With social media now playing a major part in marketing strategy, new ideas have come about to take advantage of the consumer’s ability to speak out online. Such public access by the everyday person has enabled all of us to exert influence in some way on the Internet. Identifying the most influential people has become incredibly beneficial to companies that seek to strengthen their presence and reputation in social media.
Numerous studies, such as this one from Nielsen, show that word-of-mouth and personal recommendations are seen as far more credible to consumers than newspaper and television advertisements. While such mass advertisements are still necessary because of their powerful reach, these findings show that companies do need to increase their focus on more personalized approaches. Clearly, it is incredibly difficult, maybe even impossible, for most companies to deal directly with the countless number of potential consumers. This is where influencers come in.
Through social media interaction and various available software programs, companies are able to find everyday consumers and pseudo-celebrities who show unusually high interest in a certain product or brand. Each of these people has a certain level of influence based on their number of followers and overall reach of postings. If such an individual has high influence, they are likely much more credible than mass advertising, as assumed by the findings of studies such as the one by Nielsen mentioned earlier. If a company reaches out to these influencers, a mutually beneficial relationship is formed; the company receives credible advertising through the influencer, and the influencer is able to strengthen their influence with help from the brand.
One example of such a relationship between a pseudo-celebrity and brand is YouTube celebrity Tyler Oakley. Tyler has been making YouTube videos for a couple of years and has amassed a respectable fan base on various social networks including Twitter and Tumblr. Tyler also happens to be a big fan of Taco Bell. The two have tweeted back and forth numerous times, forming a relationship that ultimately led to Taco Bell sending Tyler to cover the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards as their sponsor. The two still continually talk about each other online, sharing each other’s influence. In this situation, Taco Bell was able to connect to Tyler’s hundreds of thousands of followers in a more intimate way than simple mass advertising.
While influence is a tricky variable to evaluate, it can be measured in some ways. One of the more popular services is Klout. By connecting various social media accounts, Klout looks at your number of followers and the number of people reached by your posts across various platforms. Their algorithms combine these numbers into one: your “Klout score,” which is measured on a scale between 1 and 100. Klout also offers a perks feature, giving discounts and deals to users based on their influence. Users are also able to endorse each other by giving “+K” in specific topics.
Since social media provides such a convenient platform to form relationships between users, the ability for a company to personify itself and form its own relationships online is a huge benefit for advertising. When a company is able to intimately connect to its consumer base, and the fan base of other influential users, it can go beyond advertising and attract new consumers in a way that is truly unique to social media.