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Influencer Marketing 101

Influencer marketing is word of mouth on steroids.

“Influencer marketing” has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. Everyone is talking about it. But what does this term actually mean, and why has this become a top trend in recent years?

As the world is looking more and more to social media these days for answers and suggestions on everything from which restaurant to eat at, to which washing power delivers the best results, consumers are relying more on each other to inform their decisions, rather than on companies. Influencer marketing presents brands with an opportunity to take advantage of the power of word of mouth by getting influencers to endorse their products.

Who are influencers?

Influencers are personalities or celebrities in their own right who have a certain number of followers or fans on social media with whom they have developed a relationship.

The best example I heard recently is to imagine you are walking down the hallway in high school and as you walk past the popular girls, you hear them talking about a specific brand of make-up they love. You instantly feel like you’ve been let in on a secret: What the cool girls think is cool.  This would be the same as seeing a post of your favourite fashion icon posting a picture on Instagram and saying how much she loves her new lipstick.

These images from an infographic that appeared on Mashable show the past, present and future of influencer marketing:


 Why is influencer marketing a top trend in 2017 and the foreseeable future?

The online advertising landscape has changed, with more companies seeing the value and ROI in this form advertising. They are increasing their online media budgets, as opposed to spending more on traditional forms of advertising. This has resulted in consumers feeling frustrated and bombarded with paid ads, and we’re unconsciously tuning them out. It comes as no surprise that people love products like AdBlock and Netflix and the like, where there are no disruptions to their entertainment.

Consumers no longer make decisions based on ads they’ve seen on TV; they now turn to social media where they expect brands to interact with them and to learn about a product or service. This gives brands even more reason to use social media influencers, as they are a powerful tool that allows brands to connect more directly with their audiences. Influencers have something that no one else does: They have people’s attention. Brands recognize that “impressions” are only half the value, and they are willing to use influencers for the right kind of targeted exposure.

Influencer marketing is native advertising. When you are scrolling through your Instagram feed and notice that your favourite influencer, whom you already follow, is using a specific product, you barely notice that it’s an ad because they are promoting the product it in their own voice and style. Brands need to partner with influencers whose own personal brand or lifestyles lend credibility to the partnership. Heavily branded content can sometimes be “white noise”. According to SME South Africa, influencers who create organic content can prove more effective for a brand, like the ad below by DJ Zinhle.

With close to a million followers on Instagram, DJ Zinhle has become an established voice online. Here she is in collaboration with the bread brand, Albany.

Consumers are becoming more sceptical of sponsored content, even from influencers. Brands need to shift towards building authentic partnerships between themselves and their ambassadors because savvy millennials can spot when someone is being fake. This quote from Mari Smith, Facebook Marketing expert and Author of The New Relationship Marketing, speaks to this point: “To quote Seth Godin, people can ‘smell the agenda of a leader’. This has never been truer than when it comes to influencer marketing. To maintain fiercely loyal fans, you must love and believe in what you’re endorsing.” Brands must be weary of using influencers as a channel to exploit their fan bases. The key is collaboration, not exploitation. If, as a brand, you’re able to harness your ambassadors’ influence in a way that keeps the communication feeling real and natural, you’re onto a winning formula.

South Africans spend around 8 hours per day using the internet

Whenever I get asked which period I wish I’d been born in, if I could choose, some are surprised at my answer being, “The actual period in which I was born.” I was born a year before Rhodes University became the first location in South Africa connected to the internet in 1991. More than half a century later, over half of the South African population has access to the internet and this exponential growth has drastically changed our – and the entire globe’s – buying behaviour.

In this post, I will take you through two key ways in which digital has changed buying behaviour.

Attention

In our mobile-first environment, South Africans spend around 8 hours per day using the internet. That is more than the average of 7 hours’ sleep we get each day. Digital marketing experts estimate that consumers are exposed to between 4000 and 10000 advertisements per day, with the majority of those being through digital media.

 

While the brain is exposed to more advertising today than it has ever been, it has evolved to prevent an information overload by means of a screening process that allows us to recall less than 0.01% of the adverts we are exposed to.

As marketers, it is important that we create adverts that are creative and relevant, in order to make it through all the noise

 

Access To Information

Prior to the internet age, the only available forms of mass advertising had major financial barriers, making it accessible only to a select few brands. Nowadays, brands with a smaller marketing budget can compete for the attention of the masses with the use of digital advertising. Consumers are now exposed to more options than ever before to solve a particular problem or meet a specific need.

Furthermore, word-of-mouth was previously limited mostly to one’s immediate circles, which changed with the advent of the digital age. In the past, what a brand said about itself outweighed what people said about the brand since it wasn’t easy to access what other people said about a brand or how they experienced its products. Now, when a consumer is in the information search phase of their buying process and evaluating alternatives, they have so much access to others’ experiences of products that word-of-mouth outweighs what a brand says about itself.

 

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumers it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is” – Scott Cook

In the age where Instagram influencer marketing is a 1 billion dollar industry, it is important for brands to ensure that each consumer’s experience of the brand is a favourable one, as every consumer is an ambassador, regardless of reach and influence.

Digital’s effect on the attention of consumers and their access to information has resulted in buyers being unpredictable. Each individual consumer has more power now and follows a unique path to purchase which is not the linear path of awareness, consideration, intent and then decision, as it once was. The buying process now takes place fluidly, in what Google calls micro-moments, which lead to a purchase either online or in-store. These micro-moments take place through a plethora of channels and, as a marketer, you need to decide which channels to use to get the best value, having considered the resources available to you and the customer’s needs.