Unilever CMO Keith Weed announced that the company would no longer be working with influencers. Industry experts seem to agree
Speaking at the Cannes Lions, Weed said that the crackdown on influencer marketing was due to the increasing use of fake followers and bots by influencers to inflate engagement numbers. “We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever,” he said, adding that unethical practices undermine the relationships influencers have with the brand. Unilever had spent over USD 9 billion on marketing in 2017.
“The key to improving the situation is three-fold,” explained Weed, adding, “Cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement, making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices, and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact.”
Unilever isn’t the only one realising the importance of real followers.
Quite recently, an Instagram star, Arii, whose real name is Arianna Renee, sparked a discussion about how powerful social media influencers are in real life. Arii had decided to launch her clothing line, ERA, with an initial drop of T-shirts. She failed to sell 36 T-shirts to her 2.6 million followers.
Influencer marketing is hard. Social media is brimming with hashtags of #blogger and #influencermarketing. How many of these are genuine and could increase a brand’s reach is debatable. What is quite apparent, though, is that when working with authentic influencers, brands can not only increase their sales but also effectively reach out to their target audience.
Influencer marketing is a popular strategy used by many marketers today. It is an effective tactic of leveraging the follower base of a social media influencer to sell products, generate leads and bring more traction to the website or even increase app downloads.
Understanding Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a collaboration between a brand and an influencer. Ideally, a brand collaborates with a popular influencer to market their products, services or campaigns through the influencer’s social media platforms.
The most native and primitive form of influencer marketing is celebrity endorsements. Influencer marketing has grown tremendously over the last few years. With more people creating digital content and gaining traction on popular platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, brands and organisations have started investing more into the influencer community than the conventional forms of marketing.
Social media content creators with niche audiences offer more value to brands. Influencers have dedicated audience and are engaged in active groups of followers on social media. More than two-thirds of North American retailers use some form of influencer marketing to gain traction. Almost 50 per cent of US and UK digital marketers spend at least 10 per cent of their marketing budget on influencer marketing.
A survey found that 34 per cent of daily US Instagram users bought something online because a blogger or social media influencer promoted it in their posts.
Also Read: Is It Time We Stopped Talking About CRM?
Using Influencers for Advertising
As per a survey by Bain and Company, Facebook is the most popular platform with 8.8 million users in UAE, while Instagram has 3.7 million users, Twitter boasts 2.3 million users, a rise of 15 per cent from 2017, and the lowest user base is that of Snapchat at just 2 million.
However, Snapchat is the most popular platform in Saudi Arabia, with almost 14 million users, with a roughly equal split between male and female users. Twitter is the second most popular platform in the country with the 11 million Saudi users ranking the most active and engaged in the world. These numbers mostly consist of Gen X users, who also make up 4.2 million of the 15 million Facebook users in Saudi. Meanwhile, it is the Millennials who are driving growth for Instagram, which has 13 million users in the country.
Keeping these numbers in mind, influencer marketing could be a game-changer for brands or organisation. Here are some of the benefits of using influencers for advertising on social media:
1. The Three Rs of Influencer Marketing
It is essential to chalk out a plan for your brand’s influencer marketing model before investing in it. The three Rs of the influencer marketing can help bring customers and target niche specific audience with high relevancy. The three Rs of influencer marketing — relevance, reach and resonance
When collaborating with an influencer, don’t just sign up with one. Metaphorically speaking, you work with all their followers and enjoy their engagement rates at their content. If an influencer has an audience which aligns with your target market, you should reach out to them.
While ‘reach’ is the number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s social media platform, ‘resonance’ is the potential level of engagement the influencer can build for your brand with their audience.
2. It Allows Niche Marketing
Every brand needs to reach out to their potential customers consistently to market their products or services. Targeting a niche audience is highly relevant as it lets you connect with your audience in specific demographics, of a certain age, particular interests directly.
For example, H&M owes its massive social media following to social media influencers who regularly market their products. The brand selects women who can gracefully carry their styles and present it to the audience in a subtle yet striking manner which would generate a call to action.
For their 2017 catalogue, H&M partnered up with a famous fashion blogger, Julie Sarinana. She was awestruck by the collection and chose to promote them from her profile. This led to dozens of comments and likes on her pictures wearing the brand’s new collection.
3. It Boosts SEO
Getting on to the first page of Google’s Search Results is getting difficult by the day. Complex algorithms, tons of keyword data, intensive research, and quality content still doesn’t assure first page, let alone the first position.
One of the most important factors which help your website rank is DA – domain authority. Moz conducts a study of search ranking every two years, and as per the most recent study, Domain Authority has the highest influence on search ranking. According to Moz, the higher your DA, the more there are chances for your website to get a good rank on search engines.
Social media influencers can play a vital role in increasing your website’s DA as they can help create quality backlinks to your website by referring it to their audience in their posts, pictures, videos or status updates. For example, make-up artist and popular social media influencer Jaclyn Hill mentions many different brands that she shops from, which helps create backlinks for their website. These backlinks drive traffic to the website and also help increase sales.
4. It is Inexpensive
Though social media influencer marketing is truly effective, it continues to be comparatively an inexpensive method compared to other marketing tactics. You don’t have to go with the star bloggers or influencers; instead, you can work with a range of micro-influencers who have a smaller but targeted audience.
Jacob True is a micro-influencer in the travel industry, with just a few thousand followers on his Instagram. However, his posts get more than 2000 engagements due to his influence. By connecting with bloggers, vloggers, and other influencers in your industry, you can reach out to a much wider audience.
5. It Generates Relevant Leads
Another key benefit of influencer marketing is that it is not pushy, which makes it feel real, reliable, and credible to audiences. It is common to see people checking an influencer’s Instagram account and saying “Oh, that seems affordable, and it looks good on her. Maybe, I should try it out too” after their favourite blogger or influencer boasts about a dress they recently got from a brand.
Influencer marketing is all about reaching your niche audience through credible bloggers whom their followers trust and count on. A study by Influencer Marketing Hub reveals that influencer marketing is the fastest way of acquiring customers online.
Given the success driven by social media influencers so far, it is quite evident that marketers are going to invest more in influencer marketing than any other marketing form. While some observe an overnight boost in their engagements and sales, others tend to see a gradual but definite increase.
Selecting the right influencer and chalking out the right campaign can be a powerful marketing strategy which can take your brand to new heights. It is always best to work with multiple influencers rather than investing in collaborating with one big influencer.
Pre-decide the precise deliverables and continuously track the engagement and growth on your campaign posts.