Many brands are actively working with Influencers online. Since the early days of social media as a marketing channel, brands began to invest in influencers and communities to build and spread trust through social networks.
Early brand advocacy was relevant and immediate. As early adopters of social marketing, we all embraced this practice as a solid method of community building. Empower individuals with the means to learn about and experience your brand or product and encourage them to tell people about it. Makes great sense, and the past 5-7 years have seen countless influencer programs and initiatives.
As influencers began to understand their role in social brand marketing, things began to shift. It created a entirely new consumer role, that a sponsored life. Some influencers took this opportunity to various degrees. There are now some individuals who label themselves as PR friendly, and are ready to work with any brand that may come along with a compelling offer. This is the influencer as ad channel, with a following and bandwidth to be bought, quite literally. In fact, the ask that comes from some influncers can range from “excited to be working with you” to completely jaded. This kind of “PR friendly” influencer completely flies in the face of brand advocacy, though. There is still the dissemination of brand or product content; but, how authentic is this? How meaningful are the connections to the influencer’s network? How much of an opportunity to an emotional connection is there in a PR friendly dynamic? I’d say, very little.
So, why would you use this kind of Influencer? It depends on what you want, of course. Do you need to get the word out? Do you need to grow or ramp up quickly? This is your target with this group. These people should be a part of your strategy; a segment of your social activity.
True brand advocacy comes from a Community Management perspective. And this takes time. Building advocacy has inherently more power, is more sticky and has an emotional component to it. This can’t be bought, but it can be rented. And there are good reasons to do both, depending on your goals.
Get these influencers into your strategy, but understand what they are to you – a channel. They might help you to access advocates, get the information out, help you reach new demographics. The key element in a Community Management strategy is to carry forward these relationships, build upon the viral impact they these influencers can help produce – that’s where you get your traction and that takes specific, 1-1 level engagement with those who encounter your influencer effect.
Don’t just position an influencer project on it’s own. Integrate it into your Community Management strategy and turn over every stone in the process. Make the most of what your influencers can do for you.