Word of mouth is still the biggest influencer – if you do it right

word of mouth influencer
Image credit: sharpshutter | shutterstock.com

Not so long ago when talking was a popular form of communication, ‘word of mouth’ was considered to be the most valuable form of marketing and the biggest influencer. It has been shown to influence between 20% and 50% or purchase decisions – and that’s a hell of a lot better than most old-style print advertising and marketing campaigns achieved.

No surprise then that in the digital age ‘word of mouth’ has been transformed into personal recommendations, not just to friends and family, but to almost anyone accessible via social media channels. This has given rise to a generation of social media influencers who are not only amassing audiences but also considerable wealth.

McKinsey has even defined the different types of ‘word of mouth’ used today – ranging from experiential and consequential to intentional – really!

Research from Twitter shows that 49% of consumers seek purchase guidance from social media influencers, and 20% said that a Tweet from an influencer inspired them to share their own product recommendation. Even more important for marketers, nearly 40% of Twitter users said they had made a purchase as a direct result of an influencer’s Tweet. And on Instagram, the amount brands are spending with influencers is over $1 billion per year, according to a study from Mediakix.

Politicians, too, have also caught on to the power of social media, not only as tool to attract voters but more recently as a means of announcing policy decisions and berating anyone that disagrees with them. But I digress.

What started as established celebrities endorsing products has spread to previously unknown people specializing in market sectors and attracting massive audiences by providing content that appeals to their readers/viewers. Just one example is airline industry that has successfully turned to influencers to help them soar. A simple Google search for “top social influencers” yields an unending number of lists from FinTech to wine.

And it doesn’t stop there – a sub-section called “micro-influencers” has emerged. MediaKix also reports:

“… No clear definition differentiates micro-influencers from traditional social media influencers (even the line between digital stars and traditional celebrities is now steadily eroding), most marketers consider micro-influencers to be any YouTuber, Instagrammer, Snapchatter, or blogger with a relatively small (less than 100,000) follower-base of highly-engaged, extremely attentive social media users.”

Brands have not only discovered the value of influencers, they are embracing them as a crucial part of any marketing campaign. Collaborating with micro-influencers not only ensures that brands are targeting the right audience, it also allows campaigns to achieve a level of brand ubiquity in a given niche or marketing vertical.

Finding the right influencer can be quite a challenge for marketing departments. There are a number of agencies that “handle” influencers but many build their own brand and niche using tools to help them be identified with particular audiences, and others that monitor their online activity and help them to not only gauge their influence but to help them market themselves to potential customers.

Perhaps the most famous of these was Klout that provided that attempted or purported to measure how important people were on social media by quantifying online influence and assigning a zero-to-100 score based on their social media followings. It was founded in 2008 and fast became the tool of choice for social media influencers and wannabe-influencers who flouted their Klout scores to each other and potential employers – even to gain status for access to parties and perks that rewarded high Klout rankings. But Klout is no more, having been closed down by its owners last month.

Its demise was celebrated by journalists who found great joy in highlighting its weaknesses (probably because they could only amass low Klout scores themselves) but it left a massive number of Klout “orphans” who actually loved the app, despite its shortcomings.

Thomas Power is one of those self-professed orphans that has turned to a new app, Skorr, that made a timely appearance just before Klout’s funeral. Power, seeing its potential, quickly set up a WhatsApp group (@Skorr70) that attracted 200+ influencers in a just a few days primarily to assess Skorr and offer its developers sound advice on what might be needed to make it their app of choice.

Power is no slouch himself, appearing at or near the top of multiple influencer lists including blockchain, AI, crypto, marketing, Twitter and in a number of geographies. He reckons the “orphans” see Skorr not only as a means to measure their social media performance but also to identify people who are legitimate to talk to. And it’s not just the number of followers or retweets that they are after but more the level of engagement – a much more challenging parameter to measure, especially over multiple channels.

For Power, the Klout score provided him with a very quick measure of prioritization for responses to the thousands emails, messages and tweets he receives each day. No social network channels sort messages by profile performers and Thomas points out that saving one hour a day would give him 365 extra hours a year to do other things. For Power a usable, relative score is key. For app developers like Skorr, being able to collect large amounts of complex and disparate data from multiple sources, process it sensibly and present it as simple score is the aim. For influencers like Thomas Power it is critical.

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