Does your company’s future rest on the way you answer a single question on Twitter? Don’t be too quick to answer! The power of persuasion is a remarkable force in modern marketing.
Influence has always been an important force in marketing. Celebrity product endorsements have existed for as long as the concept of “celebrity” itself. The actual relationship of the celebrity to the product is actually secondary to the amount of exposure they can bring to a company’s brand. A mere glimpse of an influential figure using or wearing a company’s product can be enough to drive millions of dollars in sales. Securing celebrity endorsements is often an expensive prospect, though. This is another area in which the growth of new online media has dramatically changed the world of marketing. Today endorsements are accessible to far more companies, especially those with online marketing savvy.
Azhar, the CEO of PeerIndex – Influence Tools, says that influence marketing is the rising trend in the industry. The core principle that drives the phenomenon is the simple fact that buyers trust other buyers. Personal relationships are becoming far more important than celebrity relationships.
According to the latest data from McKinsey, word-of-mouth advice now influences anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of buying decisions. Forrester offers further corroboration of this trend, noting that word-of-mouth plays a significant role in buying choices in both the B2C and B2B arenas. Certainly the explosion of companies like Perspective Edge – SEO Company that aim to capitalize on this vital segment of the marketing industry suggests that currying influence will be crucial in future marketing efforts. Perspective Edge isn’t alone in exploiting this trend, though; there are many companies exploring the possibilities in influence marketing.
PeerIndex is a definite underdog, currently operating with just $3m in funding. The company is confident in its own expertise, though. It has robust tools for tracking the rise and fall of individuals’ influence in an actionable fashion. This will translate directly into useful information for brands that are on the hunt for influential individuals to aid in their marketing efforts. PeerIndex investigates the most subtle signs of influence beyond cross-platform popularity (e.g. the way any Tweet made by a known celebrity will be hugely popular) to deliver more promising opportunities to marketers.
According to Azhar, the motivating factor behind this sort of marketing is nothing new. It’s why designers invite popular fashionistas to their latest shows — brands want to cultivate the approval of tastemakers. Where PeerIndex offers something new is in identifying the potential that everyone has to be a tastemaker. The company seeks to build relationships between individuals and brands that are mutually beneficial. Insider access can be exchanged for greater exposure and notoriety when sellers and tastemakers are brought together properly.
Social media is one of the newest fields available to marketers, and also one of the most delicate. Tastemakers have a great potential to influence others, but the merest hint of compensated endorsement can destroy their marketing potential. This is one of the key factors that companies like PeerIndex are investigating.
Azhar has had great personal success as a brand ambassador in the past. He boasts of converting friends and colleagues to his preferred ISP and spreading the good news about Apple products. He points to this as an example of his potential value to tech companies not simply as a customer but also as a tastemaker. The total value of the sales accessible through an influential individual is far greater than that of the individual’s own purchasing power. Azhar notes that this effect is, to a certain extent, infinitely extensible. Individual customers and influencers who are successfully won over will deliver potent follow-on benefits by bringing other influencers into the fold. This process has the potential to go on indefinitely, turning marketing campaigns viral and vastly extending the reach of marketers.
Not everyone is convinced of social media’s power as a marketing tool yet. Doubters who insist on staying on the fence are going to miss out, though. The new paradigms of influence marketing are being forged as we speak. In the future, treating your customer as an anonymous and interchangeable member of a wider audience will be a bad idea. When treated with respect and intelligence, the customer becomes a powerful advocate who can have a significant marketing effect. Cultivating this sort of influence marketing is not just a happy accident; cutting-edge marketers are working hard to quantify the way it happens and make it a reliable tool that can be employed to promote brands in the future.