Influencer marketing is a term heard quite often in the customer loyalty industry. Some people know quite a bit about how it works and its impact on consumers, while others might have heard of it, but don’t really know much about it.

Inga Johnson, SVP of Marketing & Brand at Experticity, discussed the intriguing topic of influencer marketing with Loyalty360

Can you define influencer marketing for our audience and how it can impact customer loyalty/customer engagement/customer experience?

Johnson: Influencers are individuals that have an impact on changing a consumer’s opinion or buying behavior. Simply put, some opinions matter more than others. Influencers fit into a very wide range of categories, from celebrities (Beyonce), to social media content creators (YouTube stars), to category professionals (yoga instructors), to retail influencers (Sephora associate).   

Influencer marketing focuses on the idea that having a trusted voice recommend your product in a very targeted manner can be highly impactful for your brand. If done correctly, influencers can create a more authentic interaction with your brand and deliver a very personalized recommendation of your product. 

Why is influencer marketing becoming more of a trend in 2016?

Johnson: There are several key factors driving the move to influencer marketing:

Consumers today have more choices than ever on what to buy. Every purchase comes with a wealth of information, making it difficult to find a trusted opinion. If every product review now averages 3.5 stars out of 100s of reviewers, is that really that helpful? Influencer marketing is helping consumers find the few opinions that really matter

Research shows that consumers are still looking for guidance on what to buy, but they are turning away from traditional marketing. Only 4% of consumers believe marketers act with integrity. McKinsey claims that at the moment of purchase, consumer led marketing (including social media, reviews, point of sale interactions and individuals you know) accounts for almost 74% of the final purchase decision. 

Ad blocking is a very real problem for most marketers and brands, and the issue only accelerates as you look to involve the Millennial segments; $21 billion is the expected loss to publishers in blocked revenue in just 2016.). Marketers are having very real conversations about an “Ad Free” future and turning their focus to earned media.

Can you talk about the dos and don’ts of influencer marketing?

Johnson: What to do:

Do double down on trust and authenticity. The influencer’s most important currency is trust so brands should take care to preserve an honest relationship with their audience. 

Do go for the long-term relationship. How do you create a long-term advocate versus a single paid post?
Align your influencer strategy with your buying journey. Social is only 1/3 of the equation. Keller Fay’s recent study shows that 2/3 of all buying conversation happen offline. Think about how to get great influencers online, in the field, and at the point of sale.

What not to do:

Don’t fail to disclose if you pay. The influencer’s ability to remain authentic can be enhanced if you allow transparent relationships.

Don’t be lured in with high follower count. Reach is not the only measure of influence. Think more deeply about their credibility, proximity, passion and authenticity. 

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