The age of influence

OPENSEED Digital Consultancy

Little more than a generation ago, information distribution was a tightly-guarded realm. In the days before the internet, the influencers creating and disseminating information were by and large the church, the government, the media, and the law.

This knowledge and authority was enshrined in books and newspapers, or broadcast via radio and television and it was rarely the realm of the common man.

Fast forward 30 years and information is the domain of all. It is created and consumed in mass quantities, every moment of every second of every day courtesy of social media, the world wide web, podcasts, video and online news.

Now influence is no longer the right of the few. Any person can become an influencer in 280 characters or less. It is the age of influence and every business and individual has the opportunity to embrace its power.

The world before internet

It’s almost hard to remember a world before Google, but indeed one did exist. It was a place where libraries were a fount of knowledge, the nightly TV news was a must and access to immediate information was found on the FM dial of your radio.

But from the moment Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439, our thirst for information was being satiated at an ever-increasing rate.

In 2015, a report by Oxford University noted it took 75 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users, radio achieved that penetration in 38 years, television in just 13 years, the internet in four years, Facebook in 3.5 years and Angry Birds in 35 days.

It’s a compelling illustration that our adoption of technology and trends is occurring at a rapidly accelerating rate, and it’s being fueled by our desire to tap into all areas of the information age.

Big BIG growing data

As a quick indication of how much information is served up on the internet each day, Forbes explains 90 per cent of the data in the world has been generated in the past two years.

In terms of where that’s occurring, Microfocus outlines the following stat’s that happen each and every  minute on the net:

  • social media gains 840 new users
  • Youtube users watch 4,146,600 videos
  • 455,000 Tweets are posted
  • Instagram users upload 46,740 million pictures
  • Three million Facebook posts are shared, 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded, and four million posts are liked
  • 3,607,080 Google searches are conducted

And very little of this content is created by the information influencers of old. Instead, it’s being generated by everyday people, at a time when consumers are three times more likely to trust the opinion of a person rather than a brand.

The influencer

Mention the word influencer and the mind turns to social media megastars like Kim Kardashian but influence isn’t just a popularity competition fueled by ardent followers (although that does help).

Instead Business Dictionary defines an influencer as : “Individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position, or relationship”.

They continue: “In consumer spending, members of a peer group or reference group act as influencers. In business to business (organisational) buying, internal employees (engineers, managers, purchasers) or external consultants act as influencers.”

The upshot is, anyone has the power to be an influencer, and chasing this authoritative space has the potential to build your brand.

Building your influence

Influence is all about establishing yourself as the go-to source for information in your field.

It’s about creating credibility and offering a source of reliable insight that few other places afford, and the recipe for success comes down to a few key factors:

Know your audience – To influence your audience you need to understand who they are. What drives their decision making and what problems do they face?

What’s their level of understanding in the realm where you reside? Because your job is to make their journey simple by serving up a seminal source of information that no other expert provides.

Know your content – When you deliver that content, it better be worth their time. It should be unique, all-encompassing, well-researched, reliable and authentic. If a consumer is set to base their purchase on your advice, this advice should be informed, proven and clearly outlined.

Own your arena – Once you know your audience, your expertise and your content, you need to step up and own that arena, out-contributing every other person in that space. This content should be consistent in quality, consistent in insight, consistent in its regular delivery and consistent in the value it offers those who follow your advice.

Make it accessible – You may be an expert in your field, but your role as an influencer is to translate otherwise inaccessible information and bring it back to your tribe. “What does it mean to them?” is the question you most frequently ask. How will this piece of information affect, shape, alter or improve their lives?

Trust and authenticity – An influencer is a role built on trust. It’s a position determined by the authenticity, expertise and credibility you provide. These are attributes to be valued and upheld, which are factored into every piece on content you provide. If you don’t believe it, don’t say it. If you don’t understand it, don’t profess to, and if you can’t back it, don’t endorse it or allow others to on your behalf.

Marketing pioneer Lester Wunderman once famously noted: “The most dangerous question a prospect or customer asks is ‘Why should I?’ And they may ask it more than once…”

Why should your audience believe you? Why should they seek you out? This comes down to credibility and maintaining your reputation in your arena. What attributes do you bring to this space? Is it qualifications, time in the field or exceptional success. Illustrate your credentials so your audience understands exactly why they should listen to you.

Using influencers

For those who do not feel they have their own influence to wield or for those who do not choose to engage it, there is also the option of utilising external influencers.

And it’s a marketing strategy that can pay off. Indeed, influencer marketing can be used in addition to your own expertise, thereby establishing you and your brand as the seminal commentator or product in your space.

Currently one of the most Googled terms in the marketing realm, “influencer marketing” involves aligning your brand with a persona. This person should espouse the ethos and values of everything that you do, and it’s a trend that has grown rapidly in recent years.

Influencer Marketing Hub cites a 325 per cent increase in Google searches for the term influencer marketing over the past 12 months.

They also note it’s the fastest growing customer acquisition method on the market at present.

Influencer marketing holds 28 per cent of the market share, followed by organic searches at 15 per cent, email campaigns at 13 per cent, paid searches at 11 per cent, display advertising at 5 per cent, and affiliate marketing at 3 per cent.

Meanwhile, 37 per cent of the marketers they surveyed are now dedicating a marketing budget specifically to influencer marketing, and 67 per cent are looking to raise that budget in the next year.

So why the buzz?

Well as Forbes explains, 80 per cent of all business to customer and business to business purchases involve some form of word-of-mouth recommendation during the purchase cycle, while “businesses that utilise influencer marketing have a 37 per cent better retention rate than those that don’t rely on word of mouth”.

In a nutshell, influencer marketing is much like having a trusted mate wholeheartedly recommend your brand. Moreover, this influencer is not just the girl or guy next door. It’s someone your customers actually aspire to be.

The final word

With reams of internet content created daily, your job as a brand representative is to stand out from the crowd. The best strategy is to employ all tools at your disposal, creating both a brand and influencer persona that sees you out-contribute and outqualify the opposition.

At its heart, it’s not about budget, it’s now about time served in the field, it’s about out-engaging, out-informing and out-educating everyone in your field by providing quality content personally and professionally that sees your audience seek you out as a trusted source time and again to offer the seminal insight in your realm.

About Openseed

At Openseed we work with business to understand the internet playing field and how you can harness it to showcase your strengths.

We create intuitive branding, websites and quality content strategies that reflect the internet trends as they are now and will be in the future. Among the tools we harness to leverage your content for the greatest reach is Video, and we employ it on websites, social media and within advertising campaigns.

We do so in the knowledge great marketing is all about getting to the heart of your business message to help your business rank foremost on Google and at the front of your consumer’s mind. You can learn more about our services here or contact us directly to learn more about how we can help.