The Challenge of Defining Influencer Marketing

One of the most challenging aspects of launching a new technology platform, particularly one to do with influencer marketing and social media outreach, a relatively new industry, is using the correct words to describe that platform.

As a start-up, you have to be able to explain what you do in 30 seconds or less. The “elevator pitch” must be easy to understand by a wide, diverse group of people. For us at InNetwork this is particularly true since we have to engage with influencers, marketers, investors and research analysts. Frankly, it is pretty difficult to satisfy everyone. In fact, I’ve been stopped midway through a sentence, by people who are quick to point out my incorrect use of descriptors.

influencer marketingLet me give you an example: I would refer to an influencer’s aggregate audience as a “channel” that marketers should leverage to achieve their media or communication objectives.  With InNetwork, a ‘channel’ of 400,000 target people could be created by building a roster of 5 influencers, for example. But the word “channel” may not be best to describe the aggregate audience.  In fact, it could even offend as it traditionally seems to refer more to commodities (like billboards or banner ads) than to content creators, who are often involved in social media outreach campaigns.

Another example may be using traditional media industry standard cost methodology and language.  When an influencer reviews or endorses your product or service we would report that as an impression, and we cost influencer impressions on a cost-per-mention (or CPM) basis to give marketers a guideline for budgeting and price negotiations. We then calculate unduplicated reach and frequency. If an influencer says, “try this product – it rocks”, that is going to be more powerful than a 30-second spot that is trying to achieve the same objective. But what about tweets? Although “potential impressions”, do they really deserve to be counted according to the same formula traditionally assigned to influencer impressions in media?

Perhaps over time the influencer marketing industry will define more standard terms of their own. “Impressions”, “cost per mention” (CPM), or “cost per endorsement” (CPE) will likely come to mean something different in the influencer marketing industry.  Until then, we must re-purpose the old, even though they have inherent weaknesses.

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