Ever since Robert Cialdini published his findings about influence and its principles, the theory has been the ever-blinking beacon in a sea of constant change and uncertainty. To this day sales and marketing people employ the great power of the six universal laws of convincing potential customers: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus.
It’s no surprise to anyone that much of what meant marketing and advertising no longer than a decade ago is already obsolete (and quite funny to the newer generations). With so much of our lives having transcended to the online environment, so did pretty much all having to do with promoting products and services.
Lately, however, it’s not just the change in channels that has a big influence on the way publicity is done but also a major shift in customer trust. A big brand name and expert recommendations don’t cut it anymore. People rely on those they like and follow online when they have to decide whether to make a purchase or not.
In its essence, this is the principle of liking – individuals are more likely to say ‘yes’ to somebody they already know and like.
The definition of influencers
In today’s online marketing jargon, these people who are liked, followed and can either make or break the success of a product or service are called influencers. The Oxford dictionary defines an influencer as “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.”
Although it seems like something new and entirely connected to the widespread of fast speed internet, influencers have been around for some time. The major difference is that for the best part, they were fictional characters – Santa Clause, the generic Grandma and not to forget good old Uncle Sam. Even if the present-day influencers are real people, their online presence is for the most part a made-up persona.
Throughout the evolution of social media its variety of platforms have known many versions as they continuously adapted and responded to user demands and behavior. Whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Spotify or Twitter, these social media channels are all venues where influencers can create, publish, share and most importantly engage their audiences.
How it all started
Historically, the first influencers appeared in the 18th century when the image of Royal family members were used to endorse luxury products. In more recent times, with the emergence of sports and Hollywood famous individuals, celebrity endorsements became very valuable to marketing. Farah Fawcett has been the face of shampoo for a couple of decades and is still mentioned today when hair wellness and beauty are discussed.
Yet influencers as we know them today started out at the start of the 1990s with the development of online personal blogs. The so-called “mommy bloggers” emerged as go-to resources for mothers on the internet. To this day, there are numerous blogs, sites, groups and even entire platforms dedicated to this subject as trends change and so do generations of young mothers. Ironically, the first recognized online influencers were neither celebrities, nor subject-matter experts but tired moms offering and looking for advice and support from their peers.
The development of social media lead to the appearance of more and more enthusiasts in areas such as cooking, fitness, personal development, gaming and many others.
What influencer marketing can do
The potential of influencer marketing is enormous. According to Mediakix “all varieties of businesses are seeing positive returns from influencer marketing campaigns. Influencer marketing has been shown to produce up to $11.69 in earned media value (EMV) per $1 spent.” Traditional brands and new businesses have taken note and are bringing in social media marketing specialists to help them grow their online presence on the right platforms, raise brand awareness and help sell a variety of products and services.
As Millennials and Gen Z are completely different from older generations in terms of what they prefer as entertainment and how they choose to communicate, the manner in which they select the right products and services for them is changing as well. 90% of Millennials are on a social media site of some kind and 40% say that their favorite online influencer understands them better than their friends. Where Gen Z is concerned, it will be a 2.56 billion population by 2020 and about 85% of them are learning about new products through social media.
These numbers clearly indicate that influencer marketing is undoubtedly the appropriate commercial solution of the moment.
The social media revolution has tremendously changed the way in which everything from news to products and services reach people. Influencer marketing is today’s golden goose of online sales and it would be foolish to overlook it.
Next time we’ll explore a few tips on how to use influencer marketing to promote your online course. So stay tuned!
Raluca Cristescu has over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.