It was not long back when the word ‘influencer’ was just confined to the celebrities or few bloggers who time and again appeared in advertisements or others, endorsing products. With the birth and rise of social media and a completely different platform in people’s hands, there has been a significant increase in influencers. And this in turn led to the development of ‘influencer marketing’.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencers, in social media terms, are those individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche. Thus, influencer marketing can be explained as a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from these influencers. This type of marketing is now an established form of online marketing. The social influencers have built up a following that trusts in them and their recommendations serve as a form of social proof to the brand’s potential customers. Some brands even collaborate with influencers to improve brand recognition.
Let’s see what Sonia Sharda, the Regional Head-Operations (West), WATConsult has to say about influencer marketing. She says, “The landscape of influencer marketing is very different today than it was a few years back. Earlier the influencer circle would revolve around a few celebs and a handful of bloggers and Category A content creators. Today that is no more the case. The dynamics of influencer marketing have completely changed, and the social platforms are filled with all kinds of influencers from fashion to lifestyle, travel and beyond that make options for brands limitless. Influencer marketing works brilliantly for brands as they are tapping into a captive audience according to the niche audience that they cater to and these influencers play a pivotal role in getting the brand front and center of the target audience. This serves as an aid for brands to enhance their digital currencies (Reach, engagement, etc) and push the envelope when it comes to brand advocacy with high ROI if strategically played out.”
Wondering how Influencer Marketing works?
Influencers can be anyone starting from a fashion photographer on Instagram to a respected marketing executive on LinkedIn or a well-read cybersecurity blogger who tweets. There are influencers in every possible industry- it depends on the research you do base on your niche. It is not always about the followers on a particular platform, but it is more about the reputation they have created with their expertise in the dedicated field. They are directly connected to the people and hence answer their questions and they are the ones who make engaging content on the specialist topics.
So, before approaching any influencer carefully:
- Organize, strategize, plan and spend time on research on the influencers of your niche/industry
- Don’t forget to consider your budget for the collaboration
- Subscribe to the platform or opt for an agency and work organically
- Most importantly, be human in breaking a deal.
Discussing her own struggle and experience as a blogger, Shabnam Fathima, a fashion influencer, represented by WORD Talent shares, “I started blogging 7 years ago, driven by my passion for all things fashion. With the influx of social media consumption, both consumers and bloggers increased in number and the word influencers became popular. What looks like a beautiful rosy feed comes with a lot of challenges. As influencer marketing increased, so did branded content. Creating branded content along with ensuring original and creative work to ensure our feed doesn’t look like an advertisement board becomes a constant challenge. The very expectation to create beautiful, original, and trending content sometimes gets very overwhelming. As a creator, I aim to not just fulfill a brand’s brief but also make sure I stay true to my community’s expectations by delivering organic content. I think it’s safe to say that the challenge of constantly creating something new and battling inorganic content are two of the biggest flaws of influencer marketing.”
There are various networks that are growing for influencers, while we are all familiar with Instagram Influencer Marketing. Some of these platforms include Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok as well, with different sets of influencers. Adweek suggested that this industry would reach $10 billion in worth by 2020. And with the increase in platforms and influencers, comes its flaws hand in hand.
Let’s dive into the Flaws associated with Influencer Marketing.
As rightly put by Ms. Ambika Sharma, Founder & MD, Pulp Strategy, “74% of consumers trust what they see on social media, including content from influencers. More than 70% of brands believe that influencer marketing has a positive impact on their marketing. Having said that, influencer marketing has its cons.
- Cost is not standardized. Most influencers charge based on followers or will try to if your agency will let it slip by them. However, there is a large % of fake followers inflating influencer following. This results in wasted spending and less than the desired impact.
- Engagement rates matter: Engagement is more important than just followers. A 1%-3% rate of engagement (for large influencers) is considered passable while 4%+ is a good engagement rate. Look at it this way. An influencer with 1.5 million followers and a 2% engagement rate will get a net 30K engagement, however, a 1 million follower base with a 4% engagement gives far more new value.
- Saturation: there is a high saturation in the influencer space, and consumers notice. At some point, audiences will become disengaged, or less engaged than they once were. Credibility is also under question with influencers that market competing products in close proximity.
- Fakes: it’s usually easy to spot fakes, they have a lot of irrelevant comments and show a disproportionate engagement rate, their content is usually poor. This is where your agency needs to have a good filtering process.
Overall influencer marketing if done well is a good bet, I advise clients to get a strategy in place, influencer marketing is costly and it’s best to have a plan which is focused on long-term ROI.”
On a similar note, Sonia Sharda further adds, “There are 3 challenges that plague the influencer marketing system today:
1. Fake Followers/ Bots: There are many influencers who earn loyal follower base through diligent unique content creations but there still are many who rely on inorganic methods to boost their numbers – this is dangerous territory for the brands and identifying the right set of influencers becomes one of the core pillars of any influencer marketing strategy
2. Novelty: Content duplicity is a growing concern and bringing out the novelty of your product in a unique never done before the style is becoming even more challenging with the ever-growing content creator pool
3. Rising Influencer Costs: As the industry grows, influencer costs have seen a rise, forcing the brands to realign their budgets. It is noted that around 38% of marketers are concerned about the rising influencer costs, therefore, having an impact on their always-on strategy that has yielded results for many years now.”
Adding on the subject Mr. Jay Rathod, Founder, Koffeetech Communications says, “Influencer marketing is in full swing in today’s social media driven world and is a proven viable option to create brand visibility and awareness. Influencer marketing is the idea to collaborate with celeb, macro, and microbloggers to promote your product or service using a modern-day content-driven marketing campaign. The consumer landscape has changed over time, thus one of the main reasons for blogger campaign success is that the audience is easily influenced by their favorite bloggers’ promotions.
Influencer marketing through having a series of pros does come with its share of cons. One of the main downsides here is ROI. Brands at times are unable to calculate definitive results of the activity and its effect on the sale or purchase of the product. A growing concern with this tool of promotion is also the increase in fake and bot followers. Some accounts on Instagram have a high number of followers which may not seem organic due to a questionable engagement ratio. Such accounts are easily traceable with follower vs engagement ratio and the quality of comments.”
As the Founder and Director of Divo, Shahir Muneeradds,“As Influencer marketing is a relatively new vertical under digital marketing in the advertising industry, these are still nascent days. From a brand perspective, the market is open with multiple influencer marketing agencies mushrooming all over the country. The Discovery of influencers and the right solution is another challenge. But these are part of the industry growth aspects and good challenges. From an audience perspective, getting widely accepted content creators or influencers will work on products on a paid basis, and is part of the content they have to go through, just like how a generation went through listening to ads on radio, and later tv, this is just evolution of that. However, with the responsibility to the audience by an influencer, also comes the fact that advertisers have access to influencers who can reach a large audience and serve their purpose. However, while the majority are from brands with proper advertising intentions and guidelines, there are organizations looking to mislead the audience by using influencers without the influencer being aware of the pitfalls. So recent ASCI guidelines is a welcome move, however widespread usage is not compliant still, and industry will have to work towards its implementation.”
Though there are flaws associated with this type of marketing, we can all agree that Influencer Marketing is here to stay. As the world keeps accepting the digital world more, influencers and their influence will keep rising. And the scope of influencer marketing will keep blooming. Similar to any other marketing campaign, influencer marketing also involves, researching, budgeting, determining goals, collaborating, and then revising and reviewing the final product. And voila! Your influencer campaign is ready.