First, what exactly is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is when a brand uses a person who has a group of engaged followers to promote products or services on social media.

It’s usually executed through sponsored posts or affiliate programmes where the influencer earns commision based on the amount of engagement they create, the increase in traffic to the brand’s website or the number of products the brand has sold thanks to their posts.

Influencers have made it even easier for brands to build connections with consumers because they act as the bridge between a brand and their audience. And so far, it’s proven to be a successful way to promote a brand message.

What’s the problem with influencer marketing?

As Tom Goodwin says in an article for GQ Magazine, “We’ve gone from having personalities to having personal brands,”

“In today's world, where the only thing we want more than privacy is to have none, to be known, celebrated, judged and followed, and where people want to be brands and brands want to be people, things are getting strange,” he continues.

While it might sound like the perfect approach for brands looking to connect with their audience in a more trusted way, Goodwin says that the problem is that anyone can become an influencer — we’ll show you just how easy it is in just 10 simple steps.

And if anyone has the potential to be an influencer, then does anyone really have influence? The answer is no.

Where does this leave influencer marketing?

All thought leaders are influencers but not all influencers are thought leaders. And according to Goodwin, “Influence is more about ‘thought leadership’ [than it is about selling products]”.

What he means is that the real power is driven by more than the ability to merchandise ‘influence’ — it comes from building trust, credibility and having a critical opinion.

While thought leaders and influencers are two sides of the same coin, the difference is that most thought leaders base their influence on the unique views, informed opinions and expert knowledge they’ve gathered throughout their lives.

Influencers, on the other hand, are ranked by the number of followers they have on social media. And while it’s heavily scrutinised, users can buy followers.

So to take advantage of influencer marketing, you first need to determine exactly who has the right kind of influence. And the answer may lie in the hands of thought leaders.

Now, before you throw your influencer marketing strategy out the window, the good news is that finding a thought leader is easier than you think — and it’s quite similar to finding an influencer.

Here are seven questions you should ask when looking for a thought leader:

1. Are they active on social media? You want to find someone who is already familiar with the way in which different social media platforms work. You want someone who is already making the most of the newest algorithms, testing the latest features and probably even has a few reviews in the works.

2. Are they authentic? You need to ensure that the thought leader you’re looking for has a trusted and authentic image — one that they showcase consistently across social media. This means that you’re looking for a person who isn’t afraid to share their views or stay true to their beliefs.

3. Have they built a trusted audience? You should look for someone that takes building relationships with their audience seriously — they know that each engagement is a chance to connect, build a stronger network and increase their influence.

4. What will they add to your brand? You want to find someone who’ll add something extra to your brand, just as you’ll add more value to their influence. Remember that influencer marketing should be a mutually beneficial arrangement — so you should align your brand with someone who perpetuates similar views, values and messages as your own.

5. Do their opinions shape the thoughts and feelings of their audience? You want to find someone who is shaping the conversation when it comes to trends within your industry. Think about the kind of direction you see the brand going and then find someone who is already predicting a similar future.

6. Are they known to speak or write about the industry the brand is targeting? You should look for someone who has some knowledge about the industry that the brand is focussed on. Why? Because they’ll already be familiar with the terminology and trends.

7. Do any of the brands competitors seek their advice? You want to find someone that’ll give you an edge over competitors and, more often than not, it’ll be the thought leader that your competitors are seeking out as well, so it’s important to get them on your side as soon as possible.

Where do you think the future of influencer marketing is headed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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If you’re working on your brand’s newest strategy, it’s a good idea to check out who your future consumers will be. Read more in our article, Hey marketers – here are five ways you can attract Gen Z.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy