mark fidelman, cx, influencer marketingDigital Marketing is constantly evolving, trying to keep up with the needs and demands of a well-informed consumer base. One new approach, influencer marketing, is destined to take a leading role in how marketers turn potential buyers into customers. This is the view of Mark Fidelman, and he makes a compelling case.

First, What is Influencer Marketing According to Fidelman

It's not hard to define, but it's hard to put into a sentence or two (although some have tried). Fidelman explains it as using influencers in your marketing efforts instead of using the brand as the lead (the traditional approach).

He gave the example of putting an influencer on a banner ad instead of the brand name. Fidelman has tested this and found that influencers will increase click counts by 36 percent. 

The idea is that you use the most influential people in your industry to either control and drive the social media campaign or participate in it.

Should IM Be The Approach Going Forward?

So if influencer marketing has such potential, should a marketer drop the more traditional method of focusing on the brand, and switch to influencer marketing?

Fidelman says you still need a combination, but "circles of trust" are very important.

In a B2C context, family and friends (your inner most circle) are the best to leverage as influencers, advocates are next and then the last three circles of trust for people making decisions are web ads/online ads, corporate blog posts, media, CEO information, etc ...

In a B2B context it's a little different Fidelman says, because people don't typically look to family and friends unless they are an expert in the B2B company's offering. In this case, Advocates come first and then influencers. According to Fidelman, influencers are trusted more by decision makers -- a lot more than the amount of money brands are spending on current marketing tactics.

Where Do you Find These Influencers?

That's the challenge, Fidelman acknowledges. There are tools that can help you to some degree. He mentioned Little Bird and Traacker as two tools that will get you in the ballpark, but from there it's an intensive manual effort to find people who are talking about your brand enough to actually influence potential customers.

He indicated that a 50-60 hour commitment is minimum to seek out and find influencers, there is no tool that automates the process for you. Maybe it's possible, I noted, that the amount of work required turns marketers off. Fidelman thinks that marketers simply don't know how to do it. He also indicated that the key is to measure the performance of these influencers, not simply their footprint.

Tips For Influencer Marketing

Before you go out and find influencers, know what your objectives are. Are you trying to drive awareness, generate leads, do research and development?

Once you know what your goals are, define your target customer and learn how they buy (what's their buying cycle). Then you'll learn from your organization where the chasms are (chasms are locations in the sales/marketing process where a potential buyer seems to have been interested, but has dropped off the map). Fidelman suggests that you could insert an influencer message or something the influencer wrote that might push the buyer over the chasm that gets them to eventually buy.

The idea is to understand the objectives, understand how the buyer buys and then figure out where influencer content makes the most sense. Of course you need the right influencers because they will bring trust into the buying process.

What's In It For the Influencer?

Fidelman says three things:

  1. Money
  2. More fame -- which leads to more power
  3. The opportunity to a part of something great, maybe a cool social cause, or a product they really like.

These are the top three and they don't necessary come in that order, it depends on the influencer.

It's important to recognize that sometimes things can go wrong with influencer marketing. Ashton Kutcher's imitation of an Indian on a dating show for a Popchips commercial is one example Fidelman gave (although he also pointed out that Kutcher did a lot of good things for Popchips as well).

An example Fidelman gave for a brand going purely the influencer marketing route is Lyfe Kitchen. It does very little traditional marketing, relying instead on influential chefs to sell its products. 

To support his view of the importance of influencer marketing, Fidelman is running some A/B testing --influencer marketing against traditional marketing -- and he will compare the results.

Who Does Influencer Marketing Best? A Contest

Fidelman is behind the currently running influencer marketing contest by RaynForest (his new venture). RaynForest, which is currently in stealth mode so I can't tell you everything about it, is a human influencer marketing and advertising network that is codifying these learnings about influencer marketing into a new platform. We'll tell you more about that in the coming months.

In the meantime, you can take a look at another eight campaigns that Fidelman sees as great examples of influencer marketing on Forbes, including the Got Chocolate Milk Campaign and British Airways: Influencer Innovation Lab in the Sky.

For now, the contest itself is bringing in some very interesting examples of influencer marketing, including something Microsoft did with Bing. That contest, which you should check out if you are working on your own influencer marketing campaigns will run through August 29th for submissions. Then after the list is narrowed down to about 10 campaigns, you can have your say on which one is the best.  

I look forward to learning more about influencer marketing and seeing what comes out of this RaynForest contest. If you've seen an influencer campaign that you think works brilliantly (or not), share it with us in the comments.