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The Science Behind Influencer Marketing

Charles Benzu
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Science behind influencer marketing

A scientific approach to picking the right influencers and persuading audiences

For decades, researchers have been studying the factors that compel people to not just listen to certain speakers but also act on their ideas.

In the business world, where we talk about “conversions”, we’re talking about the audience – fans and followers who have been convinced that a particular brand or product can actually meet their needs in the best way possible.

So what drives people to believing a few influencers over the others? Research indicates there are certain psychological factors at play.

Understanding why people watch and follow certain YouTube channels over others, or why people retweet and share certain tweeple’s tweets over others, helps us better understand how we can use this science to improve our marketing strategies.

The science behind influencer marketing is also meant to help entrepreneurs and marketers develop ethical marketing strategies based on actual science.

Here are a few scientific theories behind influence and persuasion that tell you how you can pick the right influencers and persuade audiences:

1. The Amplification Hypothesis: Certainty Makes Influencers More Believable


What it is

In the context of influencer marketing, this hypothesis tells us that the more certain influencers are about their subject matter, the more believable they will be and the more influence they will yield.

In other words, if an influencer has mastery over their subject, they are likely to have more influence on their audience.

Takeaway

  • You need to first understand your target audience before you can approach relevant influencers
  • You need to research the influencers that you will work with to better understand their relationships with their audiences
  • To persuade and influence an audience effectively, the influencer needs to have their projected attitude aligned with the audience
  • You need to avoid influencers who tend to be controversial because the resistance they face will be counter-productive to your marketing campaign
Tony Robbinsons quotes

Application

When picking an influencer, find one who is able to:

  1. Muster the confidence of the audience.
  2. Consistently prove that their attitude is aligned to that of their audience
  3. Nudge their audience to adopt new attitudes or ideas

Notable numbers and statistics

81% of marketers who previously used influencer marketing campaigns approved that influencer engagement is effective.

2. The Conversion Theory: Vocal Minorities Hold a Lot of Influence in Groups


What it is

When dealing with groups, a minority in the group can hold a lot of influence by converting the majority to their cause.

This is often the case because the majority in the group may not have formed strong beliefs or opinions yet. The majority may simply be going along because there is no better alternative, or because it is much easier to just go along with the cause of the group.

Additionally, the silent majority may be disillusioned with the groups process, purpose or leadership, and may be seeking a worthwhile alternative.

Four factors that gave vocal minority influence

Takeaway

  • Ideas or attitudes that are not universally popular still have a chance to gain a loyal following if approached in the right way
  • You should create lasting relationships with your key influencers in order to build a rapport – it builds authenticity for the message and for the campaign

Application

If you have an idea that is probably not yet universally accepted, seek voices or influencers within the group that are consistent, confident, unbiased, and reasonable – and you may still be able to sway popular opinion to your side.

Notable numbers and statistics

54% of marketers agree that niche communities allow for more influence.

3. Priming: Offering a Stimulus to Influence Short-term Thoughts


What it is

Priming involves offering a seemingly unrelated stimulus to influence short-term thoughts and actions. Additionally, priming makes it easier and faster for audiences to recognize what you want them to take away from a message.

In essence, priming brings old thoughts or ideas to the surface. It introduces new things to a person’s subconscious thus making the primed ideas more accessible and more likely to be accepted.

Examples of priming include
1 Repetitive priming Where an idea is repeated severally so as to influence a future thought.
2 Conceptual priming Where a related thought or idea elicits a specific response. For example, “butter” may be priming to elicit thoughts about bread.
3 Perceptual priming For instance, when an image that has been seen before is used to prime a part picture presented.
4 Associative priming When related ideas, especially free association word pairs, are linked. For example, an airplane primes the thought of speed.
5 Reverse priming When people who know they are being primed feel they have been biased and therefore overcompensate by choosing the opposite idea.
6 Masked priming Where an image or word is flashed and is thus not consciously recognized.

Takeaway

  • Strategic use of unconsciously primed ideas, things or attitudes, tend to influence people to adopt the idea or request
  • Use the strengths of each marketing platform to use appropriate messaging to influence audiences

Application

  • For example, if you want to promote a certain smartwatch, ask your influencer to simply wear the smartwatch during YouTube podcasts without necessarily mentioning or talking about the product
  • Alternatively, the influencer can mention the smartwatch in passing several times when writing content in their blog
  • Priming can be useful for creating a “paradoxical intervention” (a reverse psychology effect) by framing a message to cause resistance to the message and thus cause a behavioral change.

Notable numbers and statistics

83% of consumers trust recommendations and 66% trust consumer opinions posted online.

4. The Reciprocity Norm: People Feel Obliged to Reciprocate a Good Deed


What it is

People usually tend to feel obliged to return a favor. The giver is then usually able to either:

  • Ask for something in return without having to wait for the taker to reciprocate or
  • Ask for more than they gave

For example, if you offer a small inexpensive trinket or helpful “usually-paid-for” information as a gift, you can easily request and get audiences to subscribe to a certain website.

Takeaway

If you offer your time, money, insights, or information in a way that’s helpful to your audience, then they will very likely feel obliged to align themselves to your cause by returning a favor.

Application

Use social currency with influencers and audiences. For example, if you give your influencer gifts for themselves and for their audience, it will be easier for the audience to feel obliged to return a favor towards you. Additionally, the influencer will also feel obliged to support you more.

However, you need to measure the social currency that you give. Otherwise, you may elicit feelings of manipulation which tend to be counterproductive.

Examples of social currency include:

  1. Content
  2. Brand recognition or affiliation
  3. Products samples
  4. Unique experiences, such as rewards or paid trips
  5. Sweepstakes and giveaways

Notable numbers and statistics

Giveaways and chances to win earn more media value than any other form of social currency.

5. The Scarcity Principle: People Desire More of What They Think They Can’t Have


Explanation

When people anticipate possible regret for something that is scarce, they desire it more. Furthermore, if it is anticipated that someone else will greatly benefit from the scarce item, the desire for the scarce item is heightened.

For example, an offer for a service that is due to expire after 24 hours (scarcity of time)

Takeaway

You can create great desire for a product or service by making it scarce. In essence, sell the pain of missing out.

Amazon limited time offer banner ad

Application

  • You can make your product time precious by offering limited quantities or selling at a reduced price for a limited period of time
  • Carefully examine and monitor content, product, and engagement with audiences to gauge the desire for your products

Notable numbers and statistics

67% of people who are about to give you money don’t.

6. The Sleeper Effect: Messages with Low Persuasion Tend to Gain Persuasiveness Over Time


What it is

Persuasive messages tend to lose their impact over time. However, under certain conditions, the sleeper effect predicts that messages that have low persuasion (because they are from a low credibility source) tend to increase in persuasiveness over time, especially when the low credibility messenger is dissociated from the message over time.

Takeaway

If you make your message more dramatic or vivid than the messenger, with time, the source of the message will be forgotten and the message will become more impactful over time.

Application

Even if you have a biased messenger or influencer, if the message is dramatic enough, it will still gain popularity and impact.

Notable numbers and statistics

When youth were asked if celebrity support of a product would cause likelihood to buy it 18% said YES, 25% said NO & 57% said MAYBE.

7. Social Influence: Influencers Cause a Behavioral Change in the Audience


Explanation

Social influence is the behavioral change that an influencer can cause based on the perception of the relationship between the audience and the influencer.

The Trifecta of social influence includes:

  1. Compliance: When someone does something that they are asked to do by another person, especially when using social rewards and punishment are used to ask for acceptance or acquiescence.
  2. Conformity: Changing your behavior to match others in order to gain a sense of belonging.
  3. Obedience: Submitting to something asked of you from an authority figure. It is different from compliance because with obedience there is a perception that you have no choice but to act as you are told to.

For example, if a doctor, wearing a white lab coat and stethoscope, tells you that a certain product is healthy for you to eat, you will tend to obey without question.

Takeaway

  • We tend to listen to people we trust and get influenced by what our peers are doing
  • If you choose authoritative individuals as influencers (e.g. uniformed individuals or people who have earned trust and authority over time), you will tend to have a greater positive impact with your marketing campaigns

Application

Engage everyday consumers as your influencers so as to have a greater impact on peers, Instead of relying on your ability to influence others

  • Simply point out that several other people have conformed to your request or state the most desirable behavior and
  • Ask your supporters to validate your credentials or authority, by being public about it

Notable numbers and statistics

Word-of-mouth inspired marketing generates more than 2X the sales of paid ads and these sales customers are 37%more likely to remain loyal customers.

8. Yale’s Attitude Change Approach: Influential Speech Has Certain Characteristics


Explanation

A research project carried out by Yale University found that persuasive and influential speech showed certain characteristics, including these points:

  • Credible and attractive influencers are more captivating and positively impactful
  • The message shouldn’t seem deliberately persuasive
  • Arguments should be presented from both sides even if the opposing view is being refuted
  • When you have two speakers passing a message, the first speaker has more impact (primacy effect)
  • If you have more than one speaker passing a message with a delay between them, the last speaker has most impact (recency effect)
  • The influencer should use distractions when presenting arguments to an audience

Takeaway

The source of the message, the nature of the message, and the nature of the audience need to be carefully considered in the influencer marketing campaign.

Application

  • Have a preference for influencers who are attractive and credible
  • Work with influencers to deliver messages that will have a great impact, based on the characteristics mentioned above

Notable numbers and statistics

When asked about reliable sources for information about apparel trends, 33% said department stores and independent retailers, 26% said ads, 19% said men’s magazines, and 11% said TV shows.

9. Ultimate Terms: Certain Words Have More Power to Influence People, than Others


Explanation

Certain words have been proved to possess great power, influence and persuasiveness. For example, words like value, progress, contribution, freedom, guarantee, we, happy, and belong.

Takeaway

  • When engaging influencers in your marketing campaigns, ensure that you have wording associated with your branding that will speak to the influencers audience
  • The audience should not get the notion that they are being influenced. Otherwise, the words will lose their power, or worse, elicit a negative reaction.
  • Use ultimate terms to charge up your story

Application

  • Have a look at the influencers’ previous work so that you can assess their way with words (and specifically ultimate terms) because this can have a huge impact on an audience
  • The terms or words used should carry power and have culturally sensitive meanings
  • The message should be subtle yet powerful
  • Work with your influencers so that you can create messages that resonate with their audience

Notable numbers and statistics

The top 5 most persuasive or influential words that you can use include: Free, Because, Instantly, You, & New.

10. The Cooperative Principle: Effective Speakers Shape What They Say to Be Better Understood


What it is

When influencers and audiences engage, they share a cooperative principle. In essence, speakers tend to shape what they say so that what they say can be better understood by the listeners.

This interaction between the speaker and listener can be analyzed using 4 conversational maxims including:

Four conversational maxims

Takeaway

Disrupting and reframing information can be a useful tool for persuasion and influence.

Application

Look for different ways to disrupt and reframe information in order to trigger a wake-up call. For example, pitching a product for sale as equivalent to 2 cups of coffee instead of $4.

Data Science and Influencer Marketing.

Data science of influencer marketing
Conclusion

Through the science behind influencer marketing, we are able to:

  • Analyze the relationships between audiences and influencers
  • Analyze and understand how audiences and influencers align with each other according to ideas or requests that resonate, without feeling manipulated into doing something
  • Find a scientific way of choosing influencers using mathematical formulas and algorithms
  • Gain a better understanding of how spammer networks congregate and how to avoid spammer related influencers

What really goes on behind a successful Influencer Marketing campaign and how you can get the strategy right.

Charles Benzu writes on a wide range of topics from entrepreneurship, career, digital marketing and forex trading. He has a passion for science and technology, especially gadgets and gizmos. Charles was professionally trained as an accountant going on to pay his dues for 7 years before branching off to follow his passions. He is currently involved in social entrepreneurship projects where he lives and in his free time likes to kick back and relax with his friends watching sports.

 
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