Mark Zuckerberg said, “People influence people; nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the holy grail of advertising.”
The case for Influencer Marketing
We may be looking to try a new brand of skin cream, try out a new salon, dine out in a restaurant, exchange your dishwasher, go on a holiday, pick a dentist for a consult, evaluate schools to finalise the admission of our child or recruit a personal assistant. We keep in mind our past experiences; rely on the insights of people we look up to and make up our minds on what we need. As internet penetration has been on the rise, social media will have nearly 3 billion users and thus, their habits of consuming information are changing.
The traditional methods have been to gather information from print, electronic media, friends and family. Over time, we are shifting towards the internet, emails and social media. We hear from brands directly; the marketing managers are putting a lot of effort to make sure that they communicate the value proposition of their products and services effectively to their target customers. They feel that their communication appears authentic and the brand is being perceived as reliable.
However, the customers have started relying on the feedback from users and the view of the experts. There are several platforms dedicated to gathering customer feedback; for example, employees go to glassdoor to talk about their experiences with their employer and thus, a potential employee builds his or her perception about the company to decide if he or she should sign up. Similarly, there are platforms like mouthshut, productWiki which give user reviews. Popular social media like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook have loads of content talking about a product or a service.
Seth Godin rightly says, “People do not buy goods and services; they buy relations, stories and magic.” Brands have to bring stories to their prospective customers either by themselves or by the people trusted by their prospective customers.
How do we go about it?
We have to find real people who are passionate about our brand and have the experience of using our brand. Celebrities may have a huge influence on the target audience, however, in today’s world, especially social media, one is looking for genuine reviews and first-hand experience with the brand. Even if a celebrity endorses a product, the opinion might come across as a piece of review that lacks authenticity and genuineness. Consumers could feel that the message of the celebrity is sponsored by the brand and hence, not genuine. So, we need to find real people who have a large influence, for example, a blogger or a vlogger in the related field.
Employees of an organisation can be strong influencers when they share their real-life stories and talk about their first-hand experiences on a social media platform. Sometimes, an employee could be an expert in a particular field and the opinions shared by him or her could be highly valued. And it is important to organise real-time interactions with the followers. We have to encourage the employees to keep sharing their stories on social media platforms and recognise their efforts to help our brand positively. We have to amplify the voices helping the brand.
Customer testimonials are a great way of influencing prospective customers. However, the feedback of the customers must be real-time and relevant; else, the brand could appear outdated, inconsistent and unreliable.
What about the traditional methods?
A question arises if the traditional methods of advertising and digital marketing to create the pull are irrelevant now. Influencer marketing will pick up in the days to come; early adopters have been the brands that are modern and new. In the days ahead, we will see the traditional channels adapt to the new developments and bring out innovative programmes for brands to leverage their reach.