Written by Ariana Dickson

There’s no denying that Influencer Marketing has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. Early last year, AdWeek published an article predicting that influencer marketing would become a $10 billion industry by next year. And, MediaKix reports that searches for “influencer marketing” have experienced a three-fold increase from the start of 2016 — hitting nearly 10,000 average monthly U.S. Google searches. As this marketing strategy continues to grow and become both a permanent and substantial industry focus, more brands and marketers are looking to learn all that they can about the landscape.

With an overload of information surrounding influencer marketing, from success stories to cautionary tales — it can be all too easy to overlook the most basic and critical element: Influencer marketing is about relationships, and real relationships require real people.

So what then exactly is an influencer?

An influencer is anyone who is authentic in their engagements and recommendations, provides a valued opinion, and builds a reputation for their expertise. Influencers are all around us. The woman at work with an impeccable sense of style is an influencer, as is the friend who has eaten at every new restaurant in town. We trust them, and we turn to them to help us find whatever it is that we’re seeking. The more we have in common with them, the more likely we are to follow their advice. In our day-to-day lives, it’s relatively easy to determine how much our tastes and values align with those of the people we know. It isn’t so easy to build the same trust over social media. Which is exactly why influencer marketing has proven to be more than a just a simple transactional activity.

Though influencer marketing professionals generally use the term influencer to refer to someone who partners with a brand to promote their products or services, not all influencers are paid professionals. In fact, those that set out to build followings with the mere purpose of getting paid to represent any old brand are not really influencers at all. True influencers have an audience that has grown organically over time as people continue to discover and connect with their content, as well as an ability to provide impact. It’s important to remember that a large following does not necessarily translate into large influence. Influence is built through trust and authentic engagement, not merely likes and follows.  

Influencers are multi-dimensional.

Though an influencer may be known for a particular niche – travel, fashion or cuisine, for example – they, like the rest of us, have dozens of other interests and passions. By tapping into these quirks, you’ll seize a unique opportunity to successfully market your brand. A whiskey aficionado will provide an entirely different perspective on your destination than that of an outdoor adventure seeker, though both may be travel influencers. Drilling down the passions of individual influencers beyond what they are posting on their social channels opens up countless opportunities, as well as an extended audience. At the core, you are dealing with multi-dimensional human beings whose lives extend far beyond their Instagram accounts and YouTube channels. And this is, in fact, their greatest asset.

Influencers are not static.

Unlike an ad that is run and done, influencers invite their audience to follow along on the journey of their lives. With this front seat ticket opening up the door for followers to tag along as they change and grow — brands have an opportunity to move with them, capitalizing on an ongoing relationship. A recent Forbes article highlights the growing trend of long-term relationships between influencers and brands, pointing out that such relationships not only build trust between an influencer’s followers and the brand but also encourage creative risk-taking by the influencer — which often pays off handsomely.  

Our human propensity for change means that an influencer who was great for your brand three years ago may no longer serve your target market today. Staying in tune with influencers — their current passions, personal brand and audience — requires a very hands-on approach. Developing real-life relationships through person to person contact is not just a perk in this industry but imperative. But the truth is….most brands have neither the time nor the desire to cultivate and maintain such connections – after all, influencer marketing is just a piece of their marketing puzzle, not their raison d’être.

We’ve got you.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Partnering with an influencer marketing agency that focuses on building authentic relationships with each and every one of the influencers they work with allows brands to build connections that are ongoing and on-brand — providing excellent ROI without exhausting copious amounts of time or energy. At Travel Mindset, we pride ourselves on our hands-on approach. We engage in real-life conversations and face-to-face interactions that allow us to understand each of our influencers, outside of social media.

Invest wisely and create with influencers who are carefully considered and understood on a human level, whose synergy with your brand extends far beyond the screen. It is from these valued relationships that you best learn how to best improve the integrity, transparency and impact of your influencer marketing campaigns. Building these connections and understanding influencers on a human level is a powerful tool. One that is absolutely necessary if you expect to get out what you put into influencer marketing.