First things first, what comes to mind when you hear someone mention influencers?
Well, there was a point in time when the word ‘influencer’ had a negative connotation – namely, a person with an aspirational online career, leading them to quick and fast riches (hashtag sponsored). But let’s pause for a minute and try to recall: what did it originally mean to be an influencer?
As the word suggests, ‘influencer’ is anyone who has the power to influence another person. In this context, it is usually because of one’s authority, knowledge, expertise or relationship with his or her audience. These influencers primarily wield the power to influence their audience’s purchase decisions through their online presence on social media, earning them the (alternate) title – ‘social media influencers’.
Social media influencers typically share their knowledge and expertise in a niche area. Through regular postings on their preferred social platforms, they are able to generate a large following who engage with their content via views, likes and comments. This leads to a reputation that is built on their online presence and relationship with a like-minded tribe. As the number of social media users grows over the years, it also increases the number of people whom influencers are able to reach and share their content with. As long as these influencers remain relevant to their audience, they are able to retain the influence they have over their followers’ purchase decisions; thus, gaining the love of brands when followers buy the products that they promote. Rather than considering them as mere marketing tools, it would be more accurate to view them as social relationship assets that brands can tap on and collaborate with to achieve their marketing goals.
It might have started with the entry of a new wave of influencers into the market, after seeing their predecessors rise to fame and riches by putting out content on social media. The positive attributes associated with influencers then took a turn when the second generation influencers started ushering in repetitive cookie-cutter content and trends that were already obvious to social media users. Besides coming across as less authentic, the fact that they were out to sell something is also made clearer than ever before.
Today, consumers have grown immune to traditional advertising strategies; they turn blind to billboards and deaf to commercials. Social media users no longer consume content passively. The younger generation, mainly your Gen Zers, prefers discovering brands on their own. Apart from choosing the type of content they want to consume amidst the marketing clutter, they also want to hear from someone they trust. In fact, they are looking to engage with real, unstaged content, even if these “influencers” may come across as dorky. In addition, the active presence of digital natives on social media has also led to the growth of their own personal brand among their followers as they continue to share their opinions and put out content.
With the limit of what can be achieved through partnering celebrity influencers, brands have begun to take a 180° approach from traditional influencer marketing – by searching for ways to build meaningful communities and tribes around smaller audiences instead. After all, as compared to trying to reach everyone, it is probably more effective to influence these followers to take action and drive conversion for brands.
So if you are a brand or marketing manager who is contemplating influencer marketing, here are some points to consider:
#1 Determine your goals
Hold up! Before you delve right into planning a full-fledged marketing strategy, it is important that this strategy aligns with your business and marketing goals. Is it to improve product consideration, drive conversion or increase engagement? More often than not, the main motivation behind influencer marketing is the access to new audiences that brands gain; allowing them to fulfil the goal of reaching new customers. By engaging influencers, brands are able to tap on not only their followers, but also their followers’ network.
Tip: You can measure conversions by providing influencers with a unique link or code to analyse the effectiveness of influencer marketing in a campaign. While sales-driven objectives help your brand stay on track, influencer marketing also provides an additional touch point for brands to learn about their consumers and facilitate 2-way conversations so make use of that!
#2 Define your audience
Marketing is all about speaking to the right people at the right place, and at the right time. When it comes to shortlisting influencers to work with, it’s really no easy task. But before you decide on which influencers to engage, defining who your audience is for this specific campaign is one way to get started.
It’s about the quality, not quantity. Reaching huge audiences may be effective in increasing temporal brand exposure and awareness, but it is limiting in building an emotional connection and resonance with your brand. Instead, it would be more effective to increase your brand’s relevance by targeting consumer tribes. These are meaningful communities where individuals identify with each other through their collective interests – and it could be anything from bubble tea, fishing, ergonomic chairs to… a love for crocs.
Tip: Try developing personas for your audience to identify and understand who you are trying to reach. This includes their preferred choice of social media platform, the way they communicate, what they resonate with and more!
#3 Find your influencer math
To promote your brand, influencers should be individuals who help to increase brand visibility and credibility because of the meaningful connections they have formed with other members of the tribe. And this is why establishing your audience comes first.
Apart from looking at the reach and other vanity metrics such as likes and comments, the power to influence others also depends on whether these influencers are a contextual fit for your brand. Who is their target audience? What is their content about? Are they already hitting their followers with many paid posts? Besides doing some basic research about your candidates, observe and assess whether these candidates you have in mind align with the values your brand stands by.
Tip: Authenticity is key – maybe it would help to think of it as choosing a brand advocate or spokesperson.
Is there a right or wrong answer to influencer marketing? Well, as I have said before, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing strategies. But that also suggests the unlimited potential that can be uncovered with different strategies as you tailor them according to the needs and goals of your brand.
As the Content Marketing Executive at The Outsiders Co. (now Superminted), Jasmine is a storyteller who translates her love for learning into content that is entertaining and relatable for the audience. She believes in connecting with the audience through the words she pens – or types.