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Tiers of influence: how to drive share of voice in a digital world

Building influence in today’s digitally-driven, highly connected networks can be challenging. Just consider the number of influencer marketing #fails in 2018. However, it’s not a fundamental issue with influencer marketing. With a thoughtful strategy in place, you can create an integrated system that helps drive conversation around your brand and in turn establishes strong relationships with customers old and new.

The key ingredient to building influence? Trust

First, it’s important to understand a fundamental shift that has happened in trust in recent years. Today, peer networks are vast and span multiple tiers and spheres, with consumers relying on a variety of sources for inspiration, information and input. In Edleman’s 2018 Trust Barometer, they asked “if you heard about a company from each person, how credible would they be?” The third most trusted source was “a person like me” after a technical and academic expert. Consumer trust has been redistributed from the top; brands and celebrity spokespeople used to be considered “experts,” but now consumers are more likely to trust trust reviews and recommendations from peers, family members, micro-influencers and so on.

Influence manifests in multiple forms

Outside of minor purchases, it should come as no surprise that the majority of purchases begin with some form of research, GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. And thanks to the great trust shift mentioned above, influencer and user-generated content are much more sought out than branded content. It’s estimated that by 2020, over half of content about brands will be created outside of marketing. Influence manifests in everything from sponsored influencer posts to reviews to good old fashioned word-of-mouth.

In the same vein, there are multiple tiers of influence from the highly sought after micro-influencers to brand affiliates and loyalists. While they command powerful, vast audiences, it’s important to look past macro-influencers (those with over 100k followers) and consider the micro-influencer, a person with an online following of less than 10k followers. According to a new survey by Uproar PR, 72% of people prefer micro-level influencers over those with larger followings, and 67% said they have made a purchase decision based on a post from a non-celebrity influencer.

How to scale influence

Instead of focusing strictly on content creation and top of funnel activities, it’s important to get creative and cover all the bases by tapping into activities that cover the entire customer journey, such as:

  • Referrals, trackable links
  • Sweepstakes/contests
  • Incentivizing video views
  • Surveys
  • Ratings and reviews

Building influence means more than driving reach. In order to unlock the full potential of influence, it’s important to map typical marketing activities to the customer experience journey and incorporate real human beings (influencers, advocates, focus groups, etc.) at each stage of that journey.