Influencer Marketing Has Been Around Longer Than You Think

In my last post, I described the enormous power of influencer marketing. I identified the four types of influencers commonly hired by marketers and described their value in today's marketplace.

Today, let’s dig deeper into the history of influencer marketing. After all, marketers and advertisers have been using influencers long before DJ Khaled burst onto the social media scene.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

As a reminder, influencer marketing focuses on using key people to drive your brand’s message to the broader market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead hire influencers to get out the word for you.

Influencers speak passionately about a topic. They are connoisseurs who can influence others about the issues he or she talks about. They have a community interested in what he or she says or does, writes or publishes.

When Did Influencer Marketing Begin?

Despite popular belief, influencer marketing didn’t start with the launch of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The act of using highly influential individuals to endorse consumer goods and services has been around for hundreds of years.

There was a study in 1940 entitled “The People’s Choice” by Lazerfeld & Katz that looked at political communication. It concluded that the majority of people are influenced by secondhand information.

Examples of Influencer Marketing Before Social Media

In the 1930’s Coca-Cola used the charm of Santa Claus to sell soda. In the 1950’s, The Marlboro Man sold Cigarettes, and in the 1980’s Mary Lou Retton was the first woman athlete featured on a Wheaties box. 

So, What’s Different Now?

The difference is that the current marketing influencers are markedly more humanized, approachable and accessible than ever before. They are not all celebrities, and some would argue that micro-influencers are even more powerful than celebrity influencers.

In the past, there were not social media platforms to elevate the voices of influencers. Celebrities did not interact with consumers and micro influencers had little impact if any.

The Tipping Point Started It All

Malcolm Gladwell was a pioneer in writing about influencer marketing. In 2000, his book “The Tipping Point” became an international bestseller.

In the book, Gladwell describes “The Law of The Few” stating,

“There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.”

Malcolm Gladwell identifies three different types of influencers in his book: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople. These three types of influencers remain relevant in influencer marketing tactics eighteen years later.

The Connectors The connectors are people who know everybody. They have a vast network of friends and colleagues and are instrumental in spreading the word. These individuals are confident, energetic, social, and have the innate ability to befriend people with a wide range of views.

In today’s world of influencer marketing, a connector would have a lot of “friends” on Twitter. A connector might also have a podcast. They build a deeper relationship with their network by finding new guests, which often come by way of introduction from past guests.

The Mavens These are the experts in a particular subject matter.  They are the computer nerds, the movie buffs, or the fashion-forward friends.  The mavens are the people you ask first when you need advice or help.

According to a study done at Clarkson University entitled “Connectors, Mavens, Salesmen and More: An Actor-Based Online Social Network (OSN) Analysis Method Using Tensed Predicate Logic,” mavens are information gatherers who pass along information to many people. They like to continually share their information with many individuals until it becomes a social epidemic.

CNN just featured Makeda Mahaedo on their African Voices channel. This channel highlights the continent’s most dazzling trendsetters who create their own subcultures in areas such as travel, fashion, art, music, technology, and architecture. Her YouTube channel has racked up over 70,000 views, which makes her Rwanda’s highest-profile blogger.

Makeda is a powerful maven for the African diaspora, and her influence and style are spreading into the mainstream market.

The Salesmen These are the charismatic people that persuade others to jump on board. Their charm and gift of gab appeal to different types of people.

In today’s world of influencer marketing, salesman are those we follow on Snapchat or Instagram. They are highly entertaining an inspirational with great personalities. They possess the ability to excite us, and they can sell us anything.

Nike is an excellent example. Their latest partnership with the wildly popular Kevin Hart is a far cry from traditional athletes such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordon. Hart’s ability to appeal to the athlete in all of us has proven to be very successful.

Influencer Marketing Facts

No matter how you define influencers, the following influencer marketing facts from cannot be ignored:

  • Influencer marketing content delivers 11x higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
  • Twitter users report a 5.2x increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers.
  • 74% of people turn to social networks for guidance on purchase decisions.
  • 40% of people say they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube.
  • Teens’ emotional attachment to YouTube stars is 7x greater than their traditional celebrities.
  • Among teens, YouTube stars are perceived as 17x more engaging and 11x more extraordinary than mainstream stars.
  • 71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing.

Why Is Influencer Marketing So Popular Today?

The rise of social sharing platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube that share in-the-moment stories means users can build up their followings by merely posting about their day-to-day lives.

We Are Only Human

Also, consumers are overloaded with messages both online and offline. As technology overtakes the amount of daily human interactions, our natural need for connection is driving us to listen to influencers over brands when it comes to our behaviors.

Social media platforms allow us to build relationships with people who appeal to us. When people build up their followings in places like Instagram and Snapchat, they also develop trust and with their followers. This bond means that their followers are more likely to listen to what they have to say. 

Did you find this article informative? If so, please SHARE it with others who are interested in learning more about influencer marketing!

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Arnt Eriksen. Simplifying the complexity
of marketing and communication.

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