Have we gotten to the point where “influencer marketing” has become interchangeable with “social media marketing?” The emerging myth marketers now seem to believe is that all we need to do is focus on a few key social media influencers, and real-life conversations – and sales performance – will naturally (and easily) follow.
But research proves the opposite is true. Social media is an important part of any marketing program, but a focus on social media can’t come at the expense of real-world conversation. And high profile influencers, with their millions of Instagram and YouTube followers, can help spread the word, but paying celebrities to post about your brand on social media has nothing to do with authentic influencer marketing.
Marketers gain much more value from the organic recommendations from the “influencers next door.” These are the neighbors, friends and acquaintances that people rely on to recommend what movies to see, which restaurants are worth a try, which retailer has the best sale, or which new technologies are worth adopting early. These everyday influencers are on social media, but they also make powerful recommendations over the backyard fence and at the water cooler at work. These are the highly valuable consumers that marketers should be actively engaging with.
Real-life conversations drive more sales
In fact, more sales impact comes from conversations that take place face-to-face with family, friends and colleagues at work than comes from social media, according to our latest extensive research on this topic. Thus, if brands focus on one and not the other, it can slow sales growth.
Some consumers are more influential than others
Recently, we also looked at the relationship between social media influencers and “everyday influencers” – those consumers with large real-world social networks and who regularly recommend products. Although you may think influencers online are the same as those in real life, that’s not true. Our data show there is absolutely no helpful correlation between these two types of influencers. Indeed, there is a slightly negative correlation (-2.3 percent) over time.
This suggests brands cannot expect the same people who advocate the brand online to do so offline – and vice versa. How can brands best activate both types of influencers?
Tip #1: Measure consumer conversations about your brand
Before developing your next campaign strategy, be sure you understand the big picture. Be sure to measure consumer conversations to learn which influencers are talking about your brand and what they’re saying – both on social media and in real life. Doing so will enable you to focus on the channels that provide the greatest ROI.
Tip #2: Evaluate the competition
Measure what consumers are saying about competing brands. This will help you understand competitors’ strategies and their strengths and weaknesses. It will also reveal areas of opportunities and help you sharpen your messages and positioning.
Tip #3: Create a holistic marketing strategy
Strategies that work well in social media aren’t likely to have the same effect on everyday influencers. By truly understanding the dynamics of your brand conversations, you can create separate and distinct marketing strategies that optimize consumer conversations both online and off.
With the right marketing mix, brands can unleash the full power of consumer influencers.
Social media marketing is a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach vast audiences, but the reality is everyday influencers are a very different group. And because they drive more sales than online influencers, brands can’t afford to ignore them.
To learn more about the five myths and realities of social influence, as well as tips for driving better brand outcomes, download our complimentary new e-book, 5 Myths About Social Influence Online and in Real Life...and 5 Realities.