A brief history of influencing
Influencer marketing works because it’s been around for thousands of years. Don’t believe us?
Let’s examine what it is at its core: it's influential people with large followings promoting your brand. By that definition, it has been around for a very long time:
2000 BC: Papyrus ads from China, Arabia, Egypt, and Greece bear testimonials of politicians
1200’s: Town criers are extremely popular in France for promoting products
1760’s: The British Wedgwood company uses Royal endorsements to promote its chinaware
1940’s: WWII propaganda creates influencers who help to sell war bonds, e.g. Rosie the Riveter
1984: Michael Jordan becomes Nike’s brand ambassador
2000’s+: Social media blossoms and ushers in the modern era of influencer marketing
It has persisted because influencing is fundamental to human behavior. It’s probably not ridiculous to presume that wooly mammoth spears were bought and sold in the same fashion, but the written record doesn’t quite take us back that far.
Has the process of influencing changed along the way? You bet.
In fact, along with those changes, tools and technology of the past decade have given us curious insights into why it affects people so deeply and why it has become so effective.
Influence is power
Let’s start off by discussing why it affects people. People have always crowded around those who are admired as shrewd decision makers to seek advice. Their impact on sales can be quite powerful:
- 92% of consumers trust recommendations from others, even if they don’t know them - Social Times
- 70% of consumers say that online reviews are their second most trusted source - Social Times
- 74% of consumers use social media to make buying decisions - Sprout Social
What’s the secret behind this effect? Recent neuroscience offers answers. Our brains are wired to seek the path of least resistance and if we discover someone who presumably selects things better than we do, we’re inclined to skip our own evaluation and trust theirs. It’s a fundamentally lazy time saving technique that leads us to be influenced by others.
Given that influence takes place from person-to-person however, how then has it been so effective as a mass-marketing channel? A look at the technology provides answers.
Technology has taken influence global
Global communication technology has extended range of influencer’s reach. While we are fundamentally the same people, the internet and social media have put 3.2 billion people within virtual arms reach of each other in a sort of global village, and it’s enabled more niche personalities to gather wider followings with less effort than was ever possible before.
It’s what is responsible for the proliferation of categories like product unboxings, video game walkthroughs, adventure travel, and health and beauty tips: how else could these groups have connected previously? Before the 1990’s only A-list celebrities could boast more than ten thousand followers and today, hundreds of thousands of people can.
Technology has made influencers of all stripes accessible, powerful, and effective and yet alas, it’s greatest strength is also its own greatest threat: connectivity has also allowed influencing to flourish into a daunting jungle of links, pics, and posts that any marketer could get completely bogged down and lost in even on the best of days.
If influencer marketing requires hiring the handful of qualified influencers out of a sea of hundreds of thousands of potential applications, is all hope lost?
Not quite. Marketers out there are achieving world-beating results with influencer marketing, among which is a purported 685% return on money spent with influencers.
How have they made it work? With the artful application of one more piece of technology.
Influencer platforms are what truly make influencer marketing work
This brings us up to today. Influencer platforms connect brands and influencers. They scan the vast ecosystem of billions of social profiles to filter out all but the very best influencers for brands, and then provide a screening process. Individuals are vetted for professionalism, historical performance, audience, and capabilities, and then matched up to companies based on their criteria.
The effect of this is that finding influencers ceases to be a full-time job and becomes just another marketing channel. Instead of trying to wade through millions of accounts by hand, marketers can automatically post campaign projects, manage proposals, and handle payments, all through the platform.
This makes accessing the most perfectly aligned influencers today as simple as it might have been thousands of years ago in a Greek village where everybody knew each other and all you had to do was step outside your door and shout.
For modern marketers, the influencer platform is the true secret why influencer marketing actually works.