What Exactly Are “Influencers” and Why Are They Important – Especially for Small Businesses

By February 27, 2019 Insight, Marketing, Social Media

In today’s fast-paced world of marketing, it’s tough to keep up with the trends and lingo. When you hear the term “influencer” in the media, many will automatically think of the Kardashian sisters or Kanye. However, if you’re over the age of 50, there’s a good chance that you have no idea who the hell either of those people are.

Influencer Marketing is a trend that has become popular over the last couple of years. It’s basically a referral program for the digital age, where brands and companies are using people of “influence” to tell their loyal followers just how great the company’s product is. For all you Boomer’s out there, think of it as the new “coffee shop talk.” For all you Millennial’s and Gen Zer’s, let me explain what I mean.

Back in the day before Starbucks made it possible to buy a $5 coffee using your smartphone, people used to gather around the local coffee shop every morning. Many “brilliant” ideas were formed around these local institutions, while friends and neighbours discussed the day’s events. Part of the conversation would also include personal experiences with local businesses – good, bad, and ugly. If Mr. Jones had a positive experience with the new barber that popped up down the road, you can be sure that everyone else would give him a try later that week.

Social media has basically taken this “coffee shop talk” and magnified it to a global scale, but the concept remains the same. If Ms. Kardashian jumps on Instagram to tell her 128 million followers to go buy Fiji water, you can bet a lot of people will do just that.

I know this sounds great for multi-billion dollar brands that can afford to pay these influencers their exorbitant rates to send out a couple posts (it’s reported that some of the biggest influencers on Instagram can garner upwards of $1 million per post!), but how can this concept be used by small, local businesses?

The best asset small businesses have is their current customer base. If you’ve been in business for more than five minutes, you should have at least a few customers who are “raving fans” that constantly advocate and recommend your business to others. If you’re lucky enough that some of these customers have a circle of “influence,” you should be leveraging this to your advantage.

This can include simply asking them for referrals, or taking it a step further and having them promote you on social media. Most of these customers will be flattered that you ask, and will do it for a small discount on their next purchase, or likely even for free. The goal of this strategy is to use their “influence” to introduce your business to an entirely new group of potential customers. Once you have the ability to service these new customers, and provide an outstanding, memorable experience, they too will promote you to their audience, compounding the results over time.

Many small businesses look at social media and digital marketing as a “fad” and something that is more suited for the “big guys.” If your one of those owners who still rely on the traditional means of promoting your business, and refuse to adapt to these new strategies and opportunities, it’s time you take a good, hard look at your business. Markets, customers, and economies are changing at a pace faster than ever before, and although you may be comfortable with the “old way” of doing things, you can’t ignore innovation.

Now go for a walk to your local coffee shop, and tell Mr. Jones to pull out his smart phone, and start Tweeting and Facebooking about his amazing experience with your business. Tell him to throw in the odd emjoi as well to change things up!

This article was written by Matt Pasut, the President of CR Creative Co.
Follow him on LinkedIn for more business insight and advice.