In two previous articles, I talked about how Influencer Marketing Delivers 11X ROI Over All Other Forms of Digital Media and worked to dispel the 3 Most Common Myths of Influencer Marketing. But then I took a step back and wanted to answer the very specific question of "What is Influencer Marketing?"

If you do a Google Search for "What is Influencer Marketing", you'll get a tight definition from Tap Influence's blog, which states: "Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand's message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay influencers to get out the word for you."

What Defines An "Influencer"?

A common misunderstanding in Influencer Marketing is that an influencer is synonymous with being a celebrity. While celebrities are influential, more people are turning to subject matter experts that they trust for insights and recommendations. Today, an influencer is anyone who has a sizeable network of people who follow and engage with them - usually on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snap Chat (to name a few). You don't need to have millions of followers to be considered an influencer. The size of an influencer's audience is less important than the level of engagement. Who cares if you have 6 million followers on your social media platform if none of them engage when you share your insights?

How Does Influencer Marketing Work?

It starts with a business that is looking for a better way to connect with its target audience. Rather than going through the traditional banner ad and pre-roll video advertising routes, the business will clearly define its ideal customer profile and look for influencers who have already build a large audience that matches this profile. This used to be a very manual and labor intensive process until third parties such as Tap Influence built out networks of influencers in the tens of thousands. Now we can plug in the defining characteristics of an ideal audience and quickly determine tens to hundreds of influencers that have an audience match.

From there, several influencers are selected and invited into a business's specific campaign. Rather than providing finished content, you give influencers guard rails around the kinds of content that you believe will resonate. The influencers develop the content themselves and share with their audiences. You can then track and measure what's resonating and leverage the most impactful content via your own social channels. That's the best part. The cost of content development and distribution are included in the influencer marketing campaign costs and you're free to leverage this content on your own social media platforms, website and digital media channels.

Why Influencer Marketing Is Growing

When I started my career in digital marketing (in 1994), we were seeing banner ad click through rates as high as 44%. Today, the average banner ad click through rate is less than 0.06% (see related article, 3 Exponentially Better Alternatives to Banner Advertising). According to Harris Interactive, as much as 90% of Americans ignore digital ads and Media Post reports that 90% of people skip pre-roll video ads.

With continued pressure on the performance and ROI of your digital marketing, is it any wonder that marketers are actively looking for a viable alternative? While Influencer Marketing is no magic bullet, it does combine the power of content marketing with the delivery by a trusted source. There are no ad blockers to prevent the content from being delivered and the audience of the influencer is usually supportive of the influencer receiving payment for their sponsored content.

Nielsen Catalina Solutions recently issued a research report with a detailed look into the power of Influencer Marketing. This is a good place to start to learn more and decide if your digital marketing would benefit from Influencer Marketing.