Katy Perry now has 102 million Twitter followers. Real influence lies in context and honest engagement. Influencer marketing goes beyond a creator's audience size.


You may know this one. Indulge me.

A US senator is attending a charity dinner. The waiter offers him a bread roll. "Thank you, may I have some butter, as well, please?" The waiter nods. Disappears. Minutes pass. No butter arrives. The waiter reappears. The senator catches his eye.

"May I have some butter, Please?" Another nod from the waiter. More minutes pass. Still no butter.

"Maybe you don't know who I am," says the senator. "I'm a Princeton graduate, a Rhodes scholar, an All-American basketball player who played with the New York Knicks in the pros, and I'm currently a United States senator, chairman of the International Debt Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, chairman of the Water and Power Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee."

"Maybe you don't know who I am," replied the waiter. "I'm the guy who's in charge of the butter".

Influence is founded in context

Though almost certainly apocryphal this story does neatly illustrate that influence is contextual. The domain of one person’s influence may be exerted within the Senate house in Washington. But, when it comes to getting a little butter such a position cuts no ice with the waiter in this restaurant. Here, it’s ‘the butter guy’ who wields the influence.

In terms of influence it's the context of relationship an influencer has with her audience which is more relevant than the number of followers.

The reach myth

Yet, of Brian Solis' three pillars of influence, it is reach that marketers have misguidedly taken to heart over relevance and resonance.

For marketers it’s much easier to sell-in an influencer to a brand based on ‘reach’ and impressions than it is to develop long-term, mutually rewarding relationships between creators and brands. The latter takes commitment, relationship-building skills and a more considered approach towards metrics altogether.

It also means acknowledging that, without consistent engagement, the yardstick of reach is largely a myth. This is particularly bitter medicine for marketers to swallow given that many have been banging the reach drum for the last five years or more.

Katy Perry at 100m Twitter followers

Katy Perry, the US-singer songwriter recently made history by becoming the first person ever to acquire 100m Twitter followers.

The micro-blogging platform made a video to celebrate (promote) this milestone. It may have been a coincidence that Twitter used the name of Perry’s new album as its hashtag on the accompanying tweet.

It’s an amazing achievement. One that Perry acknowledged in a Tweet back to Twitter thanking the platform for always giving her an opportunity to have a voice.

But, reach alone does not make for effective influence. And, not all reach is real.

5 problems with measuring on reach

  1. Populariy is not the same as influence. Liking someone is not always the same thing as being influenced by them
  2. Followers may be inactive and never even log-in to the platform where the content has been published
  3. Real reach & theoretical reach are worlds apart. Algorithms prevent many followers from seeing all the content they want to in their news streams
  4. Fake followers can be bought
  5. Reach tells you the theoretical numbers of followers, it doesn't tell you were they're based geographically. If you're aiming to promote a UK company to a UK audience make sure the followers an influencer has are UK-based, too

Engagement over reach

Effective influencer marketing campaigns are measured on their ability to pull an audience into action not just reach it.

Proportionally the more followers a person has the lower the engagement rate. This is one of the reasons that brands are increasingly working with the power middle, micro-influencers and consumer advocates producing their own content (user generated content).

Real influence is a long-term commitment

Real influence is accretive. It strengthens over time. There needs to be consistent, long-term content and, in addition, honest recommendations from sources that consumers trust.

Move beyond reach alone

If you're working with, or for, a brand and looking to maximize your influencer marketing spend move from the short-term campaign mindset to searching for long-term, mutually-beneficial partnerships.

Ask yourself these ten questions before moving to the contract stage with any influencer:

  1. ​What are your objectives with this influencer marketing work?
  2. How do these objectives fit in with your brand's business objectives?
  3. Is this influencer marketing piece standalone or part of an integrated communications work?
  4. Who is your audience?
  5. Who influences that audience?
  6. Where does your audience hang out online?
  7. How engaged is the short-listed influencer with their follower-base?
  8. How real is that engagement? Are the comments, shares and likes real or faked? If using an Instagram influencer, is she part of a comment pod?
  9. Have the influencers worked with your competitors in the past?
  10. Can you foresee a mutually-rewarding, long-term relationship of co-created content with this influencer?

IMAGE ATTRIBUTION: The above featured image: "Katy Perry Cosmo Nip Slip", was published to Fickr by Wrestle Plots. It is used under the Public Domain Mark 1.0.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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