Influence vs Popularity
When you think about your current marketing initiatives and active campaigns, how do you measure success? Is your goal to reach a highly targeted, engaged audience and achieve a high conversion rate? Or are you perhaps looking to get your brand out there with a huge viral strategy that’s focused impressions and boosting your follower count?
Your campaign goals should directly determine whether you should collaborate with an influencer on your next marketing campaign. And most importantly, it should also determine what type of influencer you should build a relationship with.
While on the surface influence and popularity may look no different from one another, that isn’t the case. There are a number of differences that exist between the two, and we are here to help you understand some of them. Let’s begin!
What’s the Difference Between an Influencer & a Creator?
Perhaps the biggest difference between influencers and creators is the subtlety of language being used in their titles. The subtle difference themselves may lie somewhere within the use of these words. The word ‘influencer’ is an increasingly uncomplimentary term that is most often associated with Instagram and ‘BANJO’ style influencers these days. On the other hand, the word ‘creator’ is being used more frequently by social media stars like YouTubers, for example. The term ‘creator’ is becoming more widely embraced as a descriptor by subject matter experts and those who strive to build communities around the content they create.
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Influence vs Popularity
Back in April, influencer James Charles began his YouTube exclusive series “Instant Influencer”. The premise of the show is this; 6 up-and-coming influencers compete to win $50,000 and a video collab on James’ YouTube channel. As stated above, this YouTube Original series is hosted by YouTuber James Charles and features guest judge Norvina, who is the President of Anastasia Beverly Hills, one of America’s top cosmetic brands.
There’s no denying the entertainment value of ‘Instant Influencer’. With over 16 million total views and thousands of mainly positive comments, the show has certainly been a success in many rights. Yes, James Charles and his celebrity guest-star-drop-ins can help aspiring YouTubers become better make-up artists. Yes, they can absolutely help YouTubers create content with much higher production value. Can they provide you a sense of instant popularity? Absolutely. But can they truly make you an ‘instant influencer’? The jury is still out on that one.
To be honest, the ability to make someone influential is beyond their abilities – and, quite frankly, also beyond your own. The responsibility of producing that result belongs to your audience. To put it simply, influence is an outcome, not an output. If you lose your audience, you lose your influence.
Genuine influencers are custodians of their community custodians. They are keenly aware that the relationship they have with their audience is a two-way street, and influences are diligent when it comes to strengthening that bond and developing the relationship between themselves and their followers. Influence is founded on the practice of creating compelling content that resonates with a specific audience and doing it consistently over time. There is nothing ‘instant’ about true influence. It’s a grind and long-term play.
Challenges of Identifying the Right Influencer
All too often, brands confuse ‘influence’ with popularity. Influence can be described as “the power to have an effect on people or things”. If this is true, then assuming the ‘influence’ and credibility of a creator is solely based on the number of followers they have is a dangerous game that can’t ensure ROI. There are a few factors to consider before a brand embarks on a partnership with an influencer.
- Credibility: Does the product or service the influencer is recommending align with their own personal brand? Will an influencers’ audience believe the recommendation is genuine? These questions should be top of mind when it comes to refining your list of potential partners.
- Oversaturation: This pertains, to some degree, to credibility. Think about how often an influencer commits themselves to brand partnerships. Do they promote products on a regular basis? Have they never partnered with a brand at all? If too many brands are working with the same influencer, that influencer’s recommendation begins to lose potency. Audiences are smart and aware, s0 they eventually learn to start tuning out these promotions.
- Follow up: Following up with an influencer is a great way to build on the relationship you have established through your partnership. But following up on the results of your influencer campaign is probably even more important. Failing to monitor the performance of your campaign could render the entire campaign useless if you can’t attribute the success or failure of the partnership.
The discussion over influence versus popularity is unlikely to go away anytime soon; and neither is the confusion. To this day, the appealing gleam of big numbers still shines bright in the eyes of brands. Social media stars with massive followings can leave even the most experienced professionals hypnotized and blinded by the figures. But as we outlined in this piece, numbers only mean so much when it comes to genuine influence.
The only way to combat these misconceptions is to read, research, and gain experience with influencers. The ability to separate influence from popularity is paramount in selecting the right influencers for your next campaign. It’s a prerequisite for initial influencer outreach and requires a human filter to correctly decipher. There’s power in both popularity and influence, but only one can truly drive the actions that produce real ROI for your brand’s marketing efforts.