People often ask, ‘What is an influencer?’ or ‘What is influencer marketing’ especially on Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok? Well, this question gets me a little ticked off because what you read on the blogosphere isn’t exactly what is going on in “real life.” Let’s investigate.
Watch ‘What is an Influencer & What is ‘Influencer Marketing‘? NOT WHAT YOU THINK?’ on YouTube!
WHAT IS AN INFLUENCER? SIMPLE DEFINITION
First, there’s the simple definition. “What is an influencer?” or more correctly “Who is an influencer?” Well, an influencer is a person with influence; that is, a person who can get his or her followers usually to buy something. So, you might think of Oprah as an “influencer” – when she lists her “favorite things” on Amazon each holiday season, people flock to buy them. They want to be “like” Oprah, or they “trust” Oprah. Thus in a marketing or commercial sense an influencer is a person who a) has a following, b) can influence the purchasing decisions of those who follow them, and c) is willing to do so. But… that’s not the whole story.
INFLUENCERS SELL THEIR INFLUENCE
Second, here is the dirty little secret about “influencers.” The term has come to mean a person who is willing to sell their influence for a price; think “product placement.” Think, “it slices it dices I love it” (and you should buy it). Influencers are quite usually “guns for sale,” people that brands hire to tell their followers they are “excited” about such-and-such. In this way, influencers are – in my humble opinion – often a little duplicitous. While the FTC (and many networks like Instagram) say that influencers MUST reveal that they are getting paid to promote a product, they often fail to do this. So, it’s a little sleazy at times. In fact, there are networks where brands can “buy” influence – such as –
- IZEA – https://izea.com/
- FourStarzz – https://www.fourstarzz.com/
- Heepsy – https://www.heepsy.com/
- etc. etc. etc. Literally just Google “influencer marketplace” and you’ll find sellers and buyers of influence.
Now, I’m not saying that “influencer marketing” is right or wrong; but it is not (generally speaking) powerful people just loving your product or service out of the goodness of their heart. And that means it can backfire; when “fans” find out that a given influencer who is near and dear to their heart has “sold out,” then they may turn on the influencer but also on the brand. If it’s not “above board,” consumers may really resent it.
INFLUENCER MARKETING VS. SUPERFANS
Which brings us to “influencer marketing” vs. “superfan marketing.” The former – generally speaking – is thus when brand PAY influencers to “mention” their product or service, to endorse it, often without revealing that they are receiving payment for this. The latter – superfan marketing – is when a real user so passionately loves a product or service that they really love it and recommend it WITHOUT receiving any payment. So, for example, I am a “superfan” of Buzzsumo, which is a way to track what’s trending on social media. I do NOT receive any money from them, but I love the product and mention it often.
Bonus. What are your thoughts about – a) the ethics of “influencer marketing” and/or b) the “effectiveness of it” (over time), as sooner or later consumers will get hip to the fact that many “influencers” are “sell outs?”