Influencer marketing has been defined as one of the bigger marketing opportunities that businesses need to latch onto for the decade to come. It has been deemed as an emerging technique whose time has come. In marketing terms, the world is ready and waiting for more legitimate collaborations between their favourite brands and influencers. Google’s social platform, Google Plus, has aided this process, and offers extensive value for brands that take advantage of it. The masses of information made available online today can easily fall on overwhelmed ears. This does not contribute towards the goal of content marketing at all – the typical goal being to provide useful information to the different target audiences for the diverse array of clients/businesses you service. Businesses are learning the hard way that focusing on advertorial, generic content, as part of their digital content strategies, will no longer tip the scales in their favour. In fact, it can now do the opposite.
Everyone’s an influencer 2.0
With the rise of the social media ‘movement’ web-users have had quite a bit of time to position themselves as influencers, even though they don’t have the authority to back it up. But ‘readers beware you’re in for a scare’ Google’s ethics level has risen a notch and having x amount of followers on Facebook or Twitter will no longer be a good measure as to how influential you are. Instead, real influencers that can be classified as thought leaders on different subjects and have their own audiences are now deemed as the ‘real deal’. Google wants to rank these individuals higher, especially so with the Google Plus platform and the advocacy of Google authorship underway. Extreme measures have been taken with the change of Google’s algorithm, which have taken the amateurs and even some of the more knowledgeable digital marketers by storm. The purpose behind this change was to identify content which has been passed onto sites with little or no authority, with very little substance, stuffed with keywords or simply lacking in value. To all those individuals with the 20 thousand followers on twitter, but no real influence, accolades or accrediting works to show for their supposed influential status – your time has come and gone, I am not sorry to say, Matt Cutt’s himself called it. Guest blogging is dead. Invariably credit should be given where it is due and, needless to say, the real influencers need to step up. With the help of Google there are a number of meaningful connections to be made and influencers to develop relationships with, if only we as content marketers took the time to look.
As the digital interface becomes more competitive, the question you find yourself asking as a content creator and writer is: ‘How do I get the smarter, tech savvier market and thought leaders to read my work?’ Or at least, ‘how do I get the right people with the right social following to find it, read it and share it?’ It may be useful to think about what these people search for and how you can use that to redirect them to the content that you’re creating. More than that, the answer is quite simple…you need to make your work count. Seek every opportunity to produce content as your last opportunity to display work of a superior standard. In order to do this, you need to be one step ahead of the game. Part of this process at present requires us all to investigate more integrated solutions, not only for content marketing but also for the digital content strategies proposed to clients. For all intents and purposes everything you suggest and present to your potential and current clients needs to be actionable and measurable. It can become a bit tricky with content, especially with the different forms of it made available. You could create content, which takes off like a ‘one hit wonder’, or you could create something that goes down as a resource and can be used over time. Both of these results will generate links in different ways. A sure-fire way of ensuring that the content you create gets the right traction is to get an influencer involved with the content creation and distribution process. Influencers can help you bridge the gap between your products/services and your target audience – enhancing the process of your brand message being delivered more effectively and improving the reach thereof. In the years before, at present and in the years to come, the art of marketing from which content marketing stems still works to answer the questions that the average consumer has in mind. Much focus is still placed on the provision of bite sized chunks of information, answering the queries of your audience and readers. But more importantly now, it needs to be promoted from sources which carry a certain element of influence, and it needs to be shareable. So, if you don’t think a piece of content that you’re creating is good enough to be shared, then you probably shouldn’t be wasting the time and resources on creating it.
How do we make it more shareable/influential?
If it’s meaningful, it’s likely to be shareable. That’s the answer to this question. Making it meaningful does not solely rely on providing content which is useful, but providing a variety of information, which is, valuable, humorous, socially shareable, interactive and newsworthy. Remember that everything you execute need not be put down to text, the use of video content and gifs are becoming more and more popular and Google itself has mentioned that this is a market to tap into. Videos are no longer a novelty and these stats prove it, as more and more people use video as part of their content marketing strategy.
Content strategy, creation and distribution A basic outline of possible ways to generate content could entail the following:
- Factual content
- Humorous content
- Trending topics
- Newsworthy content
- Interviews or discussion panels
- Interactive content
As the world of digital marketing continues to evolve, the importance of businesses taking note of the increasing changes cannot be stressed enough. Success is not only dependent on executing strategies that work. Research will depict that, doing the same things that we did yesterday, today, is not a sustainable practice in the digital world – especially with interfaces ever changing and the development of new forms of media. This is why content needs to be changed periodically as we identify new ways of serving it and new platforms for sharing it are created. Avenues for new content development need to be explored and tested. This brings us back to influencer marketing, benchmarked as one of the trends for 2014, businesses need to incorporate this tactic into their content marketing strategies.
Digital Dandelion Strategy: Distribution VS Production
Though the production of good quality content is important, the placement thereof needs to be thought through and is equally important. The truth of the matter is that onsite blogs and home websites may not receive as much traffic and it’s more likely that brands’ social platformsexperience more engagement. Similarly, creating content for more influential sites and collaborating with influencers to create and spread out your content is becoming the better practice, in terms of content placement. Thought leaders in the digital marketing realm have developed a strategy known as the digital dandelion strategy, and the ideology behind it is that distribution of content should be maximized. It is best for the content you create to live in many places, preferably where it is easily accessible for your readers (we’re, of course, referring to curation and not duplication). This is why it’s important for you to research and understand where your audience is spending its time. This would make your website ‘the stalk where your content is placed and versions of that content can be placed far and wide’ much like the seeds of a dandelion or so Jay Baer says from ‘Convince and Convert’. Content curation becomes possible through this strategy. Another strategy would be to take your big idea and turn it into smaller ideas, making it easier to spread, allowing you to generate a constant flow of content released as a series on a regular basis. Big Brands VS Smaller Brands There may be a misconception that, because brands are smaller, the likelihood of attracting influencers is reduced. However, the reality of the situation actually is that big brands and small brands alike should be able to develop influencer strategies that will work to their advantage. Influencers are not only the celebrities and brand advocates that the bigger brands affiliate to their business. Real influencer marketing is based on the premise that you develop relationships with people that have their own audiences and are trusted by their connections. Regardless of whether they have a smaller or larger following, their reputation and the relationship they share with their audience and followers is the more important thing to bear in mind. The way market leaders in their relevant industries have been doing it for years Many of the bigger brands have traditionally spent excessive amounts of money on getting their brand messages driven through the use of sport stars and celebrities. Quite often these extraordinarily pricy, above the line promotional campaigns are created with budgets that many businesses could only dream of. The good news is that smaller brands and bigger brands alike can capitalise on the manner in which video has taken off. Vloggers (video bloggers) with large followings are exactly the kind of influencers, that businesses need to familiarise themselves with. This new niche market is what they need to tap into, in order to develop lasting relationships with their target audience and drive big wins. These influencer relationships tend to work very well especially when you partner with someone that has the same passion for the brand. How the game is changing We recently had one of the representatives of the Google SA office presenting an in – house training session on YouTube and the value of video marketing. The importance of adding it to your content strategy was outlined and the various advantages was demonstrated. This prime Topshop example was discussed and portrays how the game is changing. Retail brand collaborates with well-known UK vlogger Zoella for a giveaway promotion. Topshop took advantage of this opportunity by tapping into her target audience, with results as is seen in the table It helps if the influencer you partner with has a target audience and social following of their own, but it is just as important that they are dedicated and committed to their cause and to their fans. This is why some of the YouTube vloggers have really hit it off, as they actually share real relationships with their fans and followers. This has led to their position as trusted influencers and thought leaders in the different industries that they narrate for.
There are times when a professional influencer need not be a figurehead
Influencers can be your best friend, family member or work colleague. In this case the person may be more of a simple topic expert but that expertise remains an influencing factor which adds tremendous value to your content. Smaller brands should take advantage of that. The ability to successfully partner with influencers that are relevant to your business lies in finding individuals and thought leaders that can make that connection with your brand, and will actively be able to engage with the content that you produce. For this reason you need to approach people with a mutual interest in not only your products, but also your business strategy concepts and ideas. Brands like Apple may not necessarily have as much work to do, in terms of getting influencers to work with them, as their brand is so well established in the marketplace and they have been able to naturally generate an influencer following. Smaller brands may have to work a little harder, however, through adequate planning and strategizing, developing a network of influencers which they can work with.
Content marketing is no longer solely fuelled by the promotion of specific products or services. It’s now moving in a direction where a brand or business strengthens their positioning in the mind of the consumer. This is achieved by providing them with insights which add value to their lives and this does not always refer to informational value. Sometimes, as was the case with the Dollar Shave Club, value may be generated from creating a combination of insightful and entertaining information as was evident in their viral video campaign. Somewhere in the midst of content creation, the old adage of quality vs quantity has been lost and, moving forward, businesses will have to revisit this age-old mantra. In order for brands to be recognized and taken seriously they will need to focus more on driving quality. It’s worth noting that this goes in direct opposition to the popular SEO tactics employed only a few years ago. Invariably driving sustainable success efficiently and effectively will have much to do with businesses understanding the importance of integrating their digital marketing strategies and traditional brand strategies. This process can take time and many businesses are experiencing a few teething issues in this transition. However, once this is achieved the value that it holds for the clients you service is exactly what would set them apart from their competition. A lack of integration of these strategies will inevitably lead to the positioning of your business being misunderstood, and can create confusion among your target audience. Trust is everything, especially in the world of business, and once lost it can take a substantial amount of time to rebuild – if the rebuilding is possible at all. This is another reason why influencers hold such value for content marketing, as consumers tend to trust them, whether they are celebrities or just the girl or boy next door who’s willing to share opinions and create a dialogue. Either way, when someone of influence collaborates with your brand it can make all the difference. This enables you to elevate your content from just another article sitting in an archive to content that is valuable and shareable, and actively contributing towards your digital goals.