Consumers spend a lifetime checking their Facebook, watching videos on YouTube and scrolling down their Twitter timeline. It’s no wonder social influencers are rapidly becoming an important component in countless social media marketing campaigns. Yet everyone still likes to think they are largely in control of our day-to-day decisions. The clothes people buy. The programmes people watch. Or even the brand’s people love are all in part a result of the hours spent on social networking platforms.
So what is it that makes social networks so influential in everybody’s day to day lives? Why have influencers become so important in the lives of their audiences? And how can we use psychology to build influencer relationships?
Contact time – The Mere Exposure Effect
So the first and probably most obvious factor is contact time. Naturally, the more time spent with someone, the more influential someone can become in our lives. The same can be said for social media – the more time spent viewing someone admired; the greater influence they will have over our lives. Equally, the more times we see someone on social media, the more likely we are to be influenced by what they post. Especially when we chose to follow them in the first place.
The Mere Exposure Effect goes some way to explaining this phenomenon. Discovered by social psychologist Robert Zajonc in 1968, the theory claims that when people are repeatedly exposed to something, they will develop a preference for it over time. Research in this area has however been conflicting when it comes to certain forms of advertising. It’s not so simple to repeatedly push a television advert into an audience’s eyes, as this can be seen as intrusive. However, this does not apply to social influencers. As the audiences of influencers have opted to follow the content produced by the influencer – using influencers becomes far more effective.
It may, therefore, be an extremely valid theory to support influencer marketing – especially when we consider how much time we spend on social media. The repeated exposure to influencers and branded content is very likely to influence consumer behaviour. Teens are now reportedly spending up to 9 hours a day on various social media platforms. More surprisingly, Nielsen discovered that 35 – 49 year-olds on average spent more of their time on social media than 18 – 34 year-olds.
The Majority Illusion
A team of researchers from USC compared the social media phenomenon to the majority illusion. This happens when influencers portray that a product as being more popular than it actually is. This can go some way to explaining how campaigns can gain so much traction in such a short amount of time.
Research has suggested that majority illusion is most likely to happen in networks where individuals with a low number of connections are connected to those with a high number of connections. So group dynamics are likely to be influenced in small communities with a selection of popular individuals. Well-connected members of this niche group hold a significant influence within their network. In addition, less popular members of the group may be susceptible to influence as they have less external influence.
This can be extremely beneficial for marketers as by creating the illusion of something being popular – it can lead to something actually becoming popular. Whether we like it or not, we tend to follow the trends as consumers.
Conformity and Social Influencers
Since the beginning of time, we as humans have always existed within social groups, or even tribes as a form of survival. Those who are anti-social usually don’t survive – and this can be applied to evolution. So, whether we like it or not it’s in our DNA to be in groups and to conform.
This idea applies to the world of social media also. When audiences follow influencers, whether it is a fashion blogger or tech reviewer, they join that particular social group. Likewise, audiences often follow particular people or join particular community groups online because they like them or share similar interests, beliefs or just aspire to be them – so in the group they are amongst many like-minded people.
When an influencer endorses a new piece of clothing on their social media, for example, their audience is naturally and unconsciously going to consider purchasing. We consume what they consume and end up taking one step more to becoming like the group.
The Halo Effect
This theory describes how we have a tendency to form opinions about an individual based on one aspect of their life. As social media users, audiences tend to consider social influencers as experts in their particular field. This could be tech, fashion or even business – audiences tend to protect many positive attributes onto them.
If an influencer comes across as a well-dressed person, for example, audiences often presume everything they wear is beautiful, their personalities are great and their life is amazing. And although social media does not always act as a good indicator, this doesn’t stop opinions being formed and assumptions being made.
The desire to live the kind of life we perceive the influencer to have then drives us to consume the information they post on social media.
Engaging with Influencers
Now, it’s clear that there are many theories that can explain the pervasiveness of influencer marketing. But what good are these theories if you don’t know how leverage psychology to build efficient, meaningful relationships?
This is where the foundations of any campaign can be firmly cemented. It often requires careful thought and knowing what to say and when. It is therefore important to keep in mind these tips and tricks that could enable you to build some great influencer relationships:
Build meaningful relationships
The majority of the time, you will be speaking to an influencer for the first time. As a result, it is important to be authentic and take the time to understand who the influencer really is (they have feelings too). By finding out what they are passionate about you can cultivate a long-lasting, beneficial relationship for both sides.
You will see the fruits of this in future campaigns – if you already have the relationship it will make your life a LOT easier. Take our word for it – We’ve been in influencer marketing for years and understand exactly what to say and what not to say. Surprisingly, many marketers take people for granted. Influencers are people at the end of the say, not tools.
It is imperative that you motivate your influencers. We all love getting things for free… and this can work with influencers in certain situations. But you need to be careful. To attract social influencers to take part in your campaigns motivation is key. There’s the obvious incentive of money. This works – it always has and it always will but you can be smarter than this.
On occasion, the perks of participating in the campaign can be just as motivating and valuable to the influencer. Something as simple as providing inside knowledge on a certain product or service, as well as getting free gifts that are used in the campaign can be just as valuable. Profit margins increase and everyone is happy! Just make sure you show your appreciation with good manners.
Timing conversations is key
Once you’ve opened the conversation, timing is crucial. Carefully managing the conversation remains and always will be important. Let the person you’re reaching out to ask questions and don’t be too pushy. In these moments, carefully used flattery is never a bad thing.
If you are looking to work with an author, for example, acknowledge what they’ve done and read their book! Appreciate the position they are in – they’ve worked hard to get there. You could start by asking them for advice, as the influencer is usually an expert in their particular field. This could then easily lead to a collaboration and more importantly a lasting relationship.
Lower your expectations
Always approach influencers with an open mind, with realistic expectations and never assume ANYTHING. People are only who we think they are because of any interactions we may have had with them.
Take the influencer as the way they are and not how you want them to be – this could easily break a campaign. If you already have a preconceived perceptions of them and this comes across when communicating, you’re setting yourself up for failure!
Influencer marketing remains a very powerful method, as outlined in the article. The way audiences consume information can have an effect on their opinions, beliefs, attitudes and actions. Likewise, this applies to influencers doing paid endorsements – They inspire audiences to make purchases and reinforce or construct appreciations of brands. Thus collaborating with influencers can be very effective.
Whether you work with niche or celebrity social influencers remember strategy is important. Build relationships with the right influencers and cultivate efficient, meaningful relationships. Influencer marketing is not only a way of giving brands a bigger voice but is also an extremely cost-effective strategy that delivers better results than most forms of advertising.
Nail these tips and tricks and you will be well on your way to ensuring the success of campaign after campaign. If you would like any free consultation then send us an email here and we will get back to you as soon as possible.