The universal law of influencer marketing

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Digital Visitor's managing director Anthony Rawlins.

There’s a big difference between understanding that something works and why something works. That bodies with mass - and therefore energy - are drawn to one another is a universally accepted, and observable, phenomenon. But the reasons why this occurs are still open to theorisation even centuries after Newton’s pioneering work on the universal laws of gravitation.

But as tenuous as it may seem, there are parallels to be drawn between bloggers and general relativity. You see, when influencer marketing first came on the scene several years ago, it suffered from the same fixation on vanity metrics as social media before it. Size mattered, and it was the obvious connection to make.

Clearly, we knew that influencers and the trust they held - and still hold - with consumers worked for marketers. But we didn’t truly appreciate why. Or, at least, there was no general understanding of the nuances of influencer marketing. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry was throwing money at bloggers and vloggers alike. The industry grew and grew.

It’s not about size

With time, of course, comes experience and understanding. As influencer marketing has become an industry standard, interested marketers have sought to better understand exactly what it is about bloggers and vloggers that works. And, as you might expect, size isn’t fundamentally what’s important. Instead, the ability to engage reigns supreme. A wide reach does not an influential person - necessarily - make.

That isn’t to say that a large audience can’t be fully engaged, only that influencer marketers should be looking to build relationships with influencers who do have an engaged following, however small or large that following is. Personally, I’d rather have our message seen by an audience of 5,000 who hang on our every word, that 100,000 who gloss over what we’re trying to say.

Now, in their defence, agencies seem to have sussed this out. But brands remain focused on the vanities of big numbers. Unfortunately, that makes our job difficult, ever striving to build relationships with bloggers who have a large and engaged audience. But I shouldn’t complain; that’s best practice after all.

Thinking outside the box

So, influencer marketing is more about engagement than it is size. But what does that mean for those of us tasked with finding bloggers and vloggers with a following that actually sits up and pays attention?

Well, one thing’s for certain; it’s more difficult to find an engaging blogger than it is a ‘popular’ one. The latter has much more to do with an ‘oh, you have 50k Twitter followers, you’ll do’ mind-set, while rooting out the former is considerably more nuanced. You’re going to need to think outside the box.

For that, a lot of thought should be put into the audience you want to target. There’s no good identifying an engaged influencer if they’re engaging the wrong audience. On the surface, this may seem as simple as approaching travel bloggers about a trip to the alps. But what about foodies, cyclists and skiers unlikely to engage with wanderlust?

From there, it’s a case of manual labour. There are tools to help you identify influence quickly - Klout - but nothing works quite as well as doing it yourself. So, what to look for? Happily, nothing more complicated than the tell-tale signs: comments, shares, etc. The catch? The gold standard for influencers demands engagement across all platforms, from the original blog, to Twitter and Instagram.

And it’s these influencers you need to build an ongoing relationship with. As an influencer marketer they are your biggest asset; the people around which to build your campaigns. After all, the universal law of influencer marketing states that any single body in the universe influences wilfully connected bodies with a “force” that is directly proportional to the product of the engagement of each of its channels.

Anthony Rawlins is managing director of Digital Visitor.

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