One of the strengths of influencer marketing is its diversity. Influencers are often more than just spokespeople for brands, they’re entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and sometimes even brand consultants. On this episode of Julius Profiles, we hear from Alex Jones, a research and strategy consultant, about how influencers can be used to understand a brand’s audience and social ecosystem.
Takeaways from this episode include:
- Using influencers to identify your target audience
- The importance of two-way communication
- How market researchers leverage influencers
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About our guest:
Alex's background has allowed him to always be on the cusp of what’s new in research, data, tech and culture. He's a brand, digital, and business consultant with a proven track record of creating modern research and data departments that are productized and profitable, and leading agencies that transform his clients and their relationships with people. To him, influencers are hypothesis generators, trend leaders, co-creatives, and are key to discovering the nuances of tribes. Off the mic and the computer, Alex can be found running, cheering on Arsenal with his newborn son Oliver, cooking, and dreaming of his next travel adventure.
Key episode insights:
Using influencers to identify your target audience
As a consultant, Alex Jones is often tasked with conducting market research on behalf of his clients. To get ahead of the curve, he uses influencers to understand the ecosystem of a brand’s audience. According to Alex, most businesses are broadening their understanding of where their audiences live:
“I think businesses are beginning to discover who they thought was their target consumer is actually not... or there's actually more of them.”
Researchers like Alex use influencers to help brands make those discoveries. They can serve as a litmus test of sorts for an audience’s interests, opinions, and values, and oftentimes have more to say than the average consumer. As Alex describes it, “I think those influencers are at a point of knowledge that is far ahead of where the generic consumer actually is.”
The importance of two-way communication
As many of our previous guests have suggested, reasonable value exchange is necessary for getting the most out of your influencer partnerships. Whether that entails fair compensation or more creative control over their projects, influencers have to get something out of the relationship for it to work.
Alex offered a different perspective on this tried and some honest advice: giving an influencer creative control isn’t just a matter of speaking your audience’s language, it’s a matter of empathy as well.
“Influencers like mommy bloggers... they are not just pitching content to show how cute their kids are, they're actually having some pretty incredible conversations and some very vulnerable ones as well.”
Listening and having empathy, Alex suggests, is vital to creating influencer content that feels authentic and has a long-lasting impact. “By involving them in the creative process, it's not just about the content they create, it's also their point of view.”
Giving up creative control is no easy task, though. As Alex describes it, “I think a lot of brands go to influencers for authentic communication and interaction. But often it's hard for them to give influencers the freedom to actually make authentic content.”
But that mistake can be a fatal error for brands trying to reach their target audience:
“Don’t mess up their relationship with their audience... if you're not adding value to [influencers’] lives, they're not going to care.”
How market researchers leverage influencers
Market researchers think differently from your average influencer marketer. For starters, they organize audiences into “tribes” of similar psychosocial and demographic characteristics to better understand trends in a given market. To a market researcher, a “tribe” can look a lot different from what’s expected of a certain demographic. Alex cited a market research study on masculinity, giving a specific example of a teenaged boy from the midwest who identified with characteristics that were in no way reflective of his peers.
Those outliers aren’t just anomalies – they’re people with stories to tell that influencers can help tap into. To Alex, influencers aren’t just members of a community and aren’t just leaders of a community either. Rather, “Influencers are the journalists of their own community.”
Viewing them in this light gives researchers like Alex the flexibility to drill down into the behavior of a tribe.
“We've worked with an influencer before where we said: ‘Hey look, this is the tribe we’re targeting, and we think that you'd have a really interesting point of view.’ And in that discussion, it went further, right? The research went further because they described their point of view on it, how they would actually interact with them.”
Influencers and their unique perspectives add even more value to their content offerings. For that reason, Alex asserts, “all strategies now need to consider them... they're an incredibly important voice in the market. We know that they're on everyone's feeds. They're just as important as a TV channel.”
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