still there.
Ultimately, the same rules apply to influencer marketing that always applied: hundreds of "Friends" don't carry the same influence as a few close, intimate friends. In this age of constant connectivity, target audiences are only a click away from their influencers, giving social media the power to take influencer marketing to an entirely new level by finding those influencers online.