A Background On Influencer Marketing And Four Strategies To Consider

Ana Codallo, CTO / KOL and Influencers Officer at Key Opinion Leaders.

Although “influencer marketing” might sound self-explanatory, there are many ways to go about it, some of which might pose significant risks or advantages to your company or brand.

Influencer marketing is not new; this form of online marketing based on spreading a message by engaging one or multiple influencers with a considerable footprint on different social media channels dates back to 1940. At that time, and following a presidential election, Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz put forward the theory of opinion leadership and the two-step flow of communication.

The idea is simple; instead of trying to persuade a large number of people within the population, it might be more efficient to influence a smaller number of people if those individuals can convince others, having a multiplicative effect.

Following this logic, one can see that the choice of which subset of the population to enroll in your campaign (the influencers) is an important choice, not only because it dictates the total reach possible (their combined reach minus their overlapping audiences) but also because these individuals will act as your “brand ambassadors” in a way.

Influencer Marketing In The Digital Age

Fast-forward 80 years from the days of Dr. Lazarsfeld and Dr. Katz, we find ourselves in a world in which technology companies have redefined the meaning of mass communications. Terms like “pay-per-click” and “pay-per-impression” have become industry standards in advertising and tech.

Regarding customer acquisition, many companies employ a horizontal approach: Utilizing search ads, digital display advertisements and other ad mediums in which one ad unit intends to convert one visitor into a customer.

An alternative to that approach could be a more vertical strategy: directing your marketing efforts to capture the attention of influencers. By selling your products or services to an “influencer,” you earn the chance that the influencer will directly or indirectly bring other customers to your company.

Determining If Influencer Marketing Is Suitable For You

Not all products are a good fit for this type of marketing; some questions that could help figure out the feasibility and fit of this approach for your product are:

1. Can a non-technical user easily explain the idea behind your product or service?

2. Can a prospective customer understand the cost structure of your product or service without one-to-one interaction?

3. Do you offer a free, “freemium,” or low-friction version of your product that users can try without buying the commercial offering?

If the answer to these three questions is yes, influencer marketing may work as part of your overall marketing strategy. So what types of influencer marketing are available, and how should your company decide which route works best?

The Influencer Marketing Options

To make the most of your marketing efforts, engaging influencers with the type of audience you have in mind for promoting what you are offering can be extremely effective. Below are various influencer marketing options and how to consider which solution may be the right one for your company.

• Micro-Influencers

Micro-influencers are individuals with a relatively small but engaged following in a specific niche, such as fashion, fitness or travel. Micro-influencers can help you promote a product that would benefit from passionate audiences.

• Local Influencers

Local influencers are prominent figures within their city or region. This type of influencer can be very effective when your marketing message can benefit from localization. For example: Does your product perform better in cold weather? Does it cater more prominently to a specific demographic? Or perhaps your distribution channels provide a better ROI in a particular city or country.

• Vertical Influencers

Vertical influencers have expertise in a particular industry or subject matter. These influencers have smaller audiences than TV stars and other celebrities but often have earned a favorable reputation or prestige within their online or local communities.

This type of influencer can be beneficial when your marketing efforts can leverage the influencer’s subject matter expertise. Examples of this type of engagement are professional F1/Indianapolis 500-Mile Race pilots promoting automotive technologies or a prominent Call of Duty player promoting a particular brand of CPU and motherboards.

• Celebrities

Nowadays, people with the vastest audiences are often celebrities, though only a small number of people on the planet have super high reach. The laws of supply and demand (of any unregulated market) apply; therefore, the cost of recruiting a celebrity is usually high.

There are many examples, even in the technology industry, of celebrities engaging with companies as brand ambassadors, representatives, spokespersons and even angel investors. It’s common to equate “influencer” with “celebrity,” but it’s important to note that the two positions are very different.

Since celebrity-company relationships are usually formed as private deals, celebrity influence often happens behind the scenes. For example, a celebrity may engage with a company as a brand ambassador and get compensated with company equity.

In Conclusion

If your company or marketing team is looking for global reach, then celebrity influence may be the route to go. If you have the budget to engage a high-visibility celebrity but are not looking for global or national recognition, consider redistributing your budget to employ smaller influencers instead.

Micro, local and vertical influencers tend to be more accessible to brands in terms of cost and working with them. They are also often more effective than celebrities at promoting products and services because their audiences perceive them as more authentic and trustworthy.

There are several reasons why companies may consider influencer marketing, and the variety of options makes it so the right choice is whatever works best for your company’s goals. Whether you’re focused on more granularity regarding how to distribute your brand’s message or want to engage with a broader audience, influencer marketing may be an effective solution for your marketing strategy.


Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?