Listening With Influence; Why Influencers are the New Most Powerful Tool for Market Research

By Nick Guy

The story of the influencer so far…

Let’s start with the tale of the influencer. The term ‘influencer’ has been synonymous for a few years now with a new celebrity of our age. This new celebrity connects with their followers directly and in ways that radically differ from traditional A-list celebrities.

These influencers built varying degrees of followings on platforms like Instagram and YouTube. They usually created content themselves to engage with their audience. Not only did this new world of power bring a shift to how people consume content, it also changed how brands advertised. People of influence have always been around, but they haven’t always been so accessible and connected to such specific groups of followers. Organisations have always seen opportunities with these powerful types. This was just a new and specific iteration for them to work with.

These new creators therefore found a way to monetise their talent, producing sponsored content that was in effect, part of their life. Fashion influencers for example, modelled to their communities about how to wear the newest clothing on the street. They took what traditionally was the job of magazines and expensive shoots and made it something more accessible.

Even pet companies used dog influencers to showcase their products. Other people’s pets started to feel like they were somehow our own. What they did and ate, mattered. This democratisation of advertising created a new form of patronage, enabling creators to produce content for a living and brands to connect with consumers in a new, more authentic way. These influencers became specialists in building communities around such niche topics that they ultimately became brands without logos. Organisations and influencers lived happily ever after.

The next chapter of the story…

What about if the story didn’t end there? Until now, the focus of organisations in this new wave of creativity has been about promoting and promotion. Influencers however, are not just capable of shouting about brands, they can also listen to their communities. Listening could shift the relationship between organisations and influencer in a new direction. Influencers are becoming researchers.

Alongside this, more traditional market research practices can be seen as slow, small scale and very costly. The lack of speed in traditional methods like focus groups now no longer matches the speed of the modern design process.

Imagine a world where you could access any group of individuals, with almost any interest, anywhere in the world and then hear their views in 24 hours.

Enter the influencer community…

Unlike traditional celebrities who remain at a distance on our television screens, influencers can have two-way conversations with their communities at breath-taking speed.

These communities are huge self-selected groups of individuals who have centred themselves around certain interests, lifestyles or the influencers themselves. They can be accessed at a speed and scale that is probably unprecedented throughout all history. With influencers using various polling tools on these social platforms, organisations can rapidly capture opinions from real communities in real-time to learn almost anything.

Whereas focus groups or surveys can take place in artificial environments, this method also engages people where they are already spending time, their real-world environment. Instagram for example is a self-curated visual environment where users under 25 spend, on average, more than 30 mins a day. This presents a huge opportunity for research; a global brand can connect with a huge audience of people who associate with veganism to test a new product or a New York start-up can listen to the preferences of specific coding communities in the city.

Results are anonymous. Instead they focus on the consensus of the community as a whole. Communities are very willing to give their opinions; they like to have their voice heard and are connected to the influencer. We have so far gathered c.34k opinions via influencer research and our work to date shows that on average, c.24% of people who see a poll via Instagram Stories vote on it. This new technique reshapes how questions can be asked and answered. This enables iterative research with multiple rounds in as many days.

This is what we call the opinion economy and it is here. This democratises research and even smaller influencers can generate value from their communities’ opinions. If you would like to follow what we are doing you can find our more here or @nologosphere.

Nick Guy, Co-founder & CEO of No LogoSphere