The Extraordinary Marketing Value of Everyday Influencers

Wednesday, 03 February 2016 / Published in Blog, Influencers, WOM and Advertising

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In marketing and advertising, the image typically conjured of an “influencer” is that of a celebrity or person with a large following on social media. But here at Keller Fay Group, we imagine a much different type of influencer.

In our experience, an influencer is best defined as “a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.” This means that an influencer does not have to be a celebrity, or even a blogger with a huge platform, though those two types of people certainly have influence.

Our research demonstrates that everyday people have a tremendous impact on the decisions consumers make in the marketplace. In fact, they can have a greater influence than a celebrity, the CEO of a company or a government official. Thus, marketers who overlook ordinary people as part of their campaign strategies are missing a real opportunity to drive profitable growth for their brands.

We’ve held this viewpoint for quite a while (dating back to the publication of Ed Keller’s book, The Influentials), and it’s based on our extensive research on influencers. It’s also been confirmed by the research of others.

In fact, a just-released survey once again has proven the outsized influence of everyday people. Communications firm, Edelman, released its 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. This annual survey measures the public’s trust in business, government and institutions. The latest findings show that people increasingly trust ordinary people or employees significantly more than they do a CEO or government official. Of the respondents, 78% said they trust family and friends on social media far more than they do a CEO (49%).

This inversion of the pyramid of influence puts influence squarely in the hands of the mass population, Edelman says. As we’ve been saying all along, brands can drive up to four times more sales by developing campaigns that encourage the most influential of ordinary people to talk about their brands. We call these influencers the Conversation Catalysts®.

Just how influential are the Conversation Catalysts?

Our research shows a big difference in the persuasiveness of conversations when a Conversation Catalyst gave the advice compared to when the advice came from others – the so-called average people (aka, your customers and prospects). Using data we collected from both senders and the receivers of word-of-mouth recommendations, we were able to calculate the economic value of the advice given by Conversation Catalysts and compare it to the advice of average consumers.

Our economic model factored in four potential sources that can drive the economic impact of word of mouth:

  • The volume of conversations about products.
  • The credibility and persuasiveness of the word of mouth.
  • Expected profitability of their friends, based on volume of purchase and price points purchased.
  • Probability that a person’s word of mouth is driven by media or marketing.

The result: word of mouth from influencers produced a dramatic 3.8 times as much economic impact as word of mouth from the average person in our sample. In other words, if a recommendation from an average woman produces $100 in economic value for the brand, a conversation led by an influencer will produce nearly $400 in impact.

Well, that’s great, you might say. But how can brands identify these influencers among the general population? After all, they’re not celebrities adorning billboards.

There are three fundamentally important criteria that determine whether or not a person is an influencer:

  1. Does the individual have the means to influence other people?

In order to have the means to influence others, a person needs to be in touch regularly with other people. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world about a particular topic, but if you are a loner and don’t interact with others very often it is hard for your ideas to spread. So the size and breadth of your real-world social network is central to your influence. A large network of people you interact with in your everyday life gives you the means to engage actively in conversation.

  1. Do you have a built-in “need-to-know” about things that are new, different, better?

People who are inquisitive in this way will invest their time and energy using multiple channels to keep up, whether through their own media usage, going to stores or expos to see the latest and greatest innovations, or engaging in conversation with other people to learn what they are doing. Influencers are information hounds. They have what we define as “motive.”

  1. Do people seek them out because their opinion is valued? Do their opinions have sway over what others think and ultimately do?

Finally, influencers must have the opportunity to share what they have learned with others. In our experience, these influencers are often sought for their opinions across several categories, which amplifies their impact.

Ordinary people with these attributes are likely to be Conversation Catalysts. By developing targeted media and marketing campaigns designed to get these influencers talking, brands can reap real economic benefits.

The findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer reinforce the value of “everyday influencers.” Brands will have greater success in driving sales if they stay focused on developing marketing campaigns that capture the attention of the Conversation Catalysts.

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