Influencer marketing can be incredibly powerful. It harnesses the power of a respected figure and turns it into a ball of social marketing energy – but the potential of the energy depends on the influencer and how that influencer genuinely feels about the product.
First, who counts as an influencer?
An influencer could be a peer – friend or classmate or next door neighbor – because these influencers hold personal influence over you. Because you trust and like people you know well and see often, the word of your peers hold immense weight to you. This quality is what drives the success of word-of mouth. On the other end of the spectrum, influencers could also be brand ambassadors or advocates, as the brand ambassador is tasked with putting the product out in the public in a positive light, and essentially using their own audience to promote it. This is the realm of “All dentists recommend X brand toothpaste!” – the realm of celebrity or professional endorsements.
No matter how broad our definition of an influencer is, from the next door neighbor to Leonardo DiCaprio for TAG Heuer, onepervasive problem exists: how does one influence the influencer to reach out to others?
The answer is rarely as simple as “money.”
For one, offering monetary compensation does not automatically equal unparalleled enthusiasm for the product. In fact, it’s prone to make the recipient less likely to genuinely like the product. A classic experiment by Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) showed that when study participants who had just performed an immensely boring and repetitive task were offered $20 (a large sum in those days) to lie to next participant by saying the task was actually fun, the participants unsurprisingly reported not liking the task at all. The catch? Some participants were offered $1 to lie. Afterwards, these participants reported liking the task more than those who were offered $20.
Why? The people paid $20 to lie felt like they had been offered plenty of reasons to change their views on the task momentarily – their justification to lie was the money. The people paid $1 had no such reason, and therefore had to justify their behavior by thinking “I must’ve actually liked the task.”
We end with this paradox: offering an influencer a large amount of money will not make them genuinely like your product better and want to promote it more. The money simply serves as reason for them to take the time to get your brand out there.