Influencer Marketing is...
An approach to marketing and public relations where you target the people your prospects turn to for information. (According to OpenView in "The Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing")
The process of identifying, researching, engaging and supporting the people who create the conversations impacting your brand, products or services. (According to Traackr in its "Guide to Influencer Marketing')
The name we give to the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service. (According to The Moz Blog in "Influencer Marketing - What it is and why you need to be doing it")
You get the idea. Influencer marketing is getting in the good graces of the big kahunas and making the kinship work for your company. From the definitions above, you gather it happens in the form of conversation, relationship development, and information creation.
Why is "influencer marketing" such a big buzz?
Influencer marketing is bleeping big on the radar screen of the i-world because we're creating exabytes of data faster than we can pause to learn what the hell an exabyte actually is. And, of course, we not just going gangbusters creating content. It gets distributed at the speed of gigahertz in googols (which is 1 followed by 100 zeros).
Something like that.
The crux of the matter is this: while everyone's capable of making ripples, an elite few actually have the power to make waves. They're influential. Readers care what they think, are more prone to buy into their points of view and act on them.
These influential types, which we conveniently call "influencers," serve as a proxy to the online universe. They amplify the messages they choose to. They point the way. They help the common man focus his limited time and resources on the most powerful channels and conversations.
Let's cut to the kill. They sway purchasing decisions.
Here's why you should care.
In a word: audience. Influencers have them and you need them. Influencers set the trends too. One power player might toss a snowball that causes an avalanche of traffic to your site.
With a great big nod to OpenView's ideas, I now give you a list of the benefits of influencer marketing.
Greater awareness. By building relationships with key influencers, you're bound to get more of the eyeballs you seek. Some form of a plug or mention, such as kind words about your products, act as the most powerful form of advertising: word of mouth. Free advertising for you. From someone with significant sway.
Increased traffic. Endorsements of your company should cause the influencer's audience to parade to your website in search of more information.
Sidebar: A post from Social Media Examiner (thanks to my friend-and influencer-Andy Crestodina-on the last day of 2013, describing my post, "Enlarge Your Digital Footprint for More Effective Online Marketing," made January 2014 my website's most trafficked month ever.
Helpful feedback. Influencer marketing gives you a feedback loop with people in your space. If they resist an idea, it may not fly. And vise-versa.
Build credibility. When you earn an endorsement from an influencer, you get a free pass aboard the trust train. You won't have to do as much selling. You may not have to do any because an influencer's referral is often the tipping point.
Business opportunities. Of course, with traffic, and trust, come new opportunities to build your business. You're likely to find yourself getting invited to speak, participate in webinars, collaborate on content, and yes, sell your stuff. I can give you countless examples how this has worked for me (but won't). Suffice to say, I'm approached for opportunities such as these daily. Thanks, influencers.
Now you probably want to know how to do influencer marketing.
I've defined influencer marketing for you. You learned why it's such a hot topic. And I told you five immensely important reasons why you should do it. But I haven't told you how.
I plan to. First, check out this infographic featuring influencer marketing tips from 22 of today's most influential marketers. (Please share it too.)
And stay tuned for Part 2 of my influencer marketing series. Join my mailing list if you're not on it to be sure you don't miss the post to follow. It's going to be a doozy. Really. A massive heap of tips and tactics that I know are effective because I've used them and here you are trusting me to school you on influencer marketing.