A while back the NEST I/O’s event 021 took place in Karachi. This second edition of the event was a success and in particular a panel where influencers spoke about issues and challenges in the digital realm where they operate, was definitely the most popular session.
The panel included well-known names in the field such as Danish Ali, Muzammil Hasan, Ali Gul Pir, Taimoor Salahuddin and Mahira Khan. As expected, the discussion was lively and interesting and several good points were raised with regard to the brand/agency and influencer relationship. Based on the discussion at the 021 Influencer panel and on experience, I would like to focus on a few key areas.
Firstly, influencer marketing is a term we all hear but in truth most of us, as Anthony Permal excellently pointed out, are not aware of what it means. As per his definition, an influencer is someone who can have an impact on a brand in terms of not only reaching an audience but also ultimately results in sales and a better brand image. This means that the illogical reach fixation that our marketers are obsessed with is flawed. Reach is an important metric but it is not the be all and end all.
To return to the influencer panel, the discussion reminded me in a way of a pop song from back in the day, Genie in a Bottle by Christina Aguilera. The explosion in blogger and influencer marketing really does at times seem to be as if we have let loose some pent up force that is looking for space and can’t really be controlled effectively. However, the key to controlling it is quite simple, in fact present in the lyrics of the song.
If you wanna be with me Baby there's a price to pay I'm a genie in a bottle You gotta rub me the right way
First off, let’s talk about the burning issue in this arena. Marketers and agencies often want things to be done for free, while bloggers and influencers most often feel they should be paid or paid better. This topic was discussed at the influencer panel and the members were against the practice of freebies as payment.
Another area of confusion is the fact that brands reach out to bloggers who may or may not be a good fit with their product. Some time ago there was criticism in the blogger community and digital agencies’ fraternity (if that’s even a thing) for a car brand who invited bloggers who were under the age of 18 to their event.
Marketers need to again evaluate influencers not only on the criteria of reach but also brand saliency. In fact, if a blogger is interested in a brand or genuinely likes it, it makes it easier for them to create ‘content’. At the conference Pir was very candid about doing a video for Olper’s Lassi – he surprisingly doesn’t even like lassi.
I'm a genie in a bottle baby Gotta rub me the right way honey I'm a genie in a bottle baby Come come, come on and let me out
Marketers need to again evaluate influencers not only on the criteria of reach but also brand saliency. In fact, if a blogger is interested in a brand or genuinely likes it, it makes it easier for them to create ‘content’.
The lines of the second verse are another warning to marketers. There’s a serious disease that marketers desire wrongly that their every campaign or ad should go ‘viral’. They are so obsessed with virality that driven by the hunger for it, they enlist bloggers who they feel will be able to give them what they crave. However if there’s if they have no interest and respect for the campaign or the product, bloggers and influencers will not be able to do their best.
Another complaint at the influencer panel was about brands not giving influencers the freedom to do their own thing and force feeding them with content and videos, and dictating their terms. Khan made a statement that, in the context of freedom, makes sense: “Influencers can’t be influenced”; that brands feel that they have paid for services so they can therefore micro-manage and dictate. This however is counter-productive as an influencer definitely knows their audience better than any brand manager or digital agency person. If a brand is looking to build a long term relationship then the elements of trust and respect need to be present. However, this does not mean no accountability is needed.
Ultimately, influencers and bloggers are not a tool to be used, they should be respected and given the freedom to use their own style and ideas. Marketers looking to maximise the effectiveness of their digital campaigns and social media campaigns in 2019 need to let go and let the genie work his or her own magic.