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Unlocking the potential of the influencer ecosystem

Claire Beale Lorraine Candy Spark 2016

Influencer marketing is enjoying a renaissance, potentially because it represents another opportunity to cut through the clutter in an era of ad blocking. The promise of enhanced persuasive impact, as well as a more targeted cost efficiency approach makes this a topic worthy of renewed attention.

So what is influencer marketing? It has been defined as the form of marketing where focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.

Bloggers, social media and online influencers networks dominate many of the current conversations in this area and have become the default channels for this marketing approach. The rise of data has played a part here too, with the seductive belief that algorithms are sure to supply the magic answer to unlocking those elusive influencers.

As digital takes up more of our time, undoubtedly more influence is happening online. However, identifying the channel does not necessarily mean we have correctly identified the influencer.

A hot topic of our recent Spark conference was – ‘Navigating the New Influencer Ecosystem’. Here Emma Presley of Starcount revealed that this environment is complex, and that focusing on passions and motivations holds the key. Her research evidence demonstrated the power of relevant reach over the more obvious star influencer in the automotive category. In Starcounts massive bank of data with over one billion individuals it’s the editors and journalists of magazine brands that account for this relevant reach.                 

Jack Wilson of 2CV, in some social media analysis of London Fashion Week demonstrated the power of magazine brands to match the reach of bloggers and achieve four times the amplification. He explains that messages and content from magazine brands and editors are shared and retweeted more often than that of bloggers because the outward focus is more likely to spark conversations.                 


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Also at Spark, behavioural economist Dr Nick Southgate, introduced the idea that “being expert” is a huge factor in defining an effective influencer audience.

The New Influence Economy – a study by Time Out magazine examined the influence economy and identified the key traits of influencer audiences. From here, two key types of influencer were identified:

The Shaker

This group has a broad following and is made up the bloggers, vloggers, Twitter celebrities and also, crucially, those who aspire to be them (or at the very least be followed by them). They attempt to use their reach to shake things up.

The Maker

The Maker has deep, meaningful connections and is good at making things happen. The maker is not confined to online and is present in all our online and offline social circles, perhaps the friend or colleague you see as an expert in a given area or product category. They enjoy that more personal, influential relationship and they make it count.

The research indicated that marketers have been neglecting The Maker as a key audience to target and that a new chapter of influencer marketing is emerging focusing on the Maker Community who have real power to convert influence to action.

True influence inspires action – and The Makers are 23% more likely to provoke action. Magazine media can provide an effective environment to utilise influencers and their expertise – the study indicated that from Time Out’s influencer audience, 80% can be defined as an Maker, meaning that a third of Time Out’s total UK audience are Makers.

Whilst reach should be a consideration for any influencer marketing strategy it’s also important to consider relevance, resonance and relationships. Magazine brands have strong relationships with their audiences and the expertise of editors in their area of chosen specialism often gives their voice more resonance with consumers. Magazine brands offer a gate into the new influencer ecosystem both online and offline through the knowledge and passion of their editors. As Lorraine Candy said in her discussion with Claire Beale at Spark, "editors are walking algorithms”.