The Four Rules of Influencers

The Four Rules of Influencers


by Francesca Golfetto and Stefano Prestini, Bocconi Department of Marketing
Translated by Alex Foti

Influencers have been steadily gaining space in corporate communication strategies. Some companies use up to 30-40 influencers for a single campaign, often also bringing microinfluencers, i.e. people who have a few tens of thousands of followers, but well-targeted ones.

The ability of these new intermediaries to influence consumers on social networks is unquestionable, to the point that the British Authority (ASA) which regulates the advertising industry ruled on the communication activity of a blogger with only 30,000 followers who had sponsored a medicine on social media, a practice prohibited in the United Kingdom. The blogger was essentially considered influential enough to be subjected to the specific regulations on advertising.

From the perspective of companies investing in communication, promotion through influencers can currently carry the benefits and results that traditional advertising is not yet able to provide. Influencers (bloggers, celebrities, industry experts, content creators, etc.) are media points that interact with audiences whose interests, activities and demographic characteristics can be easily known. Furthermore, the posting activity of influencers often involves numerous channels simultaneously (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram) and so corporate sponsorships can be allocated between product placement activities, celebrity endorsements, creative storytelling and product reviews, and various formats often devised by the influencers themselves.

One issue that remain under-investigated in social media marketing research is that some influencers quickly become successful cases, while others remain with limited audiences. Insights and recurring themes useful for answering this question emerged from of a research study on a sample of influencers, with audiences ranging between 0.5 and 1.2 million followers, specialized in different sectors and with differing approaches to communication.

First of all, «Content is the king», as the best ones are fond of saying: in their activity nothing is unplanned. The content present in posts, videos, stories, influencers’ blogs must offer, every time, either new knowledge/competence or entertainment; it must essentially be the product of a serious editorial plan that identifies and organizes content. The release of competency or new knowledge is what works best in B2B contexts, while entertainment is the way to grow a consumer audience. However, a light and entertaining touch is also essential to reach a professional audience: the most successful influencers integrate the two forms, transferring competence to their audience in a fun way and according to their own style.

"Always on content" is another key point. It is essential to maintain continuity and timeliness in social media posts. A week of absence is enough to lose visibility and interest. The most successful influencers adopt a highly structured publishing plan in order to offer an interesting mix of organic and sponsored content, something which also ensures continuity. At the same time, the timeliness factor appears to be of considerable importance, so that the best ones are capable of seizing opportunities for creating content linked to current trends and events or unforeseeable developments.

Third is "Community management". The relationship with the fan base is one of the major commitments of successful influencers, who clearly understand the need to maintain and nurture their reputation. This activity requires an almost personal knowledge of their followers, the need to respond to their requests, responsibility for and authenticity of their consumer advice, and so on.

Finally, in-depth knowledge of the reactions of one's public. The most advanced influencers are capable of assessing the tastes of their fans and correlate the content they post with the KPIs provided by the platform being used.

In essence, we can consider the success factors unearthed by influencers to be food for thought for current marketing, something that can be applied to the entire range of corporate social media communication.

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