New research released yesterday by Epsilon's ICOM, a provider of targeted marketing services and manager of North America's largest survey response database, turns much of what we've previously thought about influencers on its head. In The Influencer: A Consumer Voice With Legs, ICOM presents three new findings related to word-of-mouth marketing and the consumers who practice it most.
1. Consumers are influencers with respect to three product categories or less, not all categories. For example, a person might have expertise and high interest in banking products and wine, but not necessarily insurance and microbrews.
2. Influencers do not fit a specific demographic profile. ICOM saw "no skewing toward age, gender or income." What they do hold in common, however, is a passion or specific lifestyle or life stage that gives them an affinity with certain product segments. Such life stages include a new baby, moving into a new home, retiring, etc.
"Instead of turning first to specific demographic segments, marketers must track behavior. This approach could reveal an influencer market base that includes not just the assumed demographic, but also an unexpected set of consumers," ICOM advises in the white paper.
3. While social media and other direct marketing channels offer marketers the ability to tap into the tremendous power of influencers, research shows 90 percent of these individuals' word-of-mouth efforts take place in person or over the phone. In addition, influencers are very apt to use e-mail to both gather information on product categories of interest as well as to share this information and their opinions with those in their spheres.
What makes these consumers so influential is their level of interaction within their social networks. Sixty-one percent of U.S. influencers host family and friends in their homes at least every few weeks, with 72 percent visiting friends and family this often.