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Marketing under the influencer. What are they, how much do they cost and are they worth the money?

12/09/2018

As you probably know, social media has created a new generation of influencers. There are thousands of them across the internet. ‘Normal’ people who have garnered followings in the thousands or millions just by being themselves.

If you are running a hospitality or tourism business they may be ‘driving you crazy’ right now by requesting free experiences in exchange for social media posts. And most of those people probably aren’t that influential, anyway.

What sets these new influencers apart from celebrities as we have known them for decades is that they dodged the old gatekeepers of influence and accessed their audience directly through social media.

They grew enormous social followings just by being funny, posting pretty photos, being a well-networked member of a subculture, or just by being ridiculously good looking.

For these new influencers, who aren’t famous for anything much apart from what they’ve done on social media, clout is usually measured by number of followers, reach, and engagement.

Marketers and businesses are still trying to understand how to harness the power of these new influencers (and they do have power worth harnessing, if you do it right).

Even though the sector has matured in recent years, Collectively’s Social Influence Business 2018 report still describes it as the ‘wild west’. So, let’s cock our six shooters and take a closer look at what it’s all about.

Influence is not a new concept

One of our favourite sayings at Zakazukha is ‘everything old is new again’ and we believe that certainly applies to so-called influencers. It’s a new term for an old concept, one that anyone who has taken a passing knowledge of marketing would understand.

Really, they’re just another medium to get your message across. With the same principle as Nike and Michael Jordan back in the 1990s, your business can use social media influencers to build awareness and drive sales for your business.

There’s a great infographic from Social Media Today that illustrates the history of influencer marketing. It takes their history back to the British Royal Family’s endorsement of Wedgwood ceramics in the 1760s, an endorsement the company still benefits from today.

With that in mind, approach influencers in the same way as any other marketing exercise – with a clear target market, goals and KPIs in place for the campaign. And they should be vetted and analysed carefully to ensure that they fully match the vision and personality of your brand. That’s really important, because the influencer’s past behaviour will reflect on your business.

Several influencer aggregators have come online recently, allowing marketers to harness the audience of dozens of micro-influencers at the one time, but it’s a much better idea to carefully choose the influencers you work with, as Australian governments have found out.

The Federal Government banned the use of influencers after a $600,000 investment in the #GirlsMakeYourMove campaign backfired when it emerged several of the stars had worked with alcohol companies in the past, and one had posted racist content.

The Australian Defence Force also discovered the drawbacks of influencer marketing when it hired two e-gaming stars to promote defence force careers who were found to have made misogynist, sexist and gay slurs.

Do not work with influencers who have a history of making these kinds of comments.

Once you’ve assessed that the person is the right fit for your brand, look closely at their analytics. Social media influencers should also be able to provide you with engagement and reach statistics, and the demographics of their audience, which you can use to decide whether they will provide you value.

Speaking of value, the prices attached to working with influencers vary, from contra deals to thousands of dollars in cash. It comes down to each individual agreement as to how much the deal is worth.

There is limited data available as a guide on prices, but here is a graph from Collectively’s report that that gives a good gauge of what influencers with an audience of 100-150k expect for each post.

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You can easily compare the cost of a post from an influencer with, for example, the rate card from a newspaper, or paying for promotion of posts on your business’ own social media channels, before deciding which will provide the best value when pursuing your marketing goals.

It’s also important to consider that, by working with an influencer, they will be doing the hard work of creating the content for you, as well. Working with a talented influencer will generate compelling content for your brand.

We’ve seen influencer marketing work

One of our clients at Zakazukha has engaged with a closed Facebook group of lawn lovers that has generated a large number of sales.

It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement where members of the Facebook group are able to use a special discount code to buy products from the company. As well as providing a discount for the consumer, the code also triggers a payment to the owners of the group.

This strategy meant there was no upfront cost for the marketing campaign, and may be a good one to consider when engaging with an influencer to generate sales.

The flip side, however, is that an upfront payment may prove more cost effective in the long run if the sales from the agreement exceed expectations. There is plenty to think about.

Be targeted, and build a relationship with the influencer

There is a paradox associated with working with social media influencers on promotions, which means both parties need to tread with care when devising a campaign.

That is: the influencer has built trust with his or her audience by being real and authentic, but taking payment to exploit that audience diminishes the very qualities that made the person influential in the first place.

As a result, it is in both the influencer’s and the brand’s best interest to have a close alignment and then integrate the paid promotion carefully with other content.

A good question to ask is, would the influencer recommend the product even if they weren’t being paid for it? If yes, that’s a good sign to move forward.

The brand should also be prepared to allow the influencer freedom to create authentic content; a relationship should be long term and the influencer should have most (but not all) of the creative control around the campaign.

They built their audience, so they know how to engage with them. Conceited images can backfire, as Listerine found out late in August when this image went viral for the wrong reasons: 

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Let’s be real – no-one’s mornings start with a dozen floating foil balloons, and a perfectly made bed, hair and makeup. The fact that those ‘pancakes’ are seemingly tortillas says a lot about this image.

Something this sponsored post did right was to include the disclaimer saying it was a paid promotion. Following the lead of the United States, new guidelines from the Australian Association of National Advertisers say that paid promotion from social media influencers should be disclosed.

Influencers – take the risk

Social media influencers, just like traditional celebrities and sports stars, can be a risky proposition to work with, but are worth considering if their persona aligns with your brand and you have a clear path to achieve your desired outcome, whether that is increased sales, awareness, or engagement with your brand content.

Zakazukha can help you develop a strategy for social campaigns, so give us a call on (07) 5607 0899.