Marketers and business communicators have been targeting so-called “influencers” or “influentials” for decades. It is a strategy born of experience and intuition—a sense that people are influenced by other people, and that some wield greater influence than others. But there is wide variation in what people mean by “influencers” or “influencer marketing.” The situation begs for a common language and conceptual framework to aid practitioners.
WOMMA has developed the following definitions with an eye for academic rigor but also practitioner utility. With this in mind consider that there are 7 billion+ people on the earth. While anyone can exert influence in some manner on others it is rarely practical for brands to focus on reaching everyone, and hence there is an interest in aiming communications toward those people who have disproportionate influence in the marketplace.
The following definitions and standards were developed by members of WOMMA in collaboration with members of other leading trade groups in the field of public relations and marketing.
WOMMA defines Influence as:
The ability to cause or contribute to a change in opinion or behavior.
Where the initial actor is a Key Influencer who is:
A person or group of people who possess greater than average potential to influence due to attributes such as frequency of communication, personal persuasiveness or size of and centrality to a social network, among others.
Key Influencers interact with others and those they influence are Influencees:
A person or group of people who change their opinion or behavior as the result of exposure to new information.
Therefore Influencer Marketing is:
The act of a marketer or communicator engaging with influencers to act upon influencees in pursuit of a business objective.
Research shows a marketer is most effective when focusing resources on Key Influencers with the highest propensity to influence a population of Influencees who have the highest propensity to be influenced. The remainder of this document explores further some descriptive Attributes of an Influencer so a program manager can identify influencers and influencees for effective program design. The attributes themselves are useful for characterizing five (5) categories of influencers who possess a unique attribute profile described in greater detail in this document.