Influencer Marketing, Part 5: Choosing Influencers

Choosing an influencer is everything. The right spokesperson can yield big profits. The wrong one can bring disaster.

This post is “Part 5” in my influencer marketing series. I’ve covered what it is, why to use it, setting goals, and picking the right channel. Now it is time to choose influencers.

Influencer Types

Recall the first installment defined the three types of influencers: aspirational, authoritative, and peer.

Aspirational influencers are typically celebrities with large audiences and broad appeal. Authorities are the niche experts people look to for specific needs, and peers are the neighbors, friends, and colleagues we trust in our day-to-day decision-making.

To choose, pick the type that aligns with your goals. A simple way to do this is to quantify the influencer type characteristics. Assign a score from 1 (lowest) to 3. You may want to alter scores for certain characteristics depending on your use case.

  • Commerce. For merchants, this is almost certainly an important characteristic. Why does “peer” rank higher than “authoritative” and “aspirational”? Because most of us trust the judgment of people we know. The number of prospects is higher with an aspirational influencer, but many will not buy. That’s why the smaller peer influencers often out-perform celebrities.
  • Emotion. Invoking an emotional response has its place, especially when soliciting donations or aligning a product with a personal need. Authorities are often the weakest at eliciting emotion as consumers view them as cold and rational. Peers, once again, have the strongest emotional hold over most of us.
  • Inform. Authorities are the best at informing — the more complex the topic, the stronger the result. Expertise is essential. Aspirational types fare the worst. Consumers view celebrities’ knowledge of niche subjects as surface-level at best. When viewed as experts, peers outperform celebrities, too.
  • Reach. What is the audience size and its viral impact? Celebrities and their digital bullhorns are the clear winners. And authorities rank second as their audiences are typically larger than peers.
  • Relevance. Relevance is usually inverse to overall reach. Thus peers tend to come out ahead.
  • Trust. Trust in friends and family is stronger than celebrity marketers who alternate between diet tea and endless beach vacations. Authorities come in a close second since consumers value the ability to inform without emotion.

Doing the math and without re-weighting characteristics for unique use cases, peers with an overall score of 13 rank highest for commerce, followed by authorities (12) and aspirational (9).  However, one can see how quickly the scores would change if a business valued, say, reach more than trust or relevancy.

What’s missing from this calculation is cost, engagement, and outcomes. All depend on the particulars of the merchant and don’t neatly fit into the three influencer types.

Nonetheless, we can still attempt to measure likely influencer performance.

Final Selection

My formula from several years ago still holds:

Outcome = (Reach * Engagement * Relevance) – Cost

It’s simple, but it works.

Assign the actual audience size as the Reach. For Relevance, apply a scale, with 1.0 being a perfect fit and 0.0 being completely wrong.

There are multiple ways to measure audience Engagement. The method doesn’t matter as much as consistency. Some prefer to weigh comments more than likes, retweets, subscribes, or other click activities. Like Relevance, apply a scale here, with perfect Engagement at 1.0 and a train wreck of apathy at 0.0.

Cost includes payments to the influencers, the product expense, and other incidental charges such as shipping, handling, and travel.

Completing the calculation results in a list of the influencer candidates — best to worst. The order is more important than quantity in my experience. Although as long as Outcome is positive, the more influencers you engage, the better the chances of success.

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