Renaming Influencer Marketing

Written by Brooke Howard-Smith, CEO of WeAreTENZING

A recent report on baby names in Australia turned up a surprising amount of girls named Dijon. Surprising not just because it’s obviously the name of a mustard, but because these poor girls parents either didn’t know this, or knew it and didn’t care.

Choosing a baby’s name can be a challenging task for many parents. And they're wise to work hard at it. A name can have a profound impact on a child that reverberates well into adulthood. It’s the first thing people learn when they meet you, has an influence on their first impression of you, research indicates it can reflect your socio economic origins, it can help determine what career you choose and also how likely people are to be your friend.

So when an overly pregnant social media gave birth to the phenomenon of paid social brand collaborations perhaps we should have paused before christening the movement, just in case we were dooming a promising infant industry to a life sitting alone on the bus.

“Influencer Marketing”, is, for a group of people usually tasked with selling things, a pretty poor effort the marketing industry is well known for mastering euphemism; what other professions have “executive” in it’s entry level job titles. And while it’s possible the moniker’s origins go as far back as Robert Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice I’d suggest we just add it a long list and lay the blame with Kim Kardashian. Following that we can get a collective break-up haircut, rename it and move on. For starters, no one wants to be told they are being influenced, so much so that the name has become a stone around the fast growing channels neck, in addition to this, the term itself is so broad it practically makes no sense. Correct me if i’m wrong (I dropped out of my marketing degree) but from memory, isn’t all of marketing “influencing people”? Worse still the title doesn’t begin to describe the amazing thing these unique and sometimes misunderstood people are doing.

They are as Kamiu Lee puts it, “content creators with built-in distribution”. Pure and simple. (better quote)

It’s this idea that they are in fact independent content creators that gives the industry hope. It’s exciting that this group of athletes, foodies, comedians, parents, bloggers, vloggers and everyday folk are disrupting one of the world’s largest industries by hijacking attention from multi-billion dollar media organizations and in a lot of cases, creating better content. Maybe not necessarily better in an award entering sense, but better in that, combined with Zuckerberg’s understanding of media delivery, THEIR content is winning.

We know that Gary Vaynerchuk (yes the digital entrepreneur) talks about a “consumer needing to be excited about something, being compelled by something, and it comes down to attention. Attention, not impressions.” So, on reflection, it’s now a little ironic that one of the grandfathers of the advertising, DDB’s Bill Bernbach, said in the 60’s that “Nobody counts the number of ads that you run, just the impression that you make.”

Last year Millennial-focused publisher Bustle conducted a survey to help brands understand their consumers a bit more. The research polled 1,000 women in the Bustle Hive – a community of over 5,000 Bustle, Romper and Elite Daily readers between the ages of 18 and 34 who live in the US asking them what brands they like and how they interact with brands.

Results found that 81 percent of readers said social media was the most effective way to reach them. Of those women, 40 percent thought Instagram was the best and most effective social media outlet to connect to them. Additionally, 36 percent found brands through websites they trust, closely followed by 35 percent of women, who found brands in online articles and through email.

Why is that important? Well if content is king, context is god and if you’re targeting anyone under 45 then your audience in absolutely immersed in Instagram, linkedin, Youtube and Facebook. If Statista is right for millennials that’s up to 4 hours a day, or at least two thirds of their daily branded screen time. And that being the case, it’s important to remember that the majority of organically engaged content on these new networks is generated by independent people, not by the platforms themselves, not media organisations and certainly not by brands.

So to reach your target market, you can either create your own branded content using often expensive traditional methods, then pay to boost it into your target audience. Or do what more and more brands are doing; pay an independent content creator who’s already talking to that target audience to build the content using their understanding of what their audience is receptive to, then distribute it to their followers, perhaps adding some boosting to grow it’s reach and engagement beyond them. PS: You can also then share it yourself, thereby having your cake and eating it too.

When viewed like this, it’s easy to really nail down what the best of the new breed of social media brand partners are, and the term influencers simply doesn’t capture it. For one thing they are replacing traditional content creators as much as they are replacing old school brand ambassadors. They are external advocates paid to create content whose trusted opinions have been earned over time creating similar material for a curated audience. Bill Bernbach also said that “Word of mouth is the most powerful medium of all”, so why wouldn’t you want one of these influential content creators working with you to create and talk about your content? As such I propose we choose a name based around their activity not their outcome, at our company where we manage over 160 of them we we simply call our clients Content Curators but I’m up for suggestions.