Consumers Are Listening – But Not Always Just to You

Influencer Marketing is like the Telephone Game
Telephone Game

The growing power of influencer marketing is very much like the “Telephone/Whisper” game. You may ask, “What is that?”

When you were a child, did you ever play “The Telephone Game?” It was also called “Whisper” or “Pass the Message.” A bunch of kids would sit next to each other in a straight line. You would whisper a phrase into the ear of the kid next to you, so only they would hear you. On it went down the line to the last player. The last player would say what they thought was the original statement that started the whisper chain.

The thing is, the end player almost never repeated the exact words as the starting player. Misunderstood or forgotten words, poor listening, and wrong guesses all contributed to a scrambling of the original message. It proved that accuracy is hard to pin down, a lesson that applies in adulthood, too.  Let’s imagine you’re starting a telephone chain among relatives and friends. You start with, “Aunt Lorraine’s terrible disease is over, and she has died, sailing onto distant shores forever.” The last person in the chain to hear the news is Cousin Fred. He hears, “Aunt Lorraine is no longer sick, and she’s going on that extended cruise vacation she’s been dying to take.”  You can see that it’s better to put down your phone and send one group email to everybody. Cousin Fred never did pay attention, and poor Gran’s short-term memory is long gone.

Influencer marketing is very much like the “Telephone/Whisper” game, but with one huge difference:  The message remains intact and compelling because everyone is paying very close attention. And the resulting outcome can mean life or death for a brand.

What Exactly is Influencer Marketing and Who Are Influencers?

Influencer marketing on social media is based on endorsements from people and organizations who have expertise in their field. Influencers are someone (or some group) with the power to affect the buying habits or measurable actions of others.  They upload some form of original—often sponsored—content to social media platforms. Brands enroll these influencers to provide endorsements for their product or service.  Social media influencers are selected based on their established credibility and the size of their online audience.

Influencers might be leaders in their industry, respected critics, entertainment, or Internet celebrities. You can also find influencers among third-party companies, professional associations, or respected charity groups. However, sometimes “influencers” are not authorities, per se, and they haven’t been enlisted by the brand.  They are just opinionated people using social media to shout out how they feel about a brand, its services, and its reputation. It takes real diligence by advertisers to monitor these rogue voices, allowing positive messages to remain and gain traction, and negative messages to be eliminated as soon as possible.

The Influencer Effect Is BOOMING!

New social media platforms and the growing trust in recognized experts (and others) among consumers are accelerating this marketing trend. TikTok has passed Google as the most used platform on Earth. Pinterest is going through an expansion lately thanks to stronger SEO strategies and the longevity of its messages. Relative newcomer Twitch now attracts 8 million new users a month.

Brands spend millions every year on influencer marketing, but often don’t adequately consider accountability – or precisely quantifiable results. According to Rahul Titus, Ogilvy’s London-based head of influencer marketing, brands have been lazy in sharpening their influencer engagement strategies. In the next year, Titus says, influencers and advertisers must transition from more loosely-defined engagement metrics to more concrete outcome-based metrics. The coming 12 months will be a rapid learning curve for advertisers when enlisting the best influencers, and for influencers themselves on how to spin their endorsements to be even more far-reaching and meaningful. Plus, spending on influencer marketing must grow, including budget reallocations from other channels like traditional media or public relations.

According to marketing consultants Forrester Research, the most prominent influencers, and celebrities may command a six- or seven-figure fee for a single or defined series of social media posts! In addition to a fee, smaller brands may continue to include free products or services for influencers with more limited followings.

How Can You Up the Effort to Recruit a More Powerful Army of Influencers?

We’re not suggesting that you call publicists who represent George Clooney or Mariah Carey. Instead, dig deep to find prospective influencers with demonstrated professional or fame-based credibility that’s pertinent to your industry. Entertainment and fashion critics, professional chefs, C-suite executives at relevant industry associations, and even local celebrities are great prospects. For example, let’s say you own or are the ad agency for a large chain of car dealerships in your area.  How about recruiting the most trusted traffic reporter on the top-ranked regional TV or radio station?

However you go about it, just get to it, with serious thought, energy, and willingness to attractively compensate new influencers. If you don’t, other brands in your field will snap up those persuasive voices, leaving you with an absence of influence in the marketplace. It’s time to stop whispering your message. Engage the most powerful influencer game players to keep your message clear and convincing, all the way down the line.