Influencer Marketing and What You Need to Know

 

A simple Google trends search on Influencer Marketing Vs Paid Ads has revealed this:

 

Which means blue rocks and red sucks. We can see a sudden steep upward curve of influencer marketing in the last two three years. Paid campaigns have remained more or less flat for a decade.[1]

Flashback: Influencer Marketing story from India

Sixteen years ago when Hyundai Motor India approached Shah Rukh Khan to endorse the Santro, its first compact car, the company was struggling to get dealership partners. But with Mr. Khan on board, things changed and rest is history. The company sold so many Santros that it remains the highest selling compact car for Hyundai. The business world looks even today at the association of Hyundai and Shah Rukh Khan as a good example of brand ambassadorship.

But we look at it as a perfect example of influence marketing. Here is why:

Shah Rukh Khan is India’s most popular film stars. So when he was shown taking the Santro for a drive, the message resonated with the audience. Since he had great influence on his fans, people began to take interest in the Santro at a more personal level. Brand visibility shot up. People began to relate the qualities of car with the qualities of their matinee idol. They began to see Santro as cool and desirable. This worked like a charm for the car.

So what do you need to know about influence marketing?

King Khan as he is known today, continues to be Hyundai’s brand ambassador. Or let’s say the influencer marketer for Hyundai. So what is influence marketing and why it is such a big thing in today’s competitive world and what must you know. Well, here are the answers:

A simple definition of influencer marketing goes like this:

“Influencer marketing involves marketing products and services to those who have a sway over the things other people buy. This market influence typically stems from an individual’s expertise, popularity, or reputation.” – Marketing-Schools.org

The key question is why it works. The answer is very simple.

Today, consumers look at family and friends, and then fellow consumers to inform their purchasing decisions. They don’t look at the companies as much as they look to each other and their favorite personalities, with those with a fan following on social media. According to McKinsey, “Marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” What does this mean for marketers? They can leverage influencer marketing to snowball word-of-mouth on a big scale through personalities that consumers admire.

When it comes to B2B influencer marketing, credibility and trust are paramount.  B2B buyers are increasingly putting value on the opinions of industry influencers. The key here is to get the right influencer who has already earned the trust of the potential customers. And try to connect with the ardent fans. Skype Passion Project (An influencer campaign to capture and share the passion and personal experiences of influential bloggers and community leaders) is a good example. The project tries to connect influencers and community leaders from across the world on shared passions.

So what does the future hold for influencer marketing?

As the number of paid and professional influencers increases, there will be a demand for  authentic influencers. Brands will also face the challenge of engaging with non-paid influencers such as subject matter experts who are not easy to engage with.

Finally, as effective influencers deliver their content across multiple channels, marketers will have to devise metrics to capture a realistic estimate of influence. Given that some channels may be able to spread messages much more than others, the need will be for a weighting system that gives an accurate score for cross-channel influencers.

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Image credit – http://allysoninwonderland.com/2013/09/skype-passion-project/

Influencer marketing is now receiving a great boost as marketers and brands dump traditional media like TV and print media for influencer marketing channels like YouTube, Facebook Video, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope. The reasons for this are simple. Brands and marketers are trying to engage with the audience in more organic way. Ad blocking is on the rise, so through top social media influencers, brands and marketers want to drive their messages forward.

Likes, shares, views and engagement are poor metrics when it comes to influential marketing. The trust deficiency has always been the weakest link in influential marketing. What differentiates influencer marketing in India from that of the West is the degree of trust in celebrity marketing. In the West, many customers do not trust celebrities. And why should they? Beyoncé’s Pepsi Criticism episode is still fresh in people’s memory. Beyoncé’s participation in Michelle Obama, the US first lady’s “Let’s Move!” fitness campaign followed by signing a $50 million promotional deal with Pepsi raised many eyebrows. The influencer’s audience has begun to look critically at influencer marketing activities. Today, celebrities cannot promote products and services with conflicting messages and hope to get away with it.

But in India the script is a little different. Here, many people tend to follow their favourite Bollywood stars and cricketers and are, in fact, quite mesmerized by them. Whatever product or service they promote, they tend to buy even if the brand ambassador promotes products with contrasting messages.  For example, MS Dhoni can endorse both fitness products (Reebok) and alcohol (Royal Stag). So the yardstick for influencer marketing especially in B2C space is still solely on popularity. That’s why Bollywood stars and cricketers continue to sign many endorsement deals.

As the number of paid and professional influencers goes up, there’ll also be an increase in demand for authentic influencers. Brands will also face challenges targeting non-paid influencers such as subject matter experts and will have to focus on this aspect in order to devise effective outreach strategies.

And finally, as the most effective influencers deliver their content across multiple channels, there will be a need to have metrics to ascertain the influence on all social media channels in order to capture an accurate measure of influence. Not all channels can spread the messages equally so a weighting system will be needed to accurately measure the effectiveness of cross-channel influencers.

 

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