Stop Focusing on Labels. Start Focusing on Influence.
Influencer Marketing4 MIN READ
Patrick Frank wrote a nice article on Entrepreneur.com recently that claimed influencers are out, and ambassadors are in. Patrick is not a marketing talking head. In fact, he’s the COO of a platform called PatientPartner which matches pre-surgical patients with those who have gone through the same surgery. How’s that for creating a great resource for people?
At first glance, I flinched at Patrick’s headline. I don’t like it when people pile on influencers just because they fall under the category of influencers. Yes, some are more effective at driving action from their audiences than others. Sure, there are some very superficial and ineffective ones out there. But just because someone intentionally creates content to engage an audience and allows for brand collaborations in their content doesn’t make them something to avoid.
But Patrick’s point was that the more authentic representatives of your brand, or its community … brand ambassadors … are, in his mind, more important to focus on for 2023.
We don’t disagree, Mr. Frank. In fact, your article essentially sums up why CIPIO.ai’s Community Influence Marketing application exists. Instead of looking at social media influencers to find people to represent your brand, we’ve built a technology solution that helps brands map their own community to surface the ambassadors … the influential people you already know.
The nuanced language we’re using to talk about who will drive influence for your brand is becoming a roadblock for us, though. At CIPIO.ai, we believe that your goal in engaging third party content creators to advocate for your brand is an effort to leverage influence. The persuasive ability for the creator to engage, inform, or entertain through content that moves their audience to take action is, by definition, their influence.
We use the term influence marketing here, without the R, because, even though it’s a simple semantic difference, it helps keep us grounded on why we’re doing this … we’re trying to influence. Not just use influencers.
That individual carries a number of labels today. Influencer has evolved to almost be a bad word. For some, it implies a superficial social media selfie-taker living their best life for their community of followers, but one who probably can’t convince them to buy anything or do anything other than like or comment.
The industry has bounced over to content creator as a label. That’s good in that it underlines probably the best brand benefit of engaging one … you get content you can use created by someone who is skilled at doing so. But it’s bad in that it removes the notion that they might also have actual influence.
Patrick Frank identifies the person carrying the message forward as an ambassador. While that might imply to some there’s a formal, contractual relationship between the individual and the brand they are an ambassador for, which can push some to think of them in the same vein as an influencer, it also implies this person is a more genuine customer or fan of the brand.
Frank’s article describes ambassadors much the way we describe members of a brand community. They may or may not have lots of social media followers, but they have some tie to the brand — a customer, a social media followers, an employee and so on.
Ambassador. Influencer. Creator. Community Member. Loyalist. Advocate.
If you jumped in on the middle of this you might think I was reading from a thesaurus. All of these words are interchangeable. We can apply social queues to them all we want, but they all identify the same person – someone we want to tell other people about our product or service.
This is the main reason we like to use the term influence marketing, without the R, at CIPIO. We’re focused on the action, not the channel or person. We’re focused on actual influence. Not just someone who qualifies as an influencer.
If the rest of the industry would follow suit … and I’m overtly saying they should … then Patrick Frank and others wouldn’t write things that say you have to prefer one type of person over another. They would look past the label and language and focus on what really matters:
Are you actually influencing the audience to do anything?
And let me share a little secret with you about Brand Ambassadors. If you don’t arm them with the right content, collateral, assets and motivation to go forth and recommend well, they won’t be any more effective than the “influencers” Patrick seems to think aren’t going to do the trick for you.
The label or description of the person you are leveraging to persuade an audience does not matter. Their ability to actually persuade the audience does. And much of that ability is in your control.
Give them the right messaging. Catered to their audience.
Give them the right assets. To communicate well to that audience.
Give them the right direction. To ensure they are executing the messaging to the audience well.
Give them the right motivation. To dissolve any filter that stands between them and the ability to deliver the message authentically.
If you do those things, you can call them influencers. You can call them ambassadors. You can call them employees. You can call them dancing shoes.
It’s not the who that matters. It’s the what and the how.
That extends to the software world, too. You can sign up for and use CIPIO.ai’s Community Influence Marketing platform. You can sign up for any number of other software provider’s tools that promise to solve your influencer marketing problems.
But if you don't use the tools wisely … if you don’t think through the what and how and only focus on the who … none of them will be worth the investment.
We have to stop focusing on labels and start focusing on influence. When your brand does, you’ll not get distracted by influencers versus ambassadors or advocates versus content creators. You’ll be focused on persuading an audience to take the actions you desire through any individual or channel that will reach them.
We not only have software to help you at CIPIO.ai, we have good thinking, too. We are the leading Community Commerce Marketing platform with an array of applications to help your brand identify and activate brand advocates (or influencers or community members or creators or dancing shoes), including our signature one, our Community Influence Marketing app.
Stay tuned to CIPIO.ai’s channels. We’re preparing a webinar series to dig in deeper and help you leverage the power of influence and community commerce marketing. That’s coming soon.
In the meantime, jump over to CIPIO.ai and schedule a demo to see our platform and thinking in action.