Any serious marketer has a copy of Jay Levinson’s 1984 book, Guerilla Marketing on his or her bookshelf. Because finding creative ways to do more with less, as Levinson advocates, is the essence of effective marketing. Today, the sub-segment of marketing called influencer marketing is often seen as a modern form of guerilla marketing a shortcut to reaching new customers or a certain demographic and market. And it can be, but unfortunately not the way it is typically done. Give it a few years, and it will be done right.The average brand manager thinking about working with influencers has the image of a Kardashian or a minor celebrity in mind. They imagine spending thousands on a single post and competing with other brands for the influencer’s attention to win the contract. This approach entirely misses the point of influencer marketing and misunderstands something fundamental about social media influence. 

Social media influencer is anti-advertising

Social media influence is not advertising. In fact, it is in a sense anti-advertising since it allows brands to reach consumers within their online lives, rather than as an external disturbance to it. Influencers gain this inside access to people’s digital lives through direct communication and engagement, connection, through community building. An account with a million followers that admires a celebrity is almost never a community. And while many celebrities are influential, and they do bring some awareness to the products they promote, there are far less expensive and more powerful ways for brands to use the medium to reach more potential target customers. By working with influencers who have fewer followers, a lower profile and awesome content related to the brand, marketers can achieve their goals.

Focus on niche influencers

Within this broad definition of influencers, the real gold can be found among the niche influencers: those people who have built a community around a niche interest. When a common interest is specialised, such as this account focused on a love of all things pumpkin, followers are less likely to find people in their day to day lives who share their obsession and the online community is everything. Here is another example: NOLA Concerts who talks, writes and is inspired about concerts near her home. This post got over 5% engagement, which speaks for itself.
As a result, members are much more likely to be moved emotionally and follow recommendations from the leader of a niche community. Since we buy based on emotions, and then find ways to rationalise our decisions later, this is a winning formula.

What’s the takeaway for brand marketers?

There are tremendous, almost unlimited opportunities for brand marketers to explore in hiring niche influencers. Instead of paying for very general marketing activity, brands can now target segments that are strongly related to the brand itself and hire a number of influencers, with fewer followers, to reach those segments. Those niche influencers can bring your message to their communities, your brand from unknown to known, and create a positive bias in favor of your brand. This approach means less wasted money because it’s super focused, and increases the brand’s chance of winning market share. Seeking out niche influencers also allows brands to work with influencers they wouldn’t have imagined they could have partnered with before. For example, imagine that Donnay, Dunlop, Yonex or any other tennis racquet maker releases an orange color racquet. A typical marketing approach would be to seek out tennis lovers. But finding a niche influencer who posts about all things orange will bring new, untapped potential customers to the brand people who will buy an orange racquet for their orange collection, and not just for playing tennis.A final, little-understood advantage of working with smaller, niche influencers is that the brand gains access to the unique, creative, shareable content with a fresh point-of-view that the influencer creates for the brand. For example, the famous Estée Lauder’s campaign that recruited 60 niche influencers and resulted in a gain of 120 pieces of content that the brand can re-use and an Instagram reach of 3.3 million.

Niche influencers are the secret weapon

In other words, niche influencers have become a secret weapon for brands that are willing to put in the effort to find and connect with niche influencers. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore the celebrity influencers, but put your energy into niche influencers because once you identify them, they are your secret weapon.As for how to go about identifying and finding niche influencers, start with a hashtag search and go from there.
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