By Dave Hochman, Founder, DJH Marketing Communications Inc.
There have been quite a few new flavors added to the marketing mix over the past few years. One of the most interesting for the C-Store is called Influencer Marketing.
Influencer Marketing is basically marketing that takes aim at specific key individuals as opposed to demographically based categories of users.
Think of it as marketing on steroids. Imagine the ability to know and react whenever someone with a certain number of social media followers fills up with gas or comes into the store. This is not meant to suggest that celebrity influentials with the reach of a Kobe Bryant (9.3 million Twitter followers) or Taylor Swift (75.3 million Instagram followers) will let any organization or brand tap into their influence with some free coupons. Those are considered “mega-influencers” and as such, influencer marketing efforts at that “mega” level are usually tied into greater campaigns, deployed by big brands, which encompass a myriad of marketing channels.
For C-stores, so-called “micro-influencers” are a more accessible route to influencer marketing. Micro-influencer describes the everyday non-celebrity customer who also happens to be very active and engaged on various social media platforms. They may have relatively sizeable followings, and, more importantly, they are viewed as trusted sources when it comes to recommending all sorts of different retailers, products and service-providers.
“Influencer marketing is no longer for big brands alone. Social media platforms allow you to discover niche influencers that speak to an audience that is both physically close to your store, and interested in the products you sell, and there are an emerging category of companies developing technology aimed at making it easy to discover and engage these influencers,” said Gil Eyal, the founder of HYPR, a search engine that provides demographic data about the audiences of over two million niche influencers.
Whereas a mega-influencer sells access to their followers in exchange for cold, hard cash, a micro-influencer tends to be incentivized by things like public recognition, gifts, coupons and special access to events.
C-Stores looking to try out Influencer Marketing should be flexible and fluid, and don’t simply “overlay social media and mobile elements onto an existing chain-wide loyalty program and call it influencer marketing,” said Addi McCauley of Clever Girls Marketing. “Look for specific categories within the product mix and then pursue those influencers, for example, if a C-Store is looking to support new offering in the prepared food category, they could look for influencers to target such as mom bloggers and local restaurant critics and food bloggers.”
Finally, be sure that any influencer marketing engagement is done in a transparent manner. Be wary of any influencer that offers to make an “undeclared” endorsement. The expectations and behavior of the modern-day consumer have evolved to the point where influentials are generally expected to be taking some kind of compensation from brands and retailers. As such, there is no really good reason to try to hide or disguise paid relationships with influentials.
The FTC’s Endorsement Guides offer exactly that – guides for and about “disclosing material connections” between brands and influentials.
Dave Hochman, a frequent contributor to several publications, is the founder of DJH Marketing Communications, Inc., a PR, content and social media agency serving technology innovators in the mobile ecosystem, with a focus on those who are disrupting and driving the retail economy. Follow on Twitter @davehochman