3 ways influencers matter for associations

Associations deal in thought leadership and expertise, so tap into influencers who do too.

BY Chris Blose
VP, Content, Imagination

Associations are influencers. They influence policy, the future of professions and industries, and more.

Still, to become even more influential, associations should pay attention to trends in influencer marketing. This form of marketing taps into known or respected people in a specific field to help raise brand awareness, advocate for specific issues or reach new audiences.

If that last part sounds familiar, it should. Countless associations already use members and industry experts as sources and authors of content. The next step: turning them into official influencers and expanding your reach through their name recognition and networks.

Trust matters ...

For people to have influence over an audience, they must first have trust.

But whom do consumers trust? According to a survey about influencer marketing trends by the company Mavrck, 60 percent of respondents trust a “person like yourself,” or a technical or academic expert. That should sound familiar, too. For many associations—professional associations in particular—influencers aren't just leaders in their field. They're also peers, doing work similar to the work of the audience.

Relevance and credibility matter more than celebrity (to a point), and per Olapic, 66 percent of consumers say that an influencer’s content must be relevant to their interests.

So if you’re a professional association, think about the foremost authorities in your field. Are they members? Have they volunteered as sources or writers before? If the answers are "yes," would they be willing to go a step beyond and become ambassadors for your organization?

… But don’t discount name recognition

In the hunt for influencers, associations should think about people who can represent an issue naturally—and whom audiences are likely to recognize. Celebrity and expertise don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

For example, when the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) produced a content program positioning foodservice as an “industry of opportunity,” influencer marketing became a key component. NRAEF engaged not only bloggers who cover the industry, but also food personalities such as Robert Irvine and Andrew Zimmern, who greatly extended the reach of the program.

Likewise, the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) leadership in the debate about public lands also comes with prominent influencers: the outdoor athletes who represent OIA’s member companies. It’s one thing to have OIA push out messages about the value of public lands. It’s something else for well-known and outspoken climbers Alex Honnold or Sasha DiGiulian to bring that message to their ample numbers of followers.

It doesn’t have to break the bank

Yes, influencer marketing budgets are expanding. The projected spending on influencer marketing by 2022 is $5 billion to $10 billion, according to BI Intelligence.

But keep this in mind: The biggest cost in an influencer marketing budget is content, which tends to be about 22 percent of a budget. And guess what? You’re already creating content. Sometimes you’re even using your industry influencers in that content.

The next step: strategizing to make the best use of those influencers and their networks. For instance, at the bare minimum, do you follow up after you've published an article and nudge your sources to share it with their networks? If you want to ease the burden, you can even suggest copy for them to post on their channels. Or, better yet, look for ways to make those people the sources of content delivery via sponsored posts.

Whatever your strategy, the key is to move beyond your own channels and into theirs. That’s where you become truly influential.

published: October 22, 2018

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