What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a hype term in social media marketing nowadays, however it has always existed.

There have always been influencers. Putting it simply, they’re people that can influence an audience with their behavior.

In the 50’s hollywood star John Wayne’s heavy smoking was seen as part of his lifestyle, which resulted in him being hired by Camel for their ads.


Another example starting from a smaller scale was Fubu. While the business was still a side hustle, founder Daymon John would go to music video sets and try to convince stars to wear FUBU gear. Ultimately, LL Cool J wearing FUBU gear was an important push for building his brand and driving sales.

The Democratization of Influencer Marketing

So if Influencer Marketing has always existed, how did it become a buzz word all of a sudden? With the rise of digital channels like Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.

The internet removed barriers to getting an audience and unlocked niches that the mainstream concerns of television and radio couldn’t. This means that influence is now more fragmented than ever before across different players. There’s smaller influencers for smaller brands while there’s still also the huge influencers for the big brands. Anyone can be an influencer and there’s more focused niches (what Seth Godin calls the minimum viable audience).

Influence to the people!

Defining Influencer Marketing

When you want to buy someone’s influence over an audience for your product, service or cause that’s influencer marketing. This is usually done by the influencer using a product or service and sharing that with his/her audience (endorsement). Influencer marketing is currently often seen as an underpriced promotion. But influencer marketing is not just practiced by “lesser” celebrities on digital channels. When George Clooney is on a Nespresso commercial, that’s still influencer marketing. A very expensive one too.

It works because the fact that what an influencer does has “social proof”. According to Jonah Berger’s book “Contagious”, people “assume that if other people are doing something, it’s a good idea”. This is why when a restaurant we know nothing about is full we assume it is good. The only difference here is that an influencer has a higher “social proof” than several people. Meaning, the restaurant doesn’t need to be full, if George Clooney is the only one there, I’m still going in.

How to Choose an Influencer

1. Your criteria should be engagement, not the number of followers.

Followers, subscribers and views can be easily purchased. The rise of fake influencers is giving influencer marketing a bad name. Check how much engagement there is per post (no.likes or comments / no. followers) to understand the audience’s quality. You’ll want followers for reach, of course. But engaged followers first.

2. Brand Fit

John Wayne is a perfect fit for Camel because he was known to smoke. It was already part of his lifestyle and hence it is coherent with the brand. The more natural the influencer’s behavior is, the better.

Consider this: If you couldn’t control the content, would you still choose this person? Or would you deem it to risky? Without supervision, does the influencer still represent your brand?

You need to be comfortable with giving control of the content to the influencer. After all, you are trying to reach his audience and he is the expert there. You want to blend with the content, not invade it like a pop-up.

3. Is it a Good Deal?

If you’re running other digital media you can compare those CPMs with the estimates you’ll be obtaining with that influencer. Remember to consider that a post may not reach all followers.

4. Define Trackable KPIs

Define clear KPIs (sales, traffic, etc.) that you can measure. A unique url on Analytics can be your best friend. As a manager you should be able to tell if a campaign was successful, not the influencer.

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