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15 Dec 2015

Influencer Marketing: The Original Social Influencer, Oprah

Influencer marketing is a standard way that brands connect with new customers. In this era of social media, there are millions of influencers. An influencer is someone with the ability to sway purchasing decisions based on the power and impact they have on an audience. Some of them are reality TV stars, others are famous (or once famous) actors. Some seemingly ordinary people become influencers as bloggers or vloggers. Once you can have a significant following on social media, you can peddle that following for influence. Most influencers now depend heavily on having a strong social media preference. But before social media and the Kardashians, there was an influencer. Her name is Oprah Winfrey.

The History

In 1996, Toni Morrison was already a Nobel Prize-winning author. Her talent was not in doubt. But in 1996, a book she wrote 19 years before suddenly started to appear on bookshelves in its millions. Why? What could have influenced more people to purchase a book than a Nobel Prize could have? It was Oprah Winfrey. She had just launched a book club on her nationally syndicated show and “Song of Solomon” was one of the beneficiaries of the club. The club is estimated to have helped sell 55 million books. That is a lot of influence from one person.

Oprah’s influence spanned beyond books, it even got to a presidential election like when she endorsed Barack Obama in 2007. People bought books because it carried the logo of endorsement from her. People made fashion decisions because of something they heard on her show.

One of the reasons Oprah was able to build such a great influence was because she connected emotionally with her audience. She wasn’t superficial, peddling products, she connected with people’s emotional needs. With her TV show, she didn’t just host the show, she became a part of the audience. When she questioned her guests, she cried with them, shared personal stories with them. She didn’t talk to the audience, she talked to them, and it created a bond where they could trust her. It was Oprah that showed how powerful influencer marketing would become.

“Oprah’s Favourite Things” were another way her influence helped businesses. Brands like DreamTime, a brand that produces aromatherapy slippers had their sales going from 3000 pairs per month to 20,000 because they made Oprah’s list. Garrett Popcorn, from the Chicago, went from producing eight hours every day to producing twenty-four hours every day. Such is the influence that Oprah brings to bear.

Oprah’s Influencer Marketing Lessons.

  1. Trust is important for Influencer Marketing.

People are being sold things everywhere they turn. Advertisers and marketers invade every part of their lives to push products and services to them. They see them on TV, they see them in their newspapers and now they see them on their mobile devices. You can’t blame consumers if they do not trust marketers. So how does Oprah “sell” these products without the customers putting up a wall?

They trust Oprah. They trust that any product she recommends is good for them. They trust that she has used the products or read the books and isn’t just promoting them because somebody paid her to. If she promoted a bad product that harmed people it would have affected that trust. Influencers must aim to build trust with their audience.

  1. Influence is greater than fame.

It is not enough to be famous. There are several famous people who have no influence. They have fans but not followers. Famous people become influencers when they begin to connect with people on a personal level. If a sports superstar, for example, only talks about his games and his team, he will gain a lot of fans who may like his pictures. However, his endorsement of a product – not sports related, or a President may not make too much impact. But a person who has been known to care about certain social issues or certain aspects of living will be trusted by people who connect with them on such issues. Fame may be a start to being an influencer but connecting with people on certain issues is what helps you influence their decision making on those issues.

  1. Choose your platform for influence.

Oprah had a TV show that put her in the living rooms of millions of people, it was a great platform. The Kardashians are great influencers on Instagram. They drown Oprah’s Instagram followers but that may not necessarily mean they have more influence. Each influencer has a platform where they reach their audience. An influencer may have more than one as Oprah did with her magazine and now her own Network but usually, one platform feeds the others. After the relevant platform is discovered, bring all your influence and relationship to make that platform the best it can be.

Learn more about social media and Influencer marketing.