Social influencers 101: How and why to use them in 2016

John Rowley

In our era of information overload – characterised by a maelstrom of advertising, information and content – it can be difficult to forge relationships with consumers. Enter, the social influencer.

Social influencers are a relatively new breed of digital aficionado. Daniel Young is General Manager at agency Brightpoint Digital. He describes the role of the social influencer as “a content creator who has a presence online, and has built a following around that”. He says that influencers can operate across any number of social media and blogging outlets, and that they come in “various shapes and sizes”.

Here’s why and how you can make them work for you and your small business.

Trust and credibility

Social influencers are hugely powerful in connecting brands and people. According to Young, they can be valuable to small businesses because “recommendations and word of mouth are important drivers for new customers, and for business growth”. When these recommendations come from people with clout, their significance increases. In other words, brand-affiliated content developed by social influencers can yield great results.

For influencers, credibility is key. In light of this, Young says both influencers and brands need to be aware of “a big watch-out around authenticity”. If the content influencers post is too explicitly branded, they risk their followers’ engagement.

When it comes to securing coverage from influencers, a general rule applies: the bigger the reach, the greater the price.

Reach and price

When it comes to securing coverage from influencers, a general rule applies: the bigger the reach, the greater the price.

Influencers with large followings often expect monetary investment in return for brand-affiliated content development. Young says that brand-influencer relationships purely based on money can be “very transactional”, and ultimately problematic.

Young suggests that individuals with smaller, more niche followings are generally less likely to charge for content. He advises that small businesses should build more genuine, long-term relationships with these influencers by inviting them to meet employees, use samples, and provide honest feedback.

As a result, any content developed will be more organic – and likely cheaper. “It’s about opening up a dialogue and building a real relationship, rather than just looking for one quick-return blog post or tweet,” he says.

...getting the most out of social influencers comes down to communicating what each party stands to gain.

Building a brief

Young advises that getting the most out of social influencers comes down to communicating what each party stands to gain. “Being open about what your expectations are is really important,” he says. These expectations might include content, tagging or co-creation through particular channels, for example.

Making contact

The significance of social influencers is highlighted by the emergence of ‘virtual’ talent management agencies, who help negotiate deals between influencers and clients. However, Young says that much contact between businesses and influencers still happens on an individual-to-individual basis.

Young also provides a caveat worth keeping in mind when engaging with influencers. “Every customer’s a potential influencer, and word of mouth is really important,” he says. “So you should be thinking about how you can provide outstanding service to all of your customers in order to generate word of mouth, as well as focusing on the individuals who have big followings”.

John Rowley

John is a Sydney-based writer covering small business and lifestyle.

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Image: Martin Fisch, Flickr Creative Commons license

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