My business partner Ted Rubin deftly points out in his book The Age of Influence that “everyone influences someone”. I’ve heard him say this at countless speeches and presentations around the world to leaders of marketing and retail and I agree with his statement wholeheartedly. In fact, personal influence has long been the most powerful marketing force in existence. Proof of the statement can be found in the rule of five. Your wealth, health and most other factors about you can often be predicted by your five closest friends. It’s even a little deeper than that, we share 1% of DNA with our closest friends, the same amount as our 4th cousins. We unconsciously find those most like us and tend to think, act and behave as they do. Everyone influences someone, personal influence is a powerful force that can literally affect human behavior. Marketers know how powerful this tool is, they just aren’t sure how to harness it.
The commercial challenge with personal influence is that it's quite difficult to scale. Marketing has always been about scale to reach enough people so that some might take action. More people reached, the more actions taken. Personal influence might be great but if only a handful of people take action, it’s not enough to support enterprise level marketing. With the advent of social media, individuals could expand their reach and therefore their impact. Commercial influencer marketing began to grow as marketers realized the power of influence at scale. In 2008, we built an influencer platform at Walmart called the Walmart Elevenmoms. The influencers in the program created real and authentic content of interest to Walmart shoppers. The marketing impact was amazing as their content begin to affect the search results for products and programs at the chain. Relevancy became critical as the influencers stories connected with their networks. This model became the basis for a company we founded in 2009… Collective Bias, which leads the social shopper marketing field today.
New content creation tools are now making it possible to unlock the power of personal influence for shopper marketing. Location-based app Swarm owned by Foursquare is becoming a powerful tool for marketers seeking to leverage personal influence and organic search optimization. Life-loggers that regularly check in to their locations such as retailers, restaurants, sporting events, gyms etc. are building a content matrix that has an outsize impact on local search results. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat all have similar functionality. Users creating content through these platforms are having more of an effect on search than managed SEO efforts. This content populates shoppers searches in a wide variety of ways ranging from from social platform and mobile search to google and Waze map results. As the shopper moves along various digital touchpoints, authentic user content rises to the surface, creating a content path for their journey.
A new generation of content creation applications is unlocking personal influence. I’ve been a board advisor for Photofy for a couple of years now and will be assuming the CEO role in the new year. The Photofy app has enhanced my content generation abilities, creativity and tracking, and we’ve used it with influencers to create effective branded content for Implus, Belkin and GoodXChange. Photofy’s 500K active content creators are a UGC creative army actively generating millions of creative content pieces every month. Its platform has the capability to aggregate that content into branded media at a scale not possible just a few years ago. We used the Photofy platform to help Implus’ new Forcefield brand catapult to digital Share of Voice leadership in just a few months against entrenched competitors. Many brands are currently using the platform to generate on-brand content through via employees, customers and partners… unlocking the power of personal influence for their marketing efforts.
2018 will bring an explosion of personal influence marketing efforts as brands seek to connect with shoppers more effectively along their path-to-purchase.
As the efficiency of digital push media declines by the hour, real and authentic content at scale will help to fill the voids that shoppers find when seeking content along their prevailing digital pathways. By attaching personal influencer content to digital nodes as close to the point of purchase as possible, brands and retailers, will be able to better manage their relationships with shoppers without creating endless interruptions in their digital media consumption.
This will add a new powerful voice to the existing influencer marketing ecosystem, that of the Everyday Influencer.
note: Many thanks to Ted Rubin for always thinking about the future of influencer marketing and helping to create this article!