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What are influencers in ecommerce?

Definition: Influencers are people who are well-respected in a given industry or by the greater public; they are categorized by their ability to influence others' beliefs or opinions. On social media, influencers can help ensure the success of a post, tweet, event or product by lending their authority to it.

The affect of influencers on ecommerce

Pitching the media for press coverage and exposure is important, but but building relationships with influencers is also beneficial. An influencer who mentions your brand or product is essentially carrying out a marketing campaign for you, minus the limitations and costs of a traditional initiative.

Evidence shows recommendations that come from influencers, whether on social media or outside of it, tend to be effective. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers around the world trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above other types of advertising, a proportion that has risen over the years. And according to Shane Barker, 88.5% of marketers consider influencer marketing to be valuable for their overall strategy.

As consumers grow more sophisticated and come to better understand the kind of advertising methods they're targeted with, they trust traditional forms of marketing less and less.

The beauty of influencer marketing is that it's not tarred with the brush of traditional advertising, particularly if an influencer posts or tweet about a particular topic of their own accord. Consumers are therefore not only more inclined to listen due to their pre-established trust in the individual; they're less likely to suspect the person of having a hidden agenda.

In some cases, some of the aura of the influencer in question can even end up rubbing off on your business by association. This could be especially useful for startups or young businesses - established brands have had years in which to build trust with the consumer. The right influencer can help do this in a much shorter amount of time.

One of the biggest advantages of influencers is their endorsement can create a ripple effect. Influencers have other influencers as followers and friends - if they promote a particular product or brand, these other influencers may end up taking up the cause too, spreading it even further out. 

Moreover, even if you pay for your influencer, if they take a liking to your business, they may continue to promote it after their sponsorship is done - 88 percent of influencers tell friends about the brands that sponsor them.

It's no wonder influencer marketing is growing. A 2015 Tomoson survey found 59 percent of marketers planned to increase budgets for their influencer marketing efforts over the next 12 months.

Identifying influencers

Influencers and their endorsements can come in a variety of forms. The most common types of influencers are celebrities, who have sponsored products for decades. They can also be voices of authority, such as industry analysts, academics and other experts.

Influencers can also be ordinary users who happen to have large followings on social media. Such users are typically more active online than the average individual, posting, sharing, retweeting, liking and doing just about anything one can do on social media at higher rates. According to the same Tomoson survey, Facebook is considered the most effective platform for influencer marketing by 25 percent of those surveyed.

In first place, above Facebook, are blogs, with 37 percent of the vote. A blog with a devoted audience can be incredibly influential, with many consumers trusting advice and information they receive from blogs. Blogs straddle the line between professionally produced content and user-generated content. As such, they occupy the best of both worlds - they are accessible and viewed as trustworthy, yet also seen as knowledgeable and authoritative.

Examine the habits of users in your social media networks and try to pinpoint who the influencers are. You can also use Google to see if there is a pre-existing list of influencers in your field, or type in certain keywords or phrases to see what comes up. You might also consider using social media listening tools to identify key users. Remember that just because someone has a large following, they're not automatically an influencer.

Marketing through influencers

Though it can happen organically, mentions from influencers often come as a result of outreach efforts. It's good to first establish a social media acquaintance with them, by following or adding them as a friend. Create a connection by liking or sharing their posts.

One way to solidify a connection with an influencer without paying them is by providing a free sample. If they'll like it, they may end up sharing it on social media. Make sure to follow up on this by continuing to post relevant links to their posts and otherwise engaging with them online.

You can also take the effort offline. Organize industry events such as launch parties or invite influencers to come to your workspace. By creating a real-world connection with the influencer, you'll strengthen the one you have on social media.

This can be particularly useful to combine with cause marketing. If you have a particular cause or issue that you are promoting, try and get an influencer to help you spread the word - especially if they're already associated with that cause. Because it's a good cause, it'll likely require less prodding.

Influencers are a key demographic when it comes to selling your business in the world of social media and beyond. If your business can forge a connection with an influencer, you've won half the battle.

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