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Over the past few years, the phenomenon of online social media influencers has garnered the attention of the digital marketing industry. Clients have taken note of the possibilities to tap directly into their selected market base by collaborating with reputable individuals who have high social media presence.
It is not entirely a new concept – for years famous personalities have partnered with business entities for promotional purposes; forging a path for social media influencers to become the cornerstone of online social media and digitally based public relations strategies. As prolific as the sales pitch to use influencers might be, some personalities often prove ineffective at driving conversation and engagement on social media. Why is this?
True influencers require two elements to be successful: an audience and the ability to be an advocate. Advocacy is driven by brand or product knowledge and the depth of conviction; so influencers must be thoroughly versed in the benefits, brand positioning and customer value of a product or service which they are endorsing. Without authentic passion for the brand, an influencer risks creating a sense of false advocacy and damaging the perception which the target audience has about the brand.
Audience vs. Influence
Audience and influence are two very different subject matters. Having copious amounts of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or blog followers does not automatically make a person influential. Yes, they might have an audience, but do they have the content and influence to drive action?
There are a number of factors which contribute to successful influencer-brand collaborations. Does the influencer’s brand position correlate well with the client’s target market, and products and services offered? Was the influencer approached in a professional manner, or did they pitch their social media campaign concept to an agency or client effectively?
A popular tactic in influencer outreach is the use of celebrities; this is the modern version of celebrity endorsements. While this can be a great approach to creating social media buzz, the impact and use of celebrities is often short-lived and ineffective for driving engagement.
The role of a true influencer manager is often overlooked by most brands; an influencer manager must be able to relate to the influencer but also understand the client’s business objectives. Ideally, an influencer manager would have invested a notable period of time building relationships with influencers, thus bridging the gap between the two industries with the unified goal creating passion for the brand and ensuring messaging aligns with campaign objectives.
The latest craze within the influencer and advocacy circles is the emergence of influencer management tools. These tools are set up to measure the influencers reach, popularity, engagement and their effectiveness online; a score which is, in turn, converted into a rating. One such example is a Klout score. Whilst there is value in placing numerical values to social media presence, one cannot overlook the qualitative aspects which an algorithm might not be able to decipher.
Measuring the amount of times a social media platform generates engagement, eliminates one significant consideration – why is the audience interacting with a personality? Did the increase in engagement correlate with controversial statements which the influencer makes, or with a sexual scandal or terrible news incident which has caught the eye of the media? Moreover; the main topic of the influencer’s online discussions ought to be considered when assessing which influencers align with brands.
What is the solution?
As in any other form of collaboration, personal touch matters. An influencer manager plays a critical role in conceptualising effective campaigns, liaising with influencers, negotiating affordable rates or trade exchanges for exposure, transforming a social media influencer into a brand ambassador, and ensuring return on investment for the brand being promoted. It is not an exact science, though. Text books have not yet provided us with solutions when trying to understand certain parts of the social media world and what makes it tick. It does not clearly define how a brand can effectively engage with not just the most popular users but the right – and more influential – people, and how the influencer can actively drive participation and engagement on behalf of the client.
Effective and valuable influencer management requires instinctive brand awareness, innovative thinking, creative campaign concepts, relationship building skills and most of all, genuine interest in creating connections between brands and their customers. It takes some finesse.