Social media, one of the most potent tools ever, has given one and all a platform to voice their opinions, enabling people across the globe to connect with each other seamlessly. People with successful ideas and large audiences on their blogs and social media pages ― also known as influencers ― are adept at using this tool to promote their choices and opinions about varied products, brands and services including lifestyles.
Influencer marketing is an informal way of promoting a brand championed by individuals ― who are liked, followed, and looked up to ― among netizens in millions. The influencers who are used for marketing campaigns have a much better payoff compared to any other means of advertising such as TV or print media. The influencers know their audience and have a much higher trust quotient among followers compared to any other medium. However, this kind of marketing has a high probability of turning the tables from an expected positive outcome into something disastrous for a brand if the influencer falls out of favor with his or her audience.
The past few months have seen a series of goof-ups and negative publicity, especially with young celebrities like Logan Paul ― whose insensitivity toward suicide led to great negativity and his eventual suspension by YouTube ― and many others like Zoella (with her failed Advent Calendar) and Elle Darby (criticized for asking for free accommodation in exchange for publicity) facing the heat for their acts. Influencers who were once considered an important part of promotions to reach out to those who swear by social media are suffering a major backlash, with questions about their credibility and relevance being raised.
In the influencer marketing industry, which is currently worth about $2 billion and has a market adoption rate of 75 percent, influencers are not going to be shown the door any time soon. But in this age of schadenfreude and skepticism, where celebrities and their actions are under the relentless gaze of the public, how can companies make use of such influencers and effectively tap into social media as a promotional tool without inviting negativity?
Here are a few pointers to consider before investing in an influencer:
Big Numbers Don't Mean Big ROI
First and foremost, brands looking to master influencer marketing should not just base their choice of celebrity on the highest numbers (in this case, highest followers). If someone as famous as Kim Kardashian promoting a brand is unable to convert more than a banner ad, it only goes on to prove the general rule of thumb that “the greater the audience, the lower the engagement.”
Relevance of the Influencer
The marketer should weigh in on the decision to ensure that the audience accepts the celebrity/influencer choices based on his or her persona and sentiments. The vision and purpose of brands should be calibrated with those of the influencer. For instance, Adidas has gone ahead and grouped local football captains (micro-influencers) for building long-term brand connections instead of investing millions on a single big celebrity. This has enabled the brand to access the target audience in a meaningful way.
Engagement With the Audience
It is imperative to understand the audience psyche once an influencer is connected to the brand. The audience should be able to engage with the influencer at a personal level, rather than be overwhelmed or indifferent to the celebrity and his or her content. Engagement indicates how interactive the audience is, which can be gauged by the number of comments and curiosity shown by the audience.
Influencer marketing is already a staple in the beauty and gaming sector, but considering its reach and effectiveness, other categories will soon be adopting it. This, however, needs to be carried out in a more sophisticated way to rake in the moolah. 2018 will surely see many more influencers and myriad brands engaging with them despite questions being raised on whether influencer marketing is just a passing fad.