Social Media Influence: It’s about relevance and not clout

You’re a brand manager, responsible for launching a new beauty product. You want to ensure that all your prospective customers learn about your product and its awesome features and then go ahead and buy it. However, yours is a small brand and doesn’t have the huge budgets needed for a media blitzkrieg with celebrity endorsements, PR and advertising. Don’t fret that you can’t afford these expensive channels.

People are the New Channel

The unique characteristic of social media (platforms and apps) compared to other media is the quality of two-way interaction that it affords. This makes it a very powerful medium to impact the behaviour of others. With social media interactions among individuals surpassing the number of interactions in other media, it is natural that brands look to make use of this medium to engage with their customers.

The challenge is that people trust other people more than they trust brands. In the real world, people exert their influence over other people all the time with varying degrees and on different topics of influence. With social media, this impact is even more profound because of the reach and access that each influencer has over their target audience.

There are many benefits of tapping into the social graphs of people, the most obvious one being creation of authentic content for a business. Having influencers create content makes sure that it is seen by more people as compared to a regular advertisement due to the higher reach. Reach is not just defined by the person with the largest audience but also by how well he fits in with the brand and its message in context. One of the key factors that makes social “social” is the ability it has to drive action. Unlike a traditional paid advertisement, when an influencer creates content people react to it, share it and comment on it.

Social Media Influencer Management

Social Media Influencer Management Comprises for Four Steps:

  1. Identify the influencers
  2. Recruit them for your campaign
  3. Manage their participation
  4. Measure the impact of these influencers

Ideally, the campaign should involve an extraordinary experience that the influencer values and feels like writing about. The influencer should not be coerced or monetarily incentivised to write a particular number of posts or to voice only specific opinions, or else this will jeopardise the credibility and effectiveness of the campaign. Examples of good experiences for influencer campaigns are invitation-only test drives for cars before their official launch, backstage passes to a music show, invitation to a pre-screening of a movie, pre-publication copies of books, etc.

The key question for brands is who should they recruit so that their influencer campaign has the desired impact on its target audience?

Peer Influencer vs Celebrity Influencer

In choosing influencers for an influencer campaign, brands often rely on celebrities and other professional influencers. Unfortunately, most consumers can identify paid endorsements. So while these influencers will give the brand some visibility, it does little in terms of actual conversion. A more relevant influencer would be a peer influencer who exerts thier influence because they genuinely want to endorse the product and not for any monetary compensation. Such influencers have greater credibility among their peers and hence a greater ability to influence behaviour.The challenge is that identifying these peer influencers is not straightforward. Firstly, since peer influencers don’t have as large a social graph as celebrities, you need to recruit many peer influencers and not just a handful. Secondly, unlike with celebrity influencers who might have a well understood audience and congruence with the brand, it is very important that the peer influencer exerts influence over the right audience and on topics that are relevant to the brand. The good news is that both these challenges can be overcome by designing a good influencer campaign and using the right tools to identify and manage your influencers.

Tools for identifying influencers should consider these three factors:

  • The relevant reach of the influencer: This is the number of followers, subscribers or friends of the peer influencer who match the brand’s target audience.
  • How active the influencer is: This is a measure of how frequently the influencer posts content in social media
  • Topical relevance: How relevant the influencer’s topics of influence are to the brand.

While running an influencer campaign, you are better off working with a group of peer influencers with high topical relevance who create genuine content than with a celebrity influencer who is paid to participate.