Working in the marketing and advertising world of the noughties, harnessing word-of-mouth was the holy grail. We knew that people were most likely to do something or buy something if someone they knew and trusted said it was a good idea. We tried to push this through referral codes and customer reviews, but it never quite had the impact we dreamed of.
Fast forward to the 2010s, and bam, influencer marketing had become A Thing. While it’s not a channel without issues (growing cynicism towards influencer culture and the ease with which people can buy followers to boost their apparent reach mean brands need to choose their influencers very carefully), it comes closer than anything else has to capturing that elusive word-of-mouth.
Working with influencers, brands are able to buy word-of-mouth at scale. By picking the right influencer, they can put positive words about their brand into the mouth of someone their target can audience relate to, trust and see as 'in the know'. It works, and brands worldwide spent $8.5bn on it in 2019.
At Acteon, we love to take a campaign approach to communication. We know that reaching people across multiple channels makes the message stick – something that people not only remember but do something about. At work, word-of-mouth is just as powerful a motivator as it is in our personal lives. So when we're designing learning or behaviour change campaigns with our clients, we think about how influencer marketing might help as an element.
These are our top tips for choosing the right influencers and using them to supercharge your message...
Choosing your influencers
1. What’s your objective?
Are you aiming to raise awareness of something, or to prompt people to take action?
If it’s awareness, your influencer should be high profile with high reach who can get your message across to as many people as possible.
However, if you want people to take action – to adopt a new behaviour or carry out a new process – you need more depth than reach. Choose someone your target audience can relate to, someone who has credibility within the area where you’re trying to make a change.
2. Who will your audience listen to?
Your first response to the question 'Who will my audience listen to?' might be to think of your CEO or head of department, an authority figure who of course is listened to because, well, that’s how it works!
But then ask yourself: who will they really listen to? Is there anyone else who will influence your audience even more? Perhaps someone who feels closer or more relatable, or that colleagues have a deep respect for? Here’s where micro-influencers in a specific group or area of the business can make an impact. These people may be quieter and lower profile, but a message that comes from them could provide the cut-through you need.
3. Who’s most relevant?
For your message to be genuinely believed by your audience, the person delivering your message needs to have credibility, authority and relatability. They need to be as close to the subject at hand as possible.
If you’re launching strategic initiatives, think about having one influencer involved in setting the strategy and another who can relate it to what it means to colleagues where they work. If it’s a new process to follow, use someone who can explain they ‘why’ of the process, and also someone who will be using the process themselves to explain the ‘how’.
Different influencers for different situations
Here are three situations where using an influencer could have a positive impact, and the different types of influencers to consider for each…
- When you need to show how important something is to the business: This is where your influencers need to be high profile, with high reach.
- When you need to reassure people that they’ve been considered: Hearing the voice of ‘someone like me’ can be particularly powerful.
- When you need to explain a new process: We’re often cynical, and need to hear from ‘someone that gets it’ in order to be persuaded to listen.
Looking for an example of a project where using internal influencers made a difference?
Here’s some we made earlier…
From our induction 'Welcome to Co-op' project...
And 'WTF is Dovetail' for Channel 4...