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What is Influencer Marketing and is it Right for Your Brand?

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Influencer marketing. It’s the latest buzzword to dominate our industry. In fact, a recent study found Google searches for “influencer marketing” increased 325 percent last year.

Source: used under CC license.

However, it’s probably the biggest buzzword that comes with the most confusion…. After all, if people are ‘Googling’ it, it’s pretty safe to assume they’ve got some questions about it.

In my experience, there’s this shadow of ambiguity that looms over ‘influencer marketing,’ often keeping the companies who could truly benefit from it at bay. No one seems to really know what it is; so, it would make sense why I couldn’t find one universal definition to link to in this blog post.

Whenever it comes up outside the office, a broad, “What is influencer marketing?” is one question; here are just a handful of some of the others I get:

  1. Is it different from media relations?
  2. Is it earned, owned or paid?
  3. Is influencer marketing for me?

For all of the above, the answer is (almost) always a resounding yes. And here’s why.

1. Is influencer marketing different from media relations?

Essentially yes (with a hint of no). Media relations focuses on developing, nurturing and expanding relationships with members of the media (whether that’s your local newspaper, favorite magazine, top news station, most-listened-to radio station, preferred blog, etc.).

Influencer marketing, on the other hand, expands that smaller, niche community by encompassing more than just the media; in addition to the media, it includes analysts, client advocates, podcasters, bloggers, social media stars and so much more.

A follow-up question I often get is, “So doesn’t this overlap with my existing (e.g. media and analyst relations) programs?

Another yes. And that’s what makes influencer marketing so successful. The most effective programs take in all aspects of marketing and communications – from media and analyst relations all the way to social media engagement – to fully round out your approach. There are so many different influencers out there, you don’t want to miss out on any of them.

2. Is influencer marketing an earned, owned or paid strategy?

Yes to all of the above. Influencer interactions can take a variety of different forms.

Here’s one example: Say you want to host or participate in a Twitter chat that reaches a wide population of your customers or prospects. From forming a relationship with a prominent influencer in your field, you have a few options:

  1. OWNED: Host your own Twitter chat and ask him/her to co-host with you.
  2. EARNED: Ask for an invite to co-host on for his/her Twitter chats.
  3. PAID: Determine if he/she is willing to have your organization sponsor a Twitter chat.

Be sure to develop a plan that incorporates owned, earned and paid strategies and select the right influencer for the right goal for each.

3. Is influencer marketing right for my brand?

With the flexibility and all-encompassing nature of an influencer program, the answer is almost always yes. A recent report found more than 37 percent of marketers are dedicating budget to the practice, with that number expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

A lot of times, we hear influencer marketing talked about for B2C companies; however, it also can have a major impact for B2B organizations as well. A relevant and highly-regarded influencer in your industry gets you in front of the right consumers who will buy (or talk about) your product or service (if you do it the right way – click here for more on that).

Choosing the right influencer can be tricky. Contrary to popular belief (it’s not all about Instagram stars!), there are so many influencers in the B2B space, across all industries.

Think about it this way. If you open Twitter, you’re bound to find someone talking about email security, marketing technology or cloud services. Now, I’m not saying the first person with over a million followers is your guy (or girl), but you get what I’m saying; there’s someone out there for you. Consider investing in a platform like Audiense or partnering with an agency to kickstart your program and match you up with the right influencers that will help grow your customer base, prospects, company and bottom line.

Learn more about PAN’s five-step Power of Voice program here.

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