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Where are all the influencers?

For many, the idea of influencer marketing seems like a relatively new concept. In fact, it’s a technique that’s nearly as old as marketing itself. As early as the 1930’s, brands like Coca-Cola worked to pair its products with the era’s foremost stars. Still, most of these efforts consisted of trying to tie down the likes of Katherine Hepburn and not just the latest evictee from Love Island. 

Regardless of how old it is, there’s little doubt that influencer marketing is currently riding a wave of renewed popularity. Open up any social media platform and within a few minutes you’re guaranteed to find a Z-list celeb hawking a product at you.

As the leading marketing agency for the construction sector, we’re often asked who the key influencers are within our market and how best to connect with them. Clients are understandably keen to place powerful endorsements into content-driven marketing campaigns.

But identifying credible influencers in our market isn’t straight forward. The construction industry doesn’t operate like others. In our experience, the wealth of credible influencers in the construction market isn’t particularly deep (note the inclusion of the word ‘credible’). Of those who do exist, how many have the authenticity, reach and ‘influencing’ power to make a difference to your sales as opposed to just some vanity metrics on social.

Unlike many other sectors, you have to remember that construction is still served by a strong and well-established trade press. When we speak with European clients, they’re consistently amazed by the sheer volume of magazines and dedicated titles according to trade (consider that we have seven dedicated plumbing titles for example). The sheer breadth and depth of publications is incomparable with other European countries. This prevalence undoubtedly makes it harder for would-be influencers to cut through. This phenomenon is certainly a contributing factor, but there could also be another reason as to why our industry is not rich with influencers.

Compared with cooking or parenting, where anyone with a laptop can start a blog based on their experience, being a construction expert takes ‘hands-on’ knowledge and experience. People in a position to be a credible influencer within our industry are therefore probably professionals working in it as opposed to someone who works in another sector who just happens to have a ‘passion’ for construction.

One could also argue that someone who is a brilliant tradesperson with the level of knowledge required to be an authentic influencer may simply not have the time or the combined skillset to write an engaging blog.

We’ve undertaken a number of influencer research projects for clients and the answer always comes back the same. Yes, there are some very active tradespeople on social media with reasonable sized followings, but many have just become guns for hire and don’t tick the ‘authentic’ box. It’s a similar story where architecture is concerned with a lack of influencers in the modern sense. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that these professionals, having built their reputation on years of study and practice, are less likely to spend their time out there endorsing specification products or services.

Yet, clients remain adamant that credible influencers must exist…they must be out there.

Does this obsession with ‘influencers’ stem from heavily slanted, B2C marketing courses leaving people blinkered into believing that ‘influencer marketing’ is the be all and end all regardless of sector?

Is it just possible that the mythical influencers everyone is searching for are actually a lot closer than we think in the editors and journalists that serve our trade press. Surely, it makes more sense from a time and budget perspective to try and influence these respected influencers given the platform they have and leave the unicorns alone.

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