Calm Down Agency People – you didn’t invent the concept of influencers (it seems like a guy making pottery may have…)
‘Influencer’ is the current marketing buzzword and one of the hottest topics in brand promotion, but is this phenomenon really a newcomer to the marketing world? In reality, brands have been doing this for years. Having a quick look around it actually seems that the first celebrity endorsement was leveraged by, Josiah Wedgwood – the pottery guy to royalty – in the 18th Century no less1.
Toward the beginning of my working life, I undertook Public Relations roles in bars and clubs and worked across marketing and events. One of my key roles was to entice influential people to visit the bar, which in turn would encourage more people to come – basic nightclub protocol. These people would not only bring their friends but other people would be able to claim, “Oh I was at this place on the weekend and I saw so and so”. They weren’t always celebrities as such, just people who were cool enough or pretty enough to get a bit of buzz around them. They would get free drinks and go to cool events because they would influence the people around them. There was no Instagram or Facebook (or even MySpace) for that matter. But our bar, as a brand, understood they would easily create hype and get the word out. We were using the same style of influence Josiah was using back in the 18 hundreds, word of mouth. Not long after this I was personally ensuring Red Bull was in the hands of DJs, artists and actors at all kinds of events, but I digress.
The big difference in today’s influencing world is the tools available to assist the growth and reach of almost anyone: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pintrest, LinkedIn and blog pages, to name a few. Their message can be shared instantly with everyone who follows them. In truth, today a ‘nobody’ can become an influencer2,3. That again is semantics because in a niche industry, somebody is always going to be a ‘nobody’ to a wider market of jealous people who wonder why they aren’t getting free stuff. There are always going to be people who are a bit cooler, with a bigger network…so am I actually going to go anywhere with this rant?
1,000 Selfies Does Not Maketh the Brand Strategist
Is an influencer a brand expert? The quick answer is no…well not exactly. They could certainly be an expert for their own brand, but this doesn’t mean they are an expert for your brand. There is a lot more that goes into it than just understanding how to reach people effectively through social platforms. There are 14 year olds achieving massive reach through their creative social content, would you hand them a full brand strategy? I think not. In fact, would you hand a full brand strategy over to an agency with several experienced staff and let them run wild? Again, I would hope not. I don’t claim to be a branding expert although I have been in marketing/sales roles for about 17 years. When I hear of trust fund 20 year olds giving brand strategy advice to large brands, I get a little nervous. I am not saying they shouldn’t work with you on a campaign, quite the opposite but it is a partnership…you’re making an advertorial in the ‘old’ language.
Let’s talk about content creation. In this day and age, an influencer is more often than not a content creator and that it how they became an influential person – they are making interesting things that people want to see and/or hear (no Kim K., your breakout video is not appropriate here). Creating decent content costs money and should cost money. Let me break it down for you: You are asking someone external to your business to create material that you are going to use to make a profit from. A brand or PR agency thinking someone should do it for free touches on naïve, but is usually just flat out arrogant. If you were to consult with a creative agency, just an idea can cost you up to $30k…and this is before you have even had one photo taken, an outfit purchased, let alone editing or a finished piece of work1. Your influencer’s time is worth something and even if they are only using their phone there are costs involved and a certain level of skill or at least effort to gather their followers (fake followers is a topic for another day).
What I struggle to understand is how the value of influence has taken a nosedive with the emergence of digital influencers? I feel many brands need to be reminded that, you always get what you pay for. As a brand, when you are trying to negotiate costs you need to understand the dollar value normally involved in media buying, photography, videography, models etc. A few hundred dollars to get content created and then have it put in front of an audience of 50-100k people is insanely cheap2.
- You will have to believe me on this. One of my biggest shocks was getting a quote for a job to design one image for bus advertising creative. I was told it was going to be just shy of $30k – just the concept – to then be delivered a sketch by two hipsters (yeah kettle black) that wouldn’t have worked as a double page spread in a magazine.
- Are you paying your influencers too much? White paper; Connects+, September 2017
Fake It Till You Make It…or is that just fraud?
“Yeah I know their followers are fake but the client wants numbers and their content is good enough.” Quote – very reputable PR agency in Sydney.
Faking it till you make it is a massive problem in the digital influencer field. I am not saying people shouldn’t have faith in themselves and push forward to success. I am talking about fake followers, likes, video views, comments etc. You can buy pretty much anything on any platform.
I find this topic an interesting one. Marketeers out there, let’s not get too high and mighty about this problem. As an example, let’s look at two traditional forms of media – TV and magazines. As an advertiser you have never really known how many eyeballs you were getting. It was always an estimate. TV uses a handful of set top boxes in a representative sample of households to give you an estimate of viewership1. With the introduction of Netflix and Stan et al, viewership has been plummeting. When you take into account, dual and triple screening, the last estimate I heard was 46% of the already depleted numbers might actually see your ad during programming2. Now onto magazines, who have always used ‘fun numbers’ to quote sales and readership – estimates used to sell advertising. They will quote a circulation number and then a readership number that is often 2.5 the circulation3…speculation…sorry circulation.
If you are using an Instagrammer and you suspect them to have a proportion of fake followers, I would not necessarily say that is a deal breaker. Are they aligned to your brand? Is there content creation top notch? Keep in mind, the difference with social media is that once it’s up on the feed it stays there (you will want to make that clear with them at the outset). This means that new followers will have the chance to see it months and months later. In comparison, you pay for every second you advertise on TV and once a magazine is in the bin…it’s all over.
Feel free to comment below and The Angry Marketing Man will get back to you;
- Internal presentation from media buying agency Mindshare, June 2016, Australian market
PS. While I have you. Word on the street is that people actually think BLOG stands for some crap about Google…it doesn’t it is the truncated version of Weblog.