There was a time when you couldn't turn on a television or flip through a (print or online) newspaper without seeing mention of "the blogosphere." But the term has fallen out of favor recently because, everything is a blog.
In 2003, a Technorati search scoured 375,000 blogs, and according to longtime tech influencer John Gruber at the time, called that "amazing." Now, the definition of a blog has expanded to include major sites like Gawker, TMZ, and Mashable, not to mention the still extant individual blog, be they focused on fashion, food, or mommy-ing. Today, there are an estimated 152,000,000 blogs online.
To account for this explosion in blogs and the shifting language of the internet, digital marketers now largely refer instead to "influencers" rather than "bloggers." In fact, Technorati themselves has acknowledged this shift, changing their annual "State of the Blogosphere" report to a "Digital Influence Report."
How We Measure Influence
But it's not just terminology that's changing. It's the definition of influence and influencer and the tactics we use to find them and integrate them into our digital marketing campaigns.
When influence tools like Klout and Kred came on the scene, there was the reason for celebration. Finally, a quantifiable way to measure someone's influence. But as the idea of influence has matured, these scores have been utilized less and less when it comes to identifying influencers. Rather, brands place higher importance on such easily accessible metrics as Twitter followers and Facebook likes, taking priority even over blog users and page views.
This may be attributed to the fact that these content sharing platforms can be the focal point of a social media marketing campaign, supplemented with sponsored tweets, Facebook ads, trends, and hashtags. The critical mass of users on these social platforms means it is possible to reach even those who are not influenced by one particular influencer by focusing efforts there.
Leveraging Influencers in 2014
Just as the way of identifying influencers has shifted, so has the ways in which we can and should utilize them in campaigns. Most marketers are in agreement that the smaller the community you are working to target, the greater the influence one important person can have. This means that as marketers we must work even harder to identify our target markets, drilling down to the most relevant communities and finding their gurus.
This idea of community relevance extends to the influencer outreach process as well. Influencers complain about irrelevant pitches as well as pleas for content that would actually be relevant to the influencer's audience falling on deaf ears at the brand level. In order to reach influencers in 2014, we need to find the right communities and the right influencers and then be flexible enough to let those influencers guide the marketing process to a place that makes sense for their audience.
Going Forward with Influencer Marketing
As the blogosphere as a concept fizzles out, the idea of digital influence is taking stronger hold every day. Digital marketers can no longer ignore the statistics telling us that a word-of-mouth recommendation, from an influencer or friend, is "the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions." But there are more influencers out there than ever before. If we can find the ones that are most relevant to our needs and approach them with sensitivity and an open mind, the possibilities for our brands will be incredible.