A group of people can exert influence by combining their voices to amplify the power of a single message.
Yet when it comes to influencer marketing, it seems to invariably be just one person doing all the talking and telling you they know best. What’s stopping a group of people, acting as a single entity, from wielding influence?
Of course, one person talking alone can have authority, but just think, with a group of people, you’re able to create a tidal wave of social proof.
This article is about the potential we all have for harnessing the power of influencer marketing, it doesn’t have to be reserved for an individual.
Influencer marketing doesn’t have to be about identifying and incentivising someone who ticks a box, it can be something far more creative, collective, organic and authentic.
Calling Time On Vanity
It’s an idea that’s particularly timely too – according to recent research from media agency UM, surveying 56,000 people across 81 countries, only 4% of people trust online influencers. It seems that even those individuals with huge numbers of followers, generating per-post likes into the thousands, aren’t that great at building trust.
People are increasingly questioning what they see and hear. Calls for greater transparency are being answered and vanity metrics (numbers of followers, likes and shares) – the basis of financial reward in influencer marketing – have been exposed as not particularly effective in boosting brand’s bottom lines or building trust. This whole model will be further tested of course when Instagram starts to hide the numbers of likes received.
What Can We Do Instead?
There is power in a group of people sharing, not one voice.
Here’s an example from the past week. It may be small-scale but it nevertheless can, and does, scale:
Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf recently opened by Bournemouth Pier. Andrew Brown, You Are The Media community member and Seafront Operations Manager for BCP (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) Council, approached me with the idea of inviting people from the YATM community to come to Smugglers Cove, play a round of crazy golf and help create a buzz around the new attraction.
You Are The Media community members would get a free round of golf in exchange for a special password on booking and would be encouraged to take photos, use a hashtag and share their experience across social media.
The You Are The Media community are social media savvy, albeit they’re not people with tens of thousands of followers. They’re everyday people for whom family is more important than social media prowess. For Andrew, these people sharing their fun experiences (and you can’t go wrong with crazy golf) created a far greater impact than say, spending money on an advertising campaign.
The Rise Of Everyday People
A key finding from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer is that credibility is not just the preserve of professional influencers, academics and technical experts.
People trust everyday people.
Whilst academics and technical professionals may be recognised for expertise in their chosen fields, the biggest increases in trust flow from recommendations and validation from people you know: the people you work with, are friends with and are familiar with. As for the paid endorsements driving the influencer sector – people increasingly see these commercially-oriented affiliations for what they are.
Back to the Edelman Trust Barometer where Tim LeRoy notes: “(brand) trust has changed profoundly in the past year – people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control.”
After all, seeing smiles on the faces of people like you or people you know, after they’ve played a round of golf is far more meaningful than a carefully staged but impersonal Instagram-perfect shot of the last hole.
The rise of the regular, everyday person’s influence is real and as seen with the crazy golf initiative, it’s easier to approach and get help from people whose community you’re a part of.
What About You?
So, maybe you’re already working within your own space and growing your audience? Or perhaps you’re thinking about furthering this to develop a community behind your brand, organisation or initiative? Even if you just want to make sure you’re playing your part as an active member of the networks you’re a part of, here are some points to think about as your collective voice and influence grows:
Feeling a part of something bigger than yourself is powerful in itself…
But that doesn’t mean, if you’re a community member, that you can sit back and let others do the heavy lifting. Each and every individual member and their contribution matters. If you’re at the helm, encourage and recognise individual contributions. For instance, in the build up to the YATM Conference, people who booked on the event were encouraged to share an image saying they were attending – this was then interacted with and amplified within and beyond the YATM community, spreading our message and attracting new attendees (and also You Are The Media members).
The group is the thing.
The group speaking up is what creates that all-important collective power, not one person acting as a representative for everyone else.
Being part of a community makes you better placed to help others.
In The Smugglers Cove example, the YATM community helped the local council far more effectively than an unconnected bunch of disparate individuals could have done.
Create dedicated group space away from public/social spaces.
Don’t feel your group has to exist in plain sight of everyone else. Make it special, make it not altogether easy to join – the right sort of exclusivity makes for a far more attractive proposition as well promoting group cohesion and making communicating within the group more open and easy. Much of YATM activity takes place away from the free-for-all of public/social spaces. For instance, Lunch Club is something you have to make the effort to attend and the YATM Facebook Group is invitation only.
Let’s Round Up
If you can create and build a group of people behind what you believe in, the group becomes trusted.
As Ewa Erdmann says, “The power (and influence) is now in the community.”
The area of marketing that comes under the influencer-marketing banner may be relatively new but it harks back to concepts of social proof and word-of-mouth as old as the hills. Did you know that Pope Leo XIII was one of the first documented influencers, endorsing the benefits of a coca leaf wine in adverts in the late 19th Century? And of course, even Santa gets co-opted to promote Coca Cola at Christmas time.
However, with trust in all forms of online information in decline and the rampant commercialisation of the whole influencer sphere, all too many influencers only court integrity up to the point that the invoice is paid.
This represents a huge opportunity, one that literally spells out – You Are The Media.
Take advantage of it: The power of familiar, relatable, everyday voices should never be underestimated. Tapping into an owned community or network that you’re part of, where you can galvanise many voices to combine and speak as one, multiplies the effectiveness of any message.
You won’t have to try so hard to persuade and convince – the social proof and trust is already there.