Let us start by quoting an article about consumer perceptions of trust based on data from SurveyMonkey: “Trust plays a role for 92% of Americans, 89% of UK residents, and 95% of Canadians when making a big purchase.” Trust is important, but not just on the company-specific level; looking at potential customer interaction, consumers are far more likely to trust the assessment of a software security expert when considering a new browser than the opinion of a sitcom star from 20 years ago. Simply put, in a cacophony of available information and insight, consumers trust people who know what they’re talking about, which brings us to today’s concept, influencer marketing.
Breaking the term down, it is, of course, a compounding of the concept of an “influencer” applied specifically to marketing. Essentially, an influencer is someone who, through their celebrity, industry knowledge/experience, or social media presence, can have an influence on the actions of the user/consumer. Arriving in English in Henry More’s 1664 work, A Modest Enquiry into the Mystery of Iniquity, writing that: “The head and influencer of the whole Church,” influencer comes to us through the Old French influence, which is actually an astrological term referring to the ‘streaming ethereal power from the stars in certain positions that act on the character or destiny of men’, and the suffix -er, denoting ‘a person having to do with’. As for marketing, which, as the verbal noun of market, came into English in the 1560s from the Old North French derivative (market) of the Latin marcatus, meaning ‘the act of transacting business’, the first use with the understanding the promotion/selling/advertising of a product can be traced back to the March, 1884 issue of Harper’s Magazine: “This marketing of supplies was the beginning..of its prosperity.”
While we may think of influencers as being a product of social media – which, to a certain extent, they are – the origin of influencer marketing goes back at least a century. A key example which still maintains impact is the modern iteration of Santa Claus developed in the early 1930s by Coca-Cola: essentially, it was a marketing effort to condition an emotional response that would lead to a positive brand affiliation. Given, in the last, well, century or so, we’ve gone beyond being influenced by a simple emotional purchase stimulus – the age of social media has allowed us to pick and choose who we trust, who we listen to, and who most closely aligns with our values, thus giving rise to more (in quantity and trustworthiness) niche-oriented influencers.
To some, this motley crew of reviews, demos, and informational content by social media personalities may have initially seemed disjointed and incoherent, especially when contrasted with traditional advertising, but the numbers are increasingly showing that trust is king. 63% of consumers trust influencers’ opinions of products much more than what brands say about themselves; moreover, 58% of people have bought a new product in the past six months because of an influencer’s recommendation. Compared to just 39% of companies in 2018, 65% of companies in 2020 will increase their influencer marketing budgets, with 17% spending more than half of their marketing budget on influencer marketing. Of those who utilize influencer marketing, 89% report that return on investment is as good as or better than other marketing channels. Also, in case you were wondering, when it comes to influencer marketing, the undisputed king is Instagram, which is expected to continue to grab the lion’s share (69%) of this year’s influencer marketing budget.