Understanding Influencer Marketing

I have always been fascinated about how one becomes a key opinion leader (KOL) or an influencer. I had this short conversation with a friend who wants to start a blog, so that she can be a KOL. But is being an influencer that simple? Is it just about starting a blog and writing content or posting pretty pictures on Instagram or Facebook?

Before I answer that, based on my own observations and opinion, let’s look at Influencer Marketing and understand where this new marketing phenomenon (if you want to call it a phenomenon) came to be.

The Evolution of Marketing

Marketing has greatly evolved from a decade ago. I remember that 10-15 years ago, the concept of customer-centric marketing came to be. From a product-centric perspective, marketers realised that they needed to truly understand the customer in order to stay ahead of competition. Customers became more entrenched in their own decision making process (researching, asking people about their experience with a certain product) since they wanted to get what they deserve with the money that they spend. Thus, marketers chose a specific niche to give value to, to focus efforts and to spread clear messages about what their proposition was.

After this focus on the customer and making customers happy, marketers found that they can use the entire experience to make the entire product experience memorable. This was then the birth of experiential marketing. With experiential marketing, word-of-mouth became the main objective of marketers. They needed people to talk about the product and tell other people about their personal experience with the brand or product.

With the advent of social media, anyone can now actually share their experience with products that they purchase and with experiences that they had with a service. Way back in 2000, Malcolm Gladwell published a book called the Tipping Point, that talked about three archetypes: the salesperson, the connector and the maven. This is how Gladwell described Mavens.

A Maven is a person who has information on a lot of different products or prices or places. This person likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests … they like to be helpers in the marketplace. They distribute coupons. They take you shopping. They go shopping for you … This is the person who connects people to the marketplace and has the inside scoop on the marketplace.

I thought that his description was a great prelude to what we know key opinion leaders or influencers to be. As early as the year 2000, or even before that (no one knows), the concept of influencer marketing (I believe) was already being practiced but in small circles. Social Media paved the way for KOLs/Influencers to reach more people, once geographically impossible to reach.

What is Influencer Marketing?
As I’ve mentioned, I have this weird fascination for Influencer Marketing. I’ve always wondered how people become influencers. Influencer Marketing is using people with influence to talk about and sell your product and services. They say that for every $1 that you spend on an influencer, it comes back 20x in terms of revenue / sales. I don’t have exact figures for influencer marketing in the Philippines, but it may be true!

In the process of observing celebrity influencers, tier 1 influencers (yes, there are levels!), and other influencers no matter what level, I have come to realize these things about Influencer Marketing.

Who they are?
In terms of personality, I have seen that the effective influencers don’t wear any masks. They don’t pretend to be someone that they’re not. They tell it as it is. This is the reason why influencers come in all shapes, forms, sizes, etc. Banish all judgement on how you think influencers “should be or look like” because a template does not exist. They can be introverts or extroverts. It doesn’t matter. They are very authentic people, and honest about who they are and how they feel. This authenticity builds trust. This trust makes everything they say believable. It makes everything that they do aspirational, and all of the things that they do commands respect.

What they say?
They are known and are effective when it comes to talking or spreading the word about a particular topic. And usually, these are topics that they are truly passionate about! They “talk”, “write”, “vlog”, “draw” with so much passion that the energy is felt by their audience. There is a certain charisma (I actually don’t know if it’s the right term) that draws people to stop, look and listen to this person.

What did they do?
Consistency is something you’ll notice they have. I’m not sure though if this stems from the being passionate about something that they believe in or something that they love doing. So if it’s blogging, they always have new and relevant content that contains experiences that resonates with their audience. If it’s posting in social media, they constantly post Instagram stories or status that slowly builds and tells a “story” about their life or about who they are as real people. They deeply engage with brands that they love, that help their “cause or advocacy”, and are proactive with reaching out to them.  They also engage only with brands that they authentically love!

Obviously, as an influencer, it took quite some time to get to that status, and it takes hard work and constant reiteration of what you believe in and what you stand for. And that “reiteration” is not a blatant, hard-sell kind of a thing. Since everything is authentic, the “message” is intertwined with the influencers lifestyle. It’s almost impossible to distinguish what is “sponsored” and what isn’t.

These are my thoughts on Influencer Marketing. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this? Think of an influencer that you know and tell me what makes you gravitate towards that person (leave your thoughts on the comment section below). Why do you think what he / she says and does makes a huge impact or resonates with you?

Together, let’s analyze how influencers become influencers! 🙂