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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jana Gross

3 reasons why influencer marketing is more than advertising

Updated: May 11, 2021

Learning what influencer marketing is and why every company should think about a social media and influencer management.

There exists many rumours and misconceptions about influencer marketing. "Influencers marketing is for the younger generations" or "Influencer marketing is product placement on social media" - just to name two misconceptions. Moreover, influencer marketing is often understood as a modern form of advertising on social media. However, influencer marketing is so much more than that. In this article, I explain what influencer marketing actually is and why every company should think about a social media and influencer management.

Influencer marketing is not a new phenomenon.

Oftentimes, people believe influencer marketing is a rather new phenomenon. Yet, this is not the case. Influencer marketing is based on the idea of personal and social influence. The idea of personal influence goes back to Katz & Lazarsfeld who introduced personal influence in mass communication in the mid 1950s. Katz & Lazarsfeld argue that people form their attitudes, opinions, and behaviours based on opinion leaders who put information into context rather than forming information by mass media.

Opinion leaders interpret information and content from mass media to a target audience. Opinion leaders enjoy credibility, trustworthiness, and high esteem of those people who seek their opinions and advices. The term influencer is a modern expression for an opinion leader. Influencers exist in both the offline and online world. Yet, the term influencer is often used to refer to digital opinion leaders.

Social media has amplified the importance and role of personal influence in marketing communication. The role of the classical gatekeeper disappeared. Nowadays, everyone has a voice and can make use of that voice. Social media allows everyone to easily reach thousands of people on social media. Everyone is an influencer on social media - with every like, comment, or post. Yet, not everyone has the same reach. But independent of the reach, every social media user who clicks the Like button on a branded post influences other potential users.

Form a company-perspective, social media users and consumers have become an active part in marketing communication. Influencer marketing exists offline as well as online. As such, influencer marketing is not a new phenomenon, but its importance in marketing communication has drastically risen due to social media.

Influencer marketing is a part of holistic digital and social media management.

Millions of new contents are uploaded daily on social media. On Instagram alone, around 95 billion posts are uploaded every single day. Oftentimes, these contents contain brands and products. Sometimes companies upload marketer-generated content themselves, other times influencers upload sponsored content, or consumers upload user-generated content. In sum, a lot of content about brands and products is uploaded every single day.

With or without companies' consent, producers of these contents act as influencers by doing so. From a broader perspective, producers of content about brands and products influence potential consumers who consume that content. By producing and uploading brand-related content, all these producers can be considered as influencers. Especially on social media, companies cannot entirely control the content that is uploaded about them. Social media monitoring through Newsrooms or web-monitoring helps companies to analyze and understand their digital and social media presence as they monitor how they are perceived by all these influencers on social media.

Rather than understanding influencer marketing as an advertising tool on social media, influencer marketing should be understood from a broader perspective as part of a holistic digital and social media management in companies.

Influencer marketing is a part of the circular marketing communication.

Marketing communication has fundamentally changed with digitalization. The classical linear marketing communication has been mostly replaced by a circular marketing communication. Prior social media, marketing communication was linear. Companies chose a channel (e.g., TV) and sent their advertising content to their target audience. Social media has changed that linear communication structure because consumers have access to more information from different sources on different channels at any time. As a result, a target audience does not only consume content sent by companies, but also content sent by other consumers or influencers.

Nowadays, companies start a continuous flow of communication about their brands and products with a piece of content on social media. Consequentially, it is crucial for companies to achieve an optimal initial kick off to start in their communication. Influencer marketing can be such an initial kick off for a circular marketing communication. Thus, influencer marketing should be seen as part of a holistic marketing communication perspective. Influencer marketing is not only a form of advertising, but rather a part of a continuous circular digital marketing communication.

Companies who consider influencer marketing in their marketing communication, should think about the following questions:

  • Does our company have a concept on social media and influencer management?

  • What are the goals of our social media and influencer management?

  • Where lies the responsibility of social media and influencer management in our company?

More readings on influencer marketing:

Katz, E., & Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1966). Personal Influence, The part played by people in the flow of mass communications. Transaction publishers.

Casaló, L. V., Flavián, C., & Ibáñez-Sánchez, S. (2018). Influencers on Instagram: Antecedents and consequences of opinion leadership. Journal of Business Research.


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