Does your influencer marketing program work, or is it a total waste of time and money? The answer is simple: it depends. The vast majority of influencer marketing is probably not worth it. So much effort is a waste for a simple reason we will discuss. However, if you have the right influencer matched with your company’s needs, they can be worth their weight in gold.

First, let’s talk about what we think of when we see the word, influencer? Today, most people answer something like, Kim Kardashian. OK. She is an influencer and a very successful one at that. However, there are not that many very successful influencers like her in the world today. Yet there seem to be countless people who call themselves by that name.

Understanding how successful influencer marketing works

The problem is, today there is no real definition for the term, influencer. So, let’s pull the camera back and take a longer-term, historical perspective of this trend and get a better understanding of achieving success.

Every celebrity that companies hire for their advertising and marketing are one type of influencer. This celebrity endorsement has been around forever. And it is very costly. However, if it increases revenues, it’s worth it.

However, we don’t call these famous people influencers. They are simply, celebrities or sports stars. The bigger the name, the higher the price tag. Companies select one and pay them to woo new customers and put a great face on their brand.

It’s like a love song companies sing to win the hearts and souls of customers in the marketplace. Companies used to pick celebrities for their mass appeal. Today, I think many companies are making a mistake, focusing on the divide between us and taking sides.

Why would a company choose to alienate one half of their customer base?

Fortunately, most companies do this right. As an example, just walk around any perfume counter and see pictures of all the actors on every counter. Or watch TV commercials and see the familiar faces pitching goods.

Celebrities and influencers are at opposite ends of spectrum

Influencers are very similar to this, except they are not celebrities. Today’s influencers build a following on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and other networks.

The bigger the list of followers, or the more important they are, the more they can charge for their influence.

Companies must realize, this is like placing an ad on television. It’s a cost, but as long as it increases sales and revenues, it is worth it.

Celebrities and influencers are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Their value is different. Celebrities have a vast audience they have developed and can influence. That’s why they earn the huge fees as actors in movies, entertainment and sports.

After all, people pay big money to watch their favorites in movies or sporting events and that fuels the entire entertainment industry.

Social network influencers have a smaller, but more targeted and often more valuable audience. Many of their followers are interested in their opinion on products and services in making their buying decisions.

So, while their audience may be smaller, it’s also very valuable for the right company to partner with. Partnering with the right influencers for your company is the challenge.

The immense value and power of an influencer

Their value comes from social media, not television, movies, sports or other places. Every influencer has value if they have a following.

Do you want to sell product? Do you want to have a good review for your services? Look for influencers with a large audience with a trusted name in your space. Do you want to get approval to merge with another company? You want to reach regulators, which is a smaller, yet much more valuable list of followers.

I hope you are getting the points I am making so far. In fact, if you think of it, there are plenty of other influencers in the market today as well. Think of best-selling authors. They have a huge readership and a relationship with their readers. This can be very valuable to the right companies.

Think of reporters or columnists. Many have a huge readership who are interested in their objectivity and what they have to say about companies, products, services, competition, changing industries, and so on.

There is strong bond of trust that is built over time between influencers and their readers or followers.

How did I become a telecom and wireless influencer?

Let me give you an example. I have learned that so many of my readers or followers read what I have to say as I share my thoughts about the wireless, telecom and tech space. They send me emails with questions or meet with me when I give a speech.

Sometimes they are individual users. Other times they are executives at companies making larger purchases or looking for more information. Many times, readers just like to keep up-to-speed on the changing industry and competitive landscape.

I’ve been a wireless and telecom analyst for more than 30 years. I never considered myself an influencer. I am also a columnist, speaker and much more where I share my opinion. But an influencer? Yet, that’s exactly what others think I am, because that’s the lens they at the world look through.

So, while I don’t see myself as an influencer, from the perspective of many others, maybe I am also an influencer. And if I am, how many others are influencers as well?

This is a new way of thinking about people who offer their opinions and help users, companies, investors, regulators and more, understand the changing industry.

Some people start out as something else, then as years pass, learn to embrace the influencer model as well. Others are strictly influencers. This is a difference most of us don’t think about.

Find the right influencers to partner with for success

So, as you can see, there are a wide variety and many different types of influencers that companies can choose from.

When it comes to a celebrity endorser, they choose one. However, with influencers, companies do business with many. Why? Because each has their own, smaller audience and can help in their own ways.

Every influencer I have talked with works with many companies. One way works with many companies as clients in an industry. Another way is to work with a single competitor in an industry but work in many industries.

There is nothing right or wrong about these two approaches, but they are different.

Most successful companies work with both types of influencers

The problem is, many executives at many companies shoot themselves in the foot. Some choose to only work with one type. Others don’t do a good job choosing the right influencers for their company, product or stock.

Remember, every influencer is not right for every company. In addition, you don’t want to miss working with a key influencer simply because they may also work with every competitor in your space. That would be very short-sighted.

Choosing the right influencers to work with is key to success in this area. And that’s where many companies miss the mark. Some do this right and see great success. Others struggle and eventually give up when the problem was their choosing the wrong players to partner with.

First, determine what you want to accomplish. Then find the right influencers to partner with to help you reach your goals. It does cost money. Like with everything else, the better the influencer, the higher the cost, but the better the results.

Finding the right influencer to work with is key. There is no magic wand to wave. It just takes finding the right people. So, always be looking among the people you meet on a regular basis.

If you can do that, you will say influencer marketing is a home run. If you can’t, you will say it’s a failure. When the truth is, making the right choice and finding the right influencers is the one simple key to success.

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