The Rise and Rise of Influencer Marketing

Pieter Groenewald (BW)by Pieter Groenewald, CEO theSALT

The rise of digital and social media has given consumers a voice, and brands have slowly lost the control of conversations that they were once able to sculpt using traditional advertising, especially around quality of products or experiences. This growing trend has led to the rise of Influencer Marketing (IM).

The South African market will notice a relatively quick catch up with the overseas market and their rampant optimisation of Influencer Marketing as a channel to reach consumers in their everyday lives during 2018, a year when IM is sure to continue increasing in popularity.  I’ve got a feeling it will also become a much more prominent feature of South African marketing plans considering the increased activity and significant growth of IM already witnessed towards the back end of 2017.

According to an international survey by Linqia, 86% of marketers used Influencer Marketing in 2017, 92% of whom found it effective. The continued widespread adoption of Influencer Marketing shows that the channel is becoming an integral part of the marketing mix and is not a passing fad.

The more sophisticated a target market becomes, the harder it has become to reach them effectively and traditional channels are being questioned and challenged more and more.  If you want to achieve different results in a tight economy, you have no choice but to deploy different tactics.  The dilemma for marketers is the staggering divide that exists between the impact of influencer content on customers compared to the more traditional brand content and advertising, and the fact that brands still spend their marketing money mostly on traditional advertising channels.

Influencer Marketing is a relatively new way to reach consumers, capitalising on where they already naturally spend their time and actually prefer to spend their time.

As we close the gap on international market trends, the SA market will make less costly mistakes and take to heart key learnings from overseas markets within this field.  There will be more experimenting earlier on, with influencers not only falling into the “celebrity” type category, where reach is the main objective but into the ‘everyday celeb’ category where the average Joe utilises their own social media platforms to influence opinions about a brand.

Influencer Marketing is perfect to reach ordinary folk where the influence is natural, more in-depth and personal – your own tribe /personal friends where there is a two way communication. What better way to influence brand love than via your own trusted friends?

This is where, in my mind, there is huge potential for brands to forge relationships with their existing fans and from there utilising them within their brand plans as authentic influencers.  Think about what is on offer here, there are already trust relationships between the influencer and their communities and brands now have the opportunity to leverage this aspect further in a space where real influencing can take place.

No doubt 2018 will also see more stringent measurements around the performance of Influencer Marketing in the form of ROI, beyond the traditional reach and engagement metrics which have become the norm historically, but are now being questioned more and more.  Advanced and more forward thinking marketers are starting to look at the full consumer journey, holding Influencer Marketing accountable for driving lower funnel metrics in addition to the traditional awareness and engagement measurements.

No doubt, more players will enter the local market, offering technology solutions, in order to match brands with influencers and reporting on influencer activity.  The differentiation between these platforms will initially seem to not be that significant or “much of a muchness” as they say.  Albeit that these are great tools, don’t be fooled when you deal with humans, it will remain critical to forge personal relationships with these individuals representing your brand and effectively doing a job for the brand on your behalf.

So my advice, for best results always seek input from a supplier that can offer you that personal interaction with influencers. If you are in the marketing space, Influencer Marketing will definitely become more topical and discussions will progress beyond  the cautionary “should we or should we not”, but more to: how do we do it, what work best and who can help us in this space.

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