So, it's happened. The thing your social media agency (or are they calling themselves digital agencies again; it is hard to keep track of these guys). Anyway, so that ‘influencer’ thing they have been pitching to you in a low-key way for the last year has suddenly blown up. You thought it would be a passing fad and now you are legitimately concerned. Everybody and their grandma is now endorsed by a social media celebrity.
That guy that bankrolls your e-commerce operation, the one you are never supposed to call ‘boss’ because he is ‘an equal member of the team’ is WhatsApping you links to Junaid Akram’s latest stint with Daraz. Which is fine, except they are always followed by an innocent-sounding but deadly "why aren’t we doing this".
So you know the jig is up. You best piece together an edgy ‘influencer’ campaign for your brand, and pronto you are told how dare you only rely on ‘traditional social media’? You are really becoming a dinosaur. The career hitmen are coming!
Worry not, fellow marketer, I can help. But like everything on the internet, there’s a catch. It also just happens to be that I am a content creator myself, although I work with boring text rather than fancy vlogs. Anyway, given your predicament, I am offering you content you want, but I want something in return. Hidden in this very helpful blogpost is a plug, if you may, about my agency and how we know this influencer business inside out. Didn’t you know? Full disclosure is all the rage these days amongst the content creator community. It’s an ethics thing, yo!
They say that listicles work best from a reader usability point of view, because it piece-meals the information and helps people get a bird's eye view of what they will spend the next 10 minutes reading. Lo and behold! Three insider secrets on how to find the right influencer for your ecommerce brand.
1. Who to influence versus who can influence
The beauty of these new darlings of the marketing world is the attention and respect they command within their sphere of influence. Call them followers, fans, tribes; whatever. The true value these influencers bring to the table lies in the connection they proxy to your brand. Don’t mistake the mouthpiece for the true audience.
You can extrapolate only some information from the influencers themselves. Just because someone speaks in Urdu doesn’t mean his followers are awami. Just because someone is a fashionista in her social persona doesn't mean her followers are only fashion-types. It is tough, but for better ROI, think of an influencer as a sniper rather than a shotgun. Figure out the demographic, psychographic and general profile of the people you want to focus on. Then take three important data points from the influencer’s follower base: engagement on similar content, tone of comments on previous posts and quantitative segmentation data. The last is limited to the platform; for example, Instagram will give you a slightly fuzzier drill down of audience versus Facebook. All platforms are evolving, so be patient.
2. Choose the right kind of influencers
In the broadest sense, influencers are people who can skew other people’s opinions through the respect or adulation they command. The first kinds of influencers (at least according to me) are people who have celebrity status over and above their online personas. These are the actors, models, rockstars and other socialites who have amassed an obnoxiously large number of followers because of their nationwide fame. It’s fun for us normal folk to look at what their life looks like off-screen, so we sign up with their Snapchats or Instagrams just to have a glimpse of the high-life. The second kinds of influencers are the big-name content creators we all know and love. These are your Danish Alis, Faiza Saleems, Junaid Akrams, Mooros and the like.They boast kickass numbers and consider online content creation as a profession. This means whatever they create is built upon years of experimentation and iterative optimisation. Working predominantly in the video genre, there are only a handful of such influencers in Pakistan so far. The third, and my favourite, are what we call micro-content creators. These are the chupa rustoms of the social and digital community. They are illustrators, poets, photographers, musicians, make-up-aficionados, moms and everything in between. They have a modest following compared to their well-established peers, but their connection to their tribe is rock-solid. In our campaigns, we have noticed that some of them can boast engagement levels almost twice as high as the big guns.
3. Determine whether the influencers are historically primed for your collaboration
In the world of content creation, authenticity is king and attention is the spoilt queen. Every time the influencer posts, their tribe responds by adjusting their opinion of them. Every influencer community is a constantly changing ecosystem that is self-regulated by its inhabitants. The communities have alliances, loyalties and strong opinions. But it is not a closed or exclusive system. Inhabitants can choose to be in multiple tribes, depending on their perceptions. This is why most established content creators are careful about their sponsored content posts. They don’t want to sound like a sell-out and alienate their following. Before choosing an influencer, see if they tend to be overly generous when it comes to branded content. If yes, chances are that they are promoting too many brands and their influence is compromised. You don’t want to invest in an influencer whose credibility is eroding.
Another thing you need to focus on, especially in relation to e-commerce, is the authenticity of the influencer. Real people have real opinions. Some are good, some are bad. Some are even nasty. That’s why they are believable. A scared influencer will never express disappointment in a brand, because he doesn’t want to alienate them from a future revenue stream. He or she will be overly enthusiastic whenever they are talking about a brand, and most people can recognise this is because they are being paid to do so. Choose people who are authentic, because their audiences trust them way more than their goody-two-shoes counterparts.
When checking for engagement, shy away from influencers that rely on contests to augment their engagement. This is Pakistan. We have worked with so many influencers who expect a giveaway from the brand so that they can do their own little ponzi scheme with their followers. If you have these people in your mix, coach them to believe in the power of their content. ‘Free’ is not a sustainable strategy.
Another bit about the full disclosure thing. There are 500 different articles on the internet on the same subject. As far as I know, there is no established textbook method to understand or master this sort of marketing... yet. So everybody relies on insights and tries to make sense of it.
Before you start a flame war in the comments section because I am trying to sound like an expert and yet I can’t take my own Instagram to above 700 followers, please read this, but experiment yourself. Make your own mistakes. Or learn from ours. But demand better from your influence campaign. Make true, deep conversations a benchmark, not just reach or followers. May the likes be with you.
Umair Kazi is Partner, Ishtehari. firstname.lastname@example.org