The popularity of social media sites over the last two decades gave rise to a new and contemporary style of marketing, aka influencer marketing – involving a group of people known as influencers. Influencer marketing is essentially a hybrid of old and new marketing tools, where brands take the age-old concept of celebrity endorsements and turn them into modern-day content-driven campaigns on various social media platforms. In place of traditional celebrities on mainstream media, these “internet celebrities” are referred to as such because of their sizeable number of followers, and who are engaged by brands to endorse and promote their products and services.
Nearly 60% of marketers have been reported to include influencer marketing in their budgets. The strategy, however, has moved on from “What do you think about doing something with influencers?” to “What’s the influencer strategy for this campaign?” That’s how big influencers have become!
Whether we like it or not, influencers are here to stay. Influencer marketing is projected to grow to US$10 billion in 2020, and brands are increasingly using influencers as ambassadors to promote their products with their audience. An influencer can be a popular fashion photographer on Instagram or a food blogger who tweets. There is enough to go around.
The important thing to remember here is that whatever the end goal may be, you need to make sure the influencer you choose will be able to deliver on your message. Here are some points to consider when identifying one:
1. Consumer Trust
Influencer marketing first became popular as a result of scepticism among audiences towards brand advertising. Consumers instinctively turned to influencers, more so than the traditional celebrity spokespeople for the brand, for more ‘authentic’ voices of opinions or reviews. Influencers’ work has typically been dependent on their commitment to put their audience’s interests first. While their role in marketing has increased rapidly, today’s savvy, informed consumers may still be cautious, and are likely to see them as mere conduits for corporate brands, similar to traditional celebrities.
2. Influencers not synonymous with big audiences
Initially, the word ‘influencer’ was an umbrella term for a group of people on social media with more than a million followers. Today, its subcategory that brands have successfully worked with includes micro-influencers – those with 10,000 to 90,000 followers. In time to come, more everyday brand advocates, with as few as 400-600 followers would become their spokespeople, as brands increasingly commit to reaping stronger results among smaller audiences, rather than blow their entire budget on a single influencer.
Social media sites today have millions of active users daily. Having to tap into that big of a potential market on your own can be tricky. That’s where influencers come in handy. With the large number of users, you are likely to be swimming in a sea of thousands. The high level of competition with low barriers to entry make it all the harder for brands to identify influencers. It’s worth considering the different levels of influencers and which ones are best suited to your brand/campaign.
4. Fake accounts / followers
Another risk that comes with the exceptionally large user bases on social media is the number of fake accounts or influencers with fake followers that marketers have to spend time weeding out, in order to identify the ones that organically generate quality engagement. A recent study conducted by Points North Group revealed that up to 20% of mid-level influencers’ followers are highly likely to be fraudulent – artificially inflated to increase their asking rates from brands.
As the demand for influencers continue to rise higher than it already is today, marketers have to set aside a huge portion of their budget for influencer marketing alone. To amass a following as large as they have, influencers would have had to put in hundreds of hours to build their personal brand and reputation; so naturally, they expect just as much in terms of remuneration.
With their ability to engage a highly relevant audience, and share content among their followers, influencers are vital to a brand’s marketing mix. Engaging an influencer comes with a unique set of challenges that can impact the results of your campaign. At the end of the day, it’s really about the messaging. What do you want them to share with their audience? How do you want them to present your brand?