According to ‘The Guardian, social media influencers are ‘the new stars of web advertising’…
The world has gone digital; we all know that. And owing to that, more and businesses have discovered that traditional advertising does not work for them. Today, for many big brands, it is social media influencers who help them to spread awareness about their brand and, in many cases, increase their sales. According to a recent report by Gurugram-based influencer-marketing firm Buzzoka, “From celebrities to the rising class of micro-influencers – experts in a specific topic with smaller but more highly engaged audiences – influencers are emerging as a critical marketing tool for brands. Influencers help brands grow awareness and consideration. Increasingly, they’re also helping drive sales.”
Social media influencers are those who have the power and reach to influence people’s purchase decisions owing to their knowledge, authority, position or relationship with their audience. They have built up a reputation for their expertise on a particular subject or they could be celebrities. An influencer will also have a large dedicated following. Influencers regularly post on social media whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube or they have blog posts. And, most importantly, their dedicated band of followers keenly watches out for their posts and engages with them. Brands have begun to connect with influencers because they have a large following, they can promote the brand and influence their followers to try it or buy it.
There are many different kinds of social media influencers:
Celebrities: Forget social media, even television and print ads rely heavily on celebs to endorse a product. Look at the Kardashians. They have a global following and everything they say or do is not only picked up by their followers but is even reported in the media. In India, celebs like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma, etc are seen in so many ads. However, it is important to match the celeb to the product; in India, very often you have a total mismatch. If you have a celeb endorsing a moped, it can be incongruous when we all know they are ferried around in air-conditioned luxe cars! Nevertheless, if a high-end beauty brand uses a star like, let’s say, Priyanka Chopra going gaga over their product, it can certainly influence people to buy the brand. For a start-up, getting a celeb to endorse your product can be tough because endorsements come at a hefty price. You will need to figure out if you can afford it.
Bloggers and vloggers: There are bloggers and vloggers worldwide who have built up huge followings. Most of these bloggers dedicate their content to a particular subject or area of expertise. For example, there are bloggers who concentrate on travel, fashion, beauty, bringing up children, food, restaurant reviews, etc. As an entrepreneur, how do you get a blogger to cover your post? Well, let’s say you are marketing a beauty product. You could request a blogger to allow you to write a guest post. You could do a sponsored post (for which you will have to pay). Or, send the blogger a sample of your product and request for a review. You may or may not get a review, and you need to be prepared on how to handle the situation if the review is negative. If it’s video content you are looking at, it works beautifully if you have an attractive product (say, home linen or saris) or service (a restaurant or a home-stay).
Micro-influencers: These are normal, everyday people who have gained popularity on social media thanks to their knowledge or expertise on a particular subject. For instance, someone who is an expert on yoga, Ayurveda, child rearing, vegan cooking, etc. They have followers who actively engage with them, are influenced by them and persuaded by them. Since they are specialists, micro-influencers tend to be picky about who they collaborate with. If they feel your product or service is not up to the mark, or not in alignment with their vision, they may not agree to endorse. Some micro-influencers work for free while others expect a payment for endorsing a product or service. Micro-influencers are being seen as the digital gold of the future. As the world, and therefore the web, gets more fragmented, people tend to only follow websites or accounts that interest them. This is more so with niche interests.
Industry experts and thought leaders: These are people who are widely respected and well-known for their expertise in their chosen fields. They would include journalists, industry leaders, academics and professional advisors. Let’s say you are in the business of marketing organic jams. If a reputed journalist writes about your organic jams, or covers it in a lifestyle news segment, your product gains a certain value and you get publicity for free. If you are an expert in child rearing and have opened a creche, if an academic quotes you, or refers to your venture in a speech or in a paper, you gain credibility.
Buzzoka surveyed over 500 brand custodians including ad agencies, start-ups and content creators like YouTubers, bloggers, Instagrammers, etc. An article in ‘Quartz’, which covered the survey in detail, says, “In 2018, most companies spent between 5% and 7% of their overall marketing budgets on online influencers. This year, 73% of firms plan to increase the share of spending on influencer marketing… In fact, now spreading word-of-mouth through influencers is considered a more lucrative option than organic search and even paid marketing.”
As an entrepreneur, looking at social media influencers to spread the word about your venture makes great business sense. It may not be easy but in the long run, it’s worth the effort.