Influencer marketing is a concept of hiring a social celebrity or individuals with a wider fan following to promote products and services which helps in winning consumer trust, especially when compared with traditional online ads. “The process of building relationships with individuals who have influence over a target audience of buyers” (Kaufman & Horton). “It is less intrusive and more flexible than traditional online ads, it can be small and quiet, big and booming or somewhere in between as the strategy to focus on the segment of customers” (Marketing through Influence. Aug 2018, Vol. 52 Issue 7., 10p).
As per a survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers in 2017, it was found that three quarters of US advertisers employ influencer marketing, with the discipline expected to grow further in 2018. The growth of the disciple is attributed to social media use and a progressive propaganda to uproot ad blocking, be authentic, drive engagement and reach segments of audiences. The major brands investing in influencer marketing use paid media to amplify influencer campaigns. “As brands invest more in influencer marketing, close attention should be paid to influencer compensation and disclosure of relationships to ensure value and consumer trust” (Gandhi, The growth of Influencer market, August 2017, P1).
Author Mathew Schwartz quotes, “The world is heading in a direction where consumers expect personalization,” “Influencer marketing should be a service of marketing teams working externally with the right influencers in the right context and internally with customer-facing teams, to integrate the customer journey across every touchpoint. That is the answer.”
Fisherman’s Influence Marketing Model, p. 89 (Brown & Fiorella, 2013)
A proper planned strategy plays an important role in segmenting the target audience, developing the content and selecting the correct influencer to employ for spreading the message through the different channels for better reach, as the proper process for customer attainment is essential for brand image. It is necessary to learn the perceptions, tastes and preference of the targeted audience for creating suitable content before employing an influencer. The strategy implementation for implicating influencer marketing is off the virtue as the target audience perceive the messages and the actions of the influencers as trends to follow and act upon the stimulus (Quey, Feb 2018, P3). The organisation needs to assess the influencer reach and portfolio of content managed, before aligning the brand. A differentiate individual could trigger the customer into non-evaluation of the product or building perceptions, through an indirect message or misleading content, which would direct them towards an abbreviation causing the brand image to be lowered.
Defining the Target Audience
The identification of the target audience needs to be aligned while designing the business plan (Gonzalo, 2013), the audience need to be segmented as per relevance for selecting the best influencer which could be selected to deliver the required message for brand. The targeted audience should be represented with a persona defining their likes, dislikes and nature, this will help the marketers to adapt and strategize accordingly. By understanding the persona, products and services can be tailored for creating a maximum impact in terms of utility and acceptance. The personalization of adverts and the content makes a better impact.
The addressing of all the markets with a singular strategy could prove to be an issue, as the plausible deniability can be present in the customer mindset as the different sets might not accept the content, which is acceptable by the other.
The marketers need to understand the market and the specific requirements, the customers and the growth prospective of their products in the particular market. A set of objective needs to be defined to gain clarity on the target, the target needs to achievable, well thought off and should be within the confinements of regulations. The objectives should define the flow of the implementation and the stage wise aim to gain the share targeted, the aim could be to increase the number of visitors on the website, get the visitors to sign up for a newsletter or just introduce them to the difference in ideology presented by the brand.
The measurement of Return on Investment, a calculation to gauge the returns on the money spent by the brand towards a advertising or hiring a influence to promote, can be calculated if the objectives are defined in accordance with the achievable forecast and defined aim. If the influencer reaches out to the maximum number of audiences, the calculation should be inline with the resonance of visitors to the website or purchase of the product. An unplanned or unachievable aim would decline the returns getting the results lower than expectations. Further the return on investments should be in accordance to the marketing campaign and the impact it focuses on delivering.
Identifying the Influencer
The right influencer is essential for brand advocating and brand building (Gruber and Rollilard 2010). Selecting an influencer should be inline to the brand personality and the individual personality should be relatable for the customers to understand the brand and message. Brands often hire influencers over social channels with a defined fan following, an important consideration aspect which allows brands to take cognizance of the impact and the reach to the customers, “the larger the fan following the larger is the potential customer base created by the brand” (Shawn, 2014).
In the year 2014, Volkswagen group was accused and found guilty of using “defeat device” to manipulate the emission readings of their cars with diesel engines. The United States Government along with European countries had sued the manufacturer for illegal practices. The company’s vehicles lost the legendary status of being a “people’s car” and lost brand image in the market. The customer behaviour changed towards the brand, as the cars were not environment friendly and the provided false readings. The brand faced tremendous anger and recoil from both the governments from around the world and the customers.
The company came up with a strategy to turn around the image of the brand with the customers and the country governments, they identified the channel to reach out to the majority of the customers which were Twitter and Facebook. They acknowledged the fact and answered customer queries to start trust development and bring in a sense of support for the customers, the brand then identified Leonard DiCaprio, an influencer with an excellent track record in environmental project and wildlife preserving. The brand asked convinced the celebrity on the betterment of technology and asked him to recommend the customers. This created an upliftment in the brand image and the turn around in the customer perception.
Hence, an influencer of a degree with a base record can help that brand succeed.
Identification of Opportunities and Quality using Influencers
The customer market changes with variable aspects effecting the functionality and perception (Simon, 2012). The influencer is an individual which develops an image in the digital space using the content, connecting with the specific audience in a way which is most acceptable to them. The marketers can work closely with the influencer and develop the content to be focused and spread amongst the customers, at time the contents which the marketer feels in presumably fit for the audience might not be at actual terms and the influencer can direct the content in the right path.
The influencer can help the brands learn about the conversations that people are engaged, the flow of information amongst the groups and the reaction of the target to different stimulus. There advise can also help identify gaps wherein the brand can position the quality content for the audience to respond, the content which is in relevance to the preceptory growth and the negated content which should not be used, as they understand the audience concerns and positivity.
Measure the Results of Influencer Campaigns
The influencer campaigns work on the principle of communicating the brand to a set of segmented groups for attracting the audience and converting them to potential customers and closing sales. Hence, the measure of the influencer campaign can be mapped by calculating the achievement of target, from number of website visits to the quantifiable sales that occurred in a stipulated time window. In order to achieve the desired results, it is essential to set achievable targets and set a measure scale to calculate the traffic.
Influencer marketing works on the different principle to attract and share information amongst the target audience. Word of mouth is one such tool which is used by the marketers to spread information within the niche community they target. The power of influencers in creating advertisement by word of mouth is greater than other sources, as it generates vines which is essential for brands to be known (Keller and Fay, April 2016).
Word of mouth marketing is a tactic used to generate natural discussions and recommendations for a product or company. Essentially, getting people to talk about your brand, product, or business is the goal of this type of marketing (Gary, 2015). This tact proves to be an important link in the flow of information as the effectiveness of conversations and the flow of information creates a better impact in the customer perception, this further articulates the customer behaviour while the decision-making takes place during a purchase.
As per the findings of Keller and Fay, according to their research on “How influencers use word of mouth strategy”, the consistent evidence proves that the Conversation Catalysts has a better greater-than-average involvement in word of mouth. A comparative study indicates that an average consumer, for example, are 90% more likely to engage in brand-specific word of mouth. Conversation Catalysts are responsible for over 400 million word of mouth brand impressions every day in the U.S. which amounts to one-fourth of the 1.6 billion word of mouth brand impressions created every day in the U.S. – a level more than two and a half times their representation in the population.
This study indicates the impact of Word Of Mouth (WOM) tactics, brands capitalizing on this tactic have seen growth in customer base and flow of information which has led to wider market reach, better brand understanding and correlation. The spearhead management policies in recent time has found being implementing WOM as a major factor for brand upliftment. The concept of information management is also to be routed in coordination by the brands, as the WOM tends to form vines which channel the flow of information leading to positive or negative information flow (Thomas and Bengul, 2011). The cases of incompetence have surfaced in recent past indicating the poor formation of content, where in the information flow and been unrestricted to customers and the employees have circulated false or inappropriate messages, which has led to brand misrepresentation on the social media.
The different brands in markets of the developing countries have seen good movement towards influencer marketing with bigger budget allocations and specific strategies coming up for the target market. Countries like India, South Africa and Brazil have seen a major development in the middle class and job sector in past decade as compared to other developed countries, as these countries have lower cost prospects and offer greater benefits to companies bring in “Foreign Direct Investments”, with affordable manpower, currency exchange benefits and talent availability to match global standards makes developing countries a hub for growth-oriented companies (Arvind, 2018). As the standards in these countries improves and deposal income becomes bigger, brands have started stepping up the business modules. Brands have started developing strategies to reach out these customers through social channel, the most effective being Facebook and Instagram, they have hired influencers and started WOM to reach the potential customers and build a space in the mind sets of customers (Singhal, 2016).
As per a research by Anil Thakraney, he mentions 92% of markets in India are expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign, and 62% of the brands will increase their budgets for influencer marketing. Indian market has emerged as a power pact performance playground for brands with Facebook and Instagram having the majority of the active population, marketers are reaching to the masses through tailored and progressive adverts which aims directly at the needs and wants of the customers.
Advocacy and trust are now the top priority of the sales approach, it is no longer the brand communicating to consumers, it is the consumers who are deciding what they should be buying, as a result of influencers customers know who they should be transacting with or which brand.
Brands are recognising the potential in the market and taking account of the fact that the build a community is of utmost importance, wherein, you can share your ideology and develop and trust for communicating content. Customers in recent times are looking for a brand which they can relate and talk to as a part of an ongoing process to develop. As per Aanchal Chauhan, head of digital & PR, the local craft beer India, “It’s a very important part of our marketing campaigns, anything happening as a strong part of influencer engagement as a part of it. We locate influencer marketing knowledge by putting our product there and getting a few pretty looking pictures, but it’s also about getting a community out there,”
The future of influencer marketing seems to be on an upward prospectus with new markets opening themselves to influencer marketing and customer responses increasing with the onset of this approach. The brands as seen in recent past have progressed and will be progressing as customers need a familiar face to build trust and connect with the content. Influencers can deliver the proper content with respect to brand policies in the manner most perceived by target audience.
The responses may not be in similarity to the target to achieve higher sales target immediately, however, it will create brand awareness and relationship which will turn will help in making potential customers to target. The objectives when defined accurately with excellent content will start Word of Mouth vines, spreading the content and developing awareness across customer groups.
Sony mobile communications, a multinational telecommunications brand with presence in over 20 countries, has a flagship mobile phone Sony Xperia series. This series has been in the market for more than five years and has grown to meet the expectation of customers in all variations and features requirement. The Xperia series climbed great heights with comparison to Samsung phones, a direct competition. However, in recent times, the company rendered slow growth and obeisance in markets of growth and developed countries. The marketers and sales team reverse engineered to discover the cause of the effect from market prospective. The reasons were obvious yet unresponsive, the marketing team was not rendering enough focus on digital marketing with evolution and pace of the market and the content was obsolete which the new generation, the mobile buying aging between 18 to 25 was responding.
The company came with researched and learned the new market tactics and launched the next version of Xperia series phone with influencers and fresh content to suit the market ideology and target the correct audience with the right content at the right time (Thomas, 2017). The marketers focus on the camera of the Xperia Z5 phone, which is capable of five times the zoom. They showcased the capability of the phone to capture a detailed photograph and filter it into smaller parts for shots. After this, they created over 100 Instagram accounts, which were all linked together by hash tags. People can use these tags to zoom into certain parts of the original photo in order to find 50+ hidden surprises (Sony advert, 2018). They hired over 30 influencers, who helped to spread and educate the target audience of the features. The influencers ranged from social mobile critics to influencers who talk about phones to their target audience and explain what to buy. This strategy generated over 17 million potential contacts and raised the platform for Sony better reach the customers with their quality of product and functional aspects.
Influencer marketing has always proven to beneficial as it gives the customers an opportunity to learn from the people that they trust. The era of traditional marketing with billboards and one-way communication is on a downfall as customers want to their voices to be heard and follow a trend setter or a figure of reach. Influencer marketing has an incredible growth prospective in the developing countries as the social media exposure is on a rise and brands want to connect with customers with the correct content to influence their perspective and build a brand reputation, in last five years the content over social media has increased with length to suit the developing country citizens. Brands need to consider the fact of change and connect with more influencers to serve customers from different segments and gain insights to devise new strategies to serve them.
- Gruber and Robillard. 2018, True ROI of influencers
- Keller and Libai. May 2009, A holistic approach to the measurement of WOM – Its impact on consumers’ decisions,
- S Biaudet. 2017, Influencer marketing as marketing tool, P 5
- Thakraney. A October 2016, India embraces influencer marketing
- Thomas C. 2017 , A Case study on Sony Xperia phone turn around strategies.