Why Engagement Trumps Reach in Influencer Marketing, Every Time
Here's a timeless truth for influencer marketing: size doesn't matter.
It's not how big your following is, it's how effectively you're able engage your audience that makes the biggest difference to your bottom line. For a long time, reach was the golden fleece of online marketing. But as the digital space continues to evolve, its goal posts are shifting accordingly.
An influencer's flashy follower count might be impressive at first glance, but how do you know who's really listening?
Real engagement, and why it trumps reach
Let's say you have 100 000 subscribers on YouTube. That looks good on paper, but what's the view time of your videos? Are people watching for longer than 30 seconds?
Just because you have 1, 000 Twitter followers doesn't mean 1, 000 people see your tweet. Let's assume that only 600 of your 1, 000 Twitter followers saw your post, but 50 of them clicked the link in your tweet or tweeted you back. For switched-on marketers, and depending on the subsequent actions taken, the 50 engaged members of your audience are definitely more important than reaching all 1, 000 followers.
Avoiding the reach trap
If you've only just clicked onto influencer marketing, you might still be falling into the reach trap as a knee-jerk reaction to impressive follower counts, instead of tapping into the greater potential for engagement. Instead of choosing an influencer with an army of followers, choose one who's armed with the weapons to build relationships.
If customer engagement is defined as ''the emotional connection between your customers and your company'', we beg this question: ''who would you more likely follow a recommendation from - your best friend, or Kim Kardashian?"
The answer (according to McKinsey), is that you're 50x more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend than from a celebrity or Internet personality.
Reach doesn't equal results, true story
Imagine you're reading a story to a classroom full of kids.
They're gathered around you, hushed and excited. You read the story perfectly, emphasizing important plot points with dramatic pauses to make eye contact with the more eager members of your audience. Halfway through the story you know that many of them aren't listening anymore (as evidenced by their blank stares out the window) but you soldier on for the few in the front row. When you finally close the book you're bombarded with so many questions that it's impossible to answer all of them.
Plus, it's time to go home and you're tired (not to mention frustrated by your audience's lack of attention). But you leave feeling mildly satisfied that you've done your job; your story reached a classroom full of kids.
This is what it's like being an influencer with a large following and wide reach.
Now, imagine you're reading the same story to just one child. You might only reach one child, but your capacity to engage him in the story is expansive. There's room to pause and ask him questions and to draw his attention to a key moment in the narrative that might be of particular interest to him. He might even stop you to clarify something that he doesn't understand. It's a one-on-one exchange; an ongoing conversation that is vastly beneficial to both of you.
This is what it's like being an influencer with a smaller following and reach, but a greater capacity for engagement.
So what is it about engagement that beats reach to the ROI finish line? While both metrics are important, you can't build a loyal consumer base on reach alone. Reach certainly forms something of a bedrock - especially if your goal is to get your brand out there. But without your audience acting on your content (likes, retweets, shares and comments) there's very little chance of leveraging that relationship to score leads and converting these to sales. This is why 73% of content creators plan to prioritize creating more engaging content in 2016, according to Hubspot.
Are you one of them?
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