What exactly is ‘Influencer marketing?’

Who doesn’t love a good buzzword? If you’re a brand, probably your target audience – and your boss. But today, we’re bombarded with terms that we’re forced to understand, and it’s difficult to know what’s important versus what’s smoke and mirrors.

For example, many critics expected “content marketing” to fade away. Instead, brands not only found value in the practice but are now proving ROI and pushing their creative boundaries to perfect their craft.

But there’s a new belle of the ball: “influencer marketing.” But what is that, exactly? And once you know what it is, how do you execute an effective strategy?

Here’s a Q&A about the new, chic buzzword “influencer marketing.”

You can also check out Traackr and Skyword’s eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing and Influencer Strategy” for detailed advice on how to get started.

Q: What’s a quick definition of “influencer marketing” for those folks who haven’t been wooing influencers for years?
Influencer marketing is a practice that focuses on courting and nurturing relationships with the people who have significant sway over potential buyers for products or services of a specific company.

Influencer marketing has always been around, but traditionally managed by PR firms. They would speak to investors, industry journalists and analysts to earn placements for their clients. The goal was to get a message out to consumers through traditional media outlets.

It’s a little different today. In a recent interview, Traackr’s CEO and founder Pierre-Loic Assayag explained, “The issue marketers face today that led to the recognition of influencer marketing as a ‘thing’ is due to the scaling in volume and impact of online conversations that has increased the number and reach of influencers.”

Q: OK. Great. But how dobrands scale their efforts to get more earned media placements online?
It’s simple. Influencers have the power to sway massive audiences, but they don’t want to feel used during the process. That means building relationships first. But it also means investing in a collaborative strategy through content creation. Brand marketers need tools and process for identifying relevant conversations as well as for building those relationships with social media influencers, bloggers and subject matter experts.

Q: I understand the sway influencers can have, but how do I form authentic relationships with them?
Just be cool. Influencer marketing is a lot like dating. Before you ask a subject matter expert to get involved with you, ask questions and listen. What are their main goals and how can you help them improve their personal brand? If you can show an influencer you care about their professional growth, they’ll become deeply invested in your message and what you do.

Influencers value brands’ support. Skyword founder and CEO Tom Gerace suggests that brands “create a unique experience with the select few people that bring influence, expertise, tone, and brand alignment together. Don’t ask them to write endorsements about your brand on their blog. It’s short lived and it undermines their credibility with their audience.”

Q: Great advice. Then what?
Work with those influencers to create an experience. For example, look at GE Capital.  The company gets influencers to create content for the broad industry, which already trusts them. The content brings insight and news to the GE Capital audience. Everyone’s happy.

If you can look beyond blog marketing and begin to understand how connecting with influential professionals can lead to long-term results for your company, you suddenly see the true professional and personal impact influencer marketing can have.

Buzzword or not, influencer marketing is a crucial component of the digital marketer’s toolkit. You can learn more about Influencer and content marketing during an expert panel, “Content Rising,” going on in Boston on June 18.

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