Forbes magazine sees 2017 as the year that influencer marketing will truly explode.
It’s estimated that 84% of brands plan on joining forces with a social media influencer in the next 12 months. Financial services marketers may not be the lion share of that number but as we blogged about previously, an influencer program should be part of your plans for 2017.
Eighty four percent is a bold prediction, but comes as no surprise to Jane Copeland. The owner and creator of CopingwithJane.com knows first-hand that influencers are an increasingly important part of the marketing mix.
“There’s enormous power in being in this business,” she says.
“For example, if I say something, then my opinion is valued and it has a ripple effect across my community. So I end up being someone who generates a lot of work for other people and that’s why businesses are keen to tap into that.”
For financial services marketers, finding the perfect influencer to collaborate with, can prove more difficult than, say, an apparel brand joining forces with a Kardashian.
The alternative, of course, is to grow your own. Many inhouse marketers have been busily creating influencer profiles of their people for years. Commsec’s Craig James is a good example. A decade of daily appearances on television and radio have built a credible “expert” reputation and a sizeable social media following for the in-house economist.
Organically building a following takes time. But, writing a book for your target audience is one sure fire way to kick-start your following, according to Jane Copeland, who penned a book, Boardroom to Baby, about transitioning from a senior management role to a more important role – as mother to her son Elliott. Jane had swapped the corporate ladder for the laptop lifestyle in 2013. She launched her Coping with Jane website when she wasn’t coping with her work-life balance after giving birth to Elliott.
"My job had always been my identity. When I opted to give it all up, I sort of lost my identity. So I created a new one for myself, online. I didn’t know about online marketing, but I knew I wanted to create a platform for women to talk about becoming mothers.”
Her blog proved a big hit with her intended audience, and her book followed. By 2016, SmartCompany had ranked Jane on its top Australian business blogs list.
Now Jane presides over a profitable social media empire. Teaching what she knows, Jane has diversified into social media mentoring, speaking tours and digital marketing programs targeted at early stage influencers.
Her followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter total more than 20,000 people. But, Jane rejects the idea that a bigger following is a better following.
“The perception with influencers is that they have a ginormous following. That isn’t always the case,” she says.
“An influencer may have a smaller following, but those followers might be very loyal and very engaged. If you really do understand your audience and you are generally trying to help them, or help them to solve a problem in their lives, then that audience is going to stay loyal to you”.
Financial services brand marketers are certainly in the market for influencers of Jane’s size. They even have an industry term for them – Power Middles.
Power Middles are classified as influencers with a highly engaged niche following of between 10,000 and 100,000.
The concept of engagement is considered the biggest factor for brand scaling success, and some industry watchers speculate that the power of Power Middles will usurp the strategic importance of traditional celebrities on social media.
Influencers deliver personalised and targeted content. Jane is well aware that followers, like customers, must be treated with respect.
“The influencer space is unregulated, but the market has a way of managing to regulate itself,” she says.
“There’s such a low barrier to entry to becoming an influencer and those who aren’t authentic, who are doing it without integrity, they can lose their status very, very quickly”.
Jane admits to feeling a strong sense of responsibility for the followers she has spent years building influence with.
“I personally think that if you’re considered a thought leader or influencer in a space, that’s a very important responsibility.”
“In my case, I take that responsibility very seriously. And again, it’s completely unregulated, so it’s really up to the individual to do what they want to do. It’s a massive responsibility”.
Jane’s first piece of advice for budding social media influencers?
“It’s really about sharing content and educating your particular intended audience with inspiring and useful pieces of content and thought leadership. A blog post, a pre-recoded video or a live video, an image, a social media share or a Facebook group,” she says.
“But, you’ve got to know who you’re talking to because the message really needs to resonate with your audience”.
And with that in mind, she warns that growing a social media following, organically, is much more difficult than it was even two years ago. The arrival of Facebook’s mysterious algorithm – a top secret automated ranking system – dealt a blow to many budding influencers.
As intended, Facebook’s intervention proved a powerful incentive to pay for leads.
“You can pay for leads by getting content out there, anywhere from $1 to $5 per click, depending on the objective".
Jane says she focuses on the importance of Facebook marketing in her business tutorials.
“Social media has really become a pay to play space. People and businesses who understand that are really going to fast track into building an audience”.