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How hot is influencer marketing right now?

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Influencer marketing is now more searched for, via Google Trends data shown above in blue, than email marketing or social media marketing as a whole. Influencer marketing is the latest, the greatest, the hot thing that every marketer has been mandated to master.

Yet when we look at the science behind most influencer marketing, we discover that there isn’t much science at all. Work with any marketing, PR, or digital agency on influencer marketing to determine who’s influential, and what we’ll get back 9 times out of 10 is a list of people by follower counts. If we’re lucky, we’ll get engagement numbers.

Measuring influencers by follower counts and engagement numbers is like measuring automobile value by the size of the gas tank.

There’s so much more to influencer marketing, so much more rigor we could apply to the discipline.

Poor Influencer Science Impact

The impact of this “big numbers don’t lie” mindset in influencer marketing is straightforward: big audiences, big dollar costs. We marketers face influencers asking for outlandish sums of money for a handful of social media posts; the highest ask I’ve heard that was fulfilled by a brand was an influencer charging $140,000 for 4 photos and 3 tweets.

What was the impact? As far as I could tell, lots of very ephemeral brand exposure, and a giant hole in someone’s budget.

Without intelligent analysis of influencers, we risk continuing down this same path of madness, in which people with large audience numbers command egregious sums for unknown impact.

Marketers Held Accountable for Lack of Results

The impact behind the scenes of such a campaign is equally straightforward: when a marketer is asked for the return on such a sizable investment, we have very little to show for the money. We can showcase reach, engagement, and verbatim conversations, but that’s about it. We don’t tie these measures back to anything tangible – not even website traffic.

What happens when we waste a bunch of money? Eventually, our companies sanction us: reduced budgets, negative performance reviews, perhaps even termination if we break the budget repeatedly.

The Different Kinds of Influencers

Virtually every piece of popular marketing literature around influencers talks about how to manage an influencer program, but almost none question how we identify and determine who is influential. Almost all use the same “big numbers” approach instead of something more scientific.

In this series, we’ll examine a different model for influence, one which looks at more than just the “big numbers”. We’ll extend influencer identification past a simple number to understand what’s going to move the needle for our marketing efforts. We’ll delve into three models of influence, and show how each model aligns to our budgets and timeframes.

By the end of the series, we will have a much better handle on who is influential, how to identify them, how to determine if they’re a good fit for the resources we have, and how to succeed as marketers working with influencers.

Ready to find influencers more intelligently? Stay tuned.


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