Influencer marketing is not a new development. While it has certainly received a face lift, it can be considered a hybrid between word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) and a celebrity endorsement, both of which have been around for quite some time.
WOMM can be traced back to the 1970s when George Silverman, a psychologist, created what he called “teleconferenced peer influence groups” in order to engage physicians in dialogue about new pharmaceutical products. He found that one or two physicians experiencing positive effects with a drug could sway a whole group of skeptics, and even dissatisfied ex-prescribers who had negative experiences.
Celebrity endorsements can be traced all the way back to the 1760s, when a company called “Wedgewood”, a producer of pottery and chinaware used royal endorsements to promote their product.
So what’s changed? Why are we hearing more and more about influencer marketing and is it here to stay? I believe the democratization of influence is drastically impacting the future of marketing to consumers.
It wasn’t too long ago when influence only belonged to the powerful and wealthy. While the emergence of film, magazine, radio, and television increased the dispersion of influence to more people over time, it couldn’t truly be considered democratized as the barriers to entry on these platforms were very high.
It wasn’t until the web came along (and with it social media) did we see the true democratization of influence. Platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat put the power to create in the hands of the people. Anyone with an internet connection or a smart phone can utilize social media to create some level of influence for themselves, and that is exactly what we are seeing. This has led to the continual rise of an endless number of creators, pages, and accounts gaining more and more influence in any number of niches and industries. Some of these people have gained as much influence as 100 year old media conglomerates and A-list celebrities in just a few short years.
This dispersion of influence on social media is a very new development (10 or so years) and will continue to change the way companies market their brand. I still encounter investors, companies and marketers who question the viability of influencer marketing and whether or not it is here to stay. What they fail to understand is that for the first time ever, influence and the power to create is now in the hands of everyone rather than just a handful.
According to a study by influencer marketing agency Mediakix, people will now spend more than 5 years of their lives on these platforms. Not only does the number of people on these platform continue to rise, but so does the amount of time the average person spends as them as companies roll out better functionality and new features.
The only thing people are spending more time on is TV, which comes in at seven years and eight months on average. However, it is likely this number will continue to decline as social media continues to grow in numbers and functionality.
Social media has birthed a true era of democratization in media and will forever change the way consumers interact with brands. I am a firm believer that we are still in the youth stages of this media disruption, and that companies who are able to intelligently understand this transformation and apply it to their marketing strategies will flourish.
What are your thoughts on the future of influencer marketing and the democratization of influence?