In his groundbreaking book, “The Brand Gap”, Marty Neumeier (2006) was among the first to provide the thought that a brand is not what you (the marketer) say it is, but it is what an individual or a consensus of individuals says it is.
While this was a revolutionary thought at the time, the wide use of social media today has shown this to be true: Marketers do have difficulty building and then maintaining control of the brand image and brand positioning.
This has been further enhanced with the use of Influencers to drive people to brands. Influencers are a big deal today at many levels. But Influencers also interpret, as they each relate to audiences in their own specific way. This is true for both B2B, B2B2C and B2C. With each variation of approach (sales channels, influencer size), there are differences, but in all cases, an influencer or advocate needs to retain their own voice. This is what brings them to their audience.
If you are in a B2B business, such as I have been most of my life, the nano-influencers or advocates as we used to call them, can be particularly impactful, as they are often the most engaged, and they are generally very involved with your brand and with their audience.
As Neal Schaffer points out in his book The Age of Influence, “People relate to people”. How an influencer can be measured happens in many ways depending on your brand intent, but the quality content of the influencer and engagement rates and who their audience is matters a great deal. Something that is often overlooked is how the personality of the Influencer and your brand will mesh. Tools can aid with this, but ultimately, it is about the relationship between the brand and the Influencer. A great starting point for a brand may well be a Google search.
Let me repeat this: “Relationships matter.”. Shared values with the audience, not interactions, build relationships. This is a collaboration, not a transaction. In the end, Influencer marketing is for the long term between audience, influencer and brand and it does not happen overnight. A marriage is not a “one-night stand” and ideally, neither is an influencer relationship. There are one-offs but in general, long term still matters.
Part of this long-term thinking is about building trust, and this does not happen overnight. Cord Silverstein also pointed this out recently in an ANA webinar I attended: People do not trust brands; they trust other people. Only 4% of the entire population believes that marketers act with integrity. That is scary!
The even scarier thought that he brought up was that the audience needs to feel the influencer is also coming from a place of “trust and integrity”. The larger an influencer gets, the less trust and integrity they have. So, relevance matters a great deal here, and smaller influencers are more relevant and offer greater engagement. Engagement with their audiences an Influencer is critical, but also something that diminishes as they get larger. So, we have the Catch-22 (for those familiar with that phrase) of needing influencers to exert influence and letting them do it in their own style, while maintaining engagement.
This is a reality that most brands do not yet understand, but is critical: Influencers need to speak to their audience in ways that work for them, and it is up to the brand to have the right amount of trust to allow that to happen. If an influencer does not feel like they will be trusted, they may not be willing to even work with your brand.
And then, of course, we need to worry about the nature of social media changing. Instagram is still incredibly hot, but I am thinking we need to worry more about TikTok and Twitch. What do you think?
For more information on the people mentioned in this article, please follow these links:
Marty Neumeier: https://www.martyneumeier.com/
Neal Schaffer: https://nealschaffer.com/
Cord Silverstein: https://cordsilverstein.com/
I am positive that you will find their content both engaging and intriguing.