The social media realm can be a puzzle of confusing apps, # tags, opinions and advertising, but an old-school tactic, influencers, is quickly gaining traction. Social Media Marketing, from a company perspective, is constantly changing and to stay ahead business owners need to maintain awareness of available marketing and advertising options.


A recent report, the Global State of Influencer Marketing 2019, has shown the influencer marketing niche is flourishing despite a few of its worst perils, which are related to authenticity and over-glamorisation.


This first-of-its-kind report, which was carried out by social-listening platform Talkwalker, elicited three main points about influencers after interviewing over 800 digital professionals working in marketing, PR and other online communications.


  • Firstly, you want to work long-term with an influencer. Most brands and agencies choose to work with a small group of fewer than 50 influencers, making it seamless to manage and track them. While 69 per cent of respondents in the study had decided to place emphasis on influencer marketing in 2019, they reported that it was often a challenge to tie up intent and impact. Top categories for choosing their influencers included the brand message, quality and creativity of content, and engagement; next came community size and readership; with cost occurring right at the bottom of the list.


  • Next up, most respondents (66 per cent) listed brand visibility as their top priority when employing an influencer, followed by lead generation (17 per cent of those surveyed). It appears brands are keen to make use of the power these influencers yield but are still busy working out a way to measure and manage their influencer campaigns. In spite of this, 61 per cent of respondents are increasing their influencer budget in 2019 – a place to focus attention, however, is on instituting a how-to marketing programme, which only 31 per cent of respondents had in place.


  • And lastly, those in the online marketing, PR and online communications games are advised to sit up and take notice because influencer marketing is now being valued as the digital era’s ‘word-of-mouth’. It’s just worth being wary of those who have previously been linked to fake events, failed promises, auto-liking and auto-commenting bots, and ramped-up awareness prior to an event that was nowhere near ready to be marketed – if at all.


What is influencer marketing?


Influencer marketing has seen some rapid growth of late – growth that is not unfounded thanks to the rapid growth of social media. An influencer by definition is someone that is able to influence people who follow or look up to them, in a positive or negative way through what they say and do.


Influencer marketing hub says, “It is important to note that these individuals are not simply marketing tools, but rather social relationship assets with which brands can collaborate to achieve their marketing objectives.”


Contrary to brand ambassadors, companies need to get their research done and facts straight before embarking on an influencer marketing campaign. Important aspects such as their target audience and fan base, your goals and objectives, and the level of engagement need to be in line with expectations.


What is a social media influencer?


A social media influencer is someone who uses a combination of social media platforms and tools to influence their fans and followers. These individuals tend to be very savvy on social media, have very large or extremely niche followers, and know the tricks of the trade. Social media influences also tend to be very engaging and constantly interact with their followers. This emphasis on engagement makes people feel ‘special’ and ‘heard’ which further lends ‘credibility’ to what the influencer is saying.


Alarmingly, the stats say social media influencers have more power on social media than traditional celebrities, such as actors and sports stars. 70 Per cent of teenager’s trust influencers, and specifically social media influencer, more than celebrities. Six in 10 of these teenagers take on the advice of their favourite influencer over celebrity advice, and four out of 10 millennials believe their best influencers understand them better than their own friends and family.


What is the difference between a social influencer and a brand ambassador?


A brand ambassador is a person or group, that is hired by an organisation to achieve a very specific goal. Brand ambassadors are in essence ‘representatives’ of a company, brand, or service and everything they say and do has been vetted and scripted. Contrary to social media influencers, who use their personal brand, personality and lifestyle to influence followers, brand ambassadors are ‘employed’ to increase brand awareness and sales.


A conclusion on social media influencers


So, to wrap up, positive social media influencers take to social media to make a stand about issues they believe to be important or products they find to be of significant value. If you find one that resonates with your brand, you can reach an astonishing number of people in a very short space of time. On the other hand, negative influencers can damage self-esteem with the ‘glamorous show’ they create of their lives, which in no way makes their audience feel understood or heard.


Craig Johnston, the owner of Cape Town-based digital marketing agency Savvy Sprout, concludes: “Your brand is at the very core of your business and the general public’s experience of it on social media (both customers and potential customers) should be pleasant and long-lasting. In the quest to avoid damage to your brand identity, which could happen temporarily with fly-by-night or amateurish influencer, we recommend that you exercise caution before taking on any influencer. We also strongly suggest carefully working through your digital strategy, goals and objectives to determine if an influencer or brand ambassador would be best. Once you’ve secured a couple of good options, interact with them for a while to find out if their personalities and action compliment that of your brand’s. Once you find a good influencer treat them like gold as they are rare and incredibly hard to find. You also want them to positively retain their services with you and consistently promote what you do. This form of social media marketing can increase web traffic, add character to your product/service offering, enhance brand credibility, increase visibility, and open the door to ever-increasing volumes of customer feedback and sales.”

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