The Age of the Social Influencer

As the media landscape continues to evolve, it becomes a little less “traditional,” and a lot more digital. And as platforms grow and multiply, so do the opportunities for everyday people to add their own two cents on any number of topics—travel being one of them. Enter the social influencer.

While social influencers have been around for a while, gaining real popularity in the last few years, communicators are still digesting who they are, the value they can bring for clients and even how to work with them.

Social influencers have the ability to effect change given their sway with a dedicated audience. In a recent study by TapInfluence, influencers chose authenticity as the major reason their followers remain engaged (71 percent). They are therefore trusted voices, often offering frank advice and opinions, and setting trends in the process.

Nowadays, a social influencer can be anyone. Or rather, anyone can become a social influencer. While some have obtained the title due to their celebrity or existing fame, others are everyday people like you and me. By offering their genuine, unbridled thoughts and ideas in a strong and compelling way, they managed to develop a loyal following eager for their insight.

Not long ago, a Nielsen report showed that 92 percent of consumers around the world trust earned media, including recommendations from people they know—that often includes social influencers. Therein lies their value. Since then, marketers have continued to see the various benefits to working with them, and the practice has spread like wildfire.

So, how does one work with a social influencer? Here are some suggestions to get the partnership off on the right foot.

  • Define your audience: Are you looking to reach affluent spa-goers or on-a-budget adventure seekers? Perhaps business road warriors or sightseeing families are your target audience (or a combination of both, as the “bleisure” trend suggests). Who you want to reach dictates the influencer that is best suited to represent your client. An influencer has a developed brand. Their style, tone and preferred channels of communication must resonate with your audience.
  • Do your homework: If a blogger or Instagramer focuses their efforts on experiences in New England, they likely won’t be interested in partnering with you to promote traveling to the American Southwest. Demonstrate genuine interest by doing thorough research. Failing to ensure brand alignment can be professionally fatal. While you search, look for how large of a following the person has, the frequency and relevance of their posts, how he or she chooses to engage with their audience and whether or not they have worked with brands in the past. Most of all, don’t forget that reach is not the same as influence.
  • Remember it’s a partnership: From the start, tell an influencer exactly what you’re looking to accomplish. If you agree to collaborate, clearly define the parameters of the partnership. Clarity is key. There’s a lot you can do together, and real teamwork will help ensure success. Encourage the influencer to provide counsel. They know their audience well. Then, with a plan in place, let the influencer “do their thing.” Assuming expectations are being met, give them the leeway to work their magic. Of course, maintain regular communication and keep an eye on engagement. If you see something off-brand, don’t hesitate to reach out. After all, it’s a partnership.

Though you may not have considered social influencers as potential partners in the past, they have proven their value for countless brands. And while the communicator-social influencer relationship is still being worked out, one thing’s for sure—social influencers are here to stay. What’s next on the horizon? We have our eye on micro-influencing. You should, too.