Indepth Part 2: Are brands incorporating influencer marketing the right way?

Industry experts are bullish on the role of influencer marketing in effectively promoting brands and engaging with the consumers. There are various reports on how rapidly this space is growing. As reported in Part 1 of this Indepth feature, industry experts elaborated on how important influencer marketing can be, the evolution seen in this space and building long term associations. 

In Part 2 of this report, Adgully delves on some of the key points to be kept in mind while formulating an influencer marketing campaign. We also have a few brands who have shared how they are utilising influencer marketing to give a boost to their brands. 

When it comes to engaging influencers, finding the right influencer for one’s brand is of paramount importance for all the industry experts that Adgully spoke to. 

Shishir Kudalkar
Shishir Kudalkar
As Shishir Kudalkar, Head - Planning & Influencer Management, FoxyMoron, affirmed, “When done right, influencer marketing can generate more interesting and relevant content, as well as lead to building affinity for your brand. By aligning strategic content with influencer engagement, you can engage your audience when they’re most open to impressions in each moment of truth. This becomes a powerful differentiator and competitive strategy for the future.” 

The Do’s of a successful influencer marketing campaign 

Srikar Nagubandi
Srikar Nagubandi
According to Srikar Nagubandi, Senior Vice President – Operations, iProspect India, “I think it’s better to go with micro influencers than a mix of celebrity influencers, if you can afford that. Especially for niche products like technology or finance, there are a lot of micro influencers who go well with the user base.” 

He also insisted on finding the right platform where one’s audience are there. “If you are a fashion brand who is there on Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube, you need to find the right influencers who are there. Understanding where your target audience is and which channels they prefer will help a lot,” Nagubandi added. 

He further said, “Influencers are content creators, thereby brands should tap into their ability to create original content for you. That content should really match your brand perspective, vision, style and brand communication. Brands should also try and build relationships with these influencers for the long term, this can have a large impact especially for specific categories. So, next time when you try and work with them, they will understand what you are trying to communicate to your audience and how best to create content for them.” 

Manika Juneja
Manika Juneja
In a similar vein, Manika Juneja, AVP - Operations, WATConsult, too, stressed that investment of time and money in discovering the right set of brand advocates is the first step towards approaching any influencer marketing campaign. 

According to her, “You need to marry the brand personality, objective, tonality and brand values for a seamless integration. Customer receptiveness, influencer credibility should be considered while planning the campaign. In recent times, celebrities have joined the portfolio and added another category to the existing set of influencers for brand collaborations.” 

The evolution of influencer marketing trend has pushed social networking sites to follow compliances and tweak certain features and algorithms to bring transparency for the users, content creators and brands. Citing an example, Juneja noted, “The recent addition of the Paid Partnership is to Tag on Instagram. It allows influencers to ‘clearly’ disclose that they’re publishing sponsored content by using the Instagram tag in the post header or stories. It allows influencers to fetch insightful data on the performance of their content.” 

FoxyMoron’s Shishir Kudalkar advised, “To evolve, you need to consider the person, and not just the size of his or her community. You need to think about the people who define the community and why they belong, and not just eyeballs or an audience.” He further said that it was also important to grant the influencer a creative license and leverage their potential as content creators. 

Hareesh Tibrewala
Hareesh Tibrewala
In Part 1 of the report, Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO, Mirum India, had classified influencers into 3 categories – Celebrity Influencers, Category Influencers, and Advocates. 

Elaborating further, Tibrewala said that category influencers will write about a brand basis one of the following:

A gratification opportunity: Brand communication to the prospective influencer should be clear about the gratification opportunity. And the same clarity must be reflected in the brand communication in the public domain.

Product review…just for the love of the category: This may not require any gratification.

In either cases the brand cannot ‘demand’ a positive review (or gratification in lieu of only a positive review). “As a brand, one needs to be confident about ones product and leave it to the influencers’ judgement to communicate about the product,” he maintained.

“Another way to engage an influencer is to actually get an influencer to create content that is relevant for the category and then be a sponsor of that content. This ensures brand outreach to the influencers TG, without overtly brand led communication,” Tibrewala added. 

Parag Bhansali
Parag Bhansali
For Parag Bhansali, Director, EveryMedia Technologies, there are certain must-do steps that brands need to follow:

  • Targeted campaigns with relevant influencers – It is essential that we target influencers who have a strong following in the domain relevant to the client.
  • Create an experience for influencers – The talk point should be enticing enough to be sold to the influencer to promote. Give them an experience they cannot forget. A good experience leads to good content. Also, gratifying the influencer also becomes a must. Gratification can take any form, whether it is merchandise, meet and greet with the brand spokesperson or a sponsored association.
  • Create maximum conversation rather than a trending hashtag – The idea of the campaign is to get the influencer to promote your brand to the fullest on his/ her page such that the product is being pushed to the relevant target market. The recall value of the brand is more important that a trending hashtag.
  • Know your audience – It is important to understand your brand objective and key target market. The same needs to be communicated to the Influencer with the relevant hashtag as well as providing suggested social media copies. Also, avoid ambiguity as much as possible as this may leave scope for misconception.
  • As the campaign concludes – Inviting the influencer for relation building meetings with the brand spokesperson, sending regular updates on the brand is a good way to go about it.

The things to avoid 

Ashwin Razdan, Vice President, Interactive Avenues, observed, “Influencer marketing has significantly evolved over the last 24 months. The most significant shift is in the change of perception of using influencers as a ‘media’ vehicle to using them as ‘stories’ – in whose lives, brands are a natural fit.” 

According to him, a successful influencer marketing campaign is one that drives an optimal mix of building awareness around the brands ‘promise’ and thereafter driving a memorable ‘money-can’t-buy’ experience. With this in mind, Razdan has divided the do’s and don’ts into five buckets: 

Identify your ‘cast’: The ‘influencer’ forms the core of any influencer campaign. Therefore, their identification is as important at the need for the right ‘cast’ in the movie. Do not just recruit influencers based on the engagement rate of the last 10 posts. The success of a campaign depends on the influencers’ ‘relevance’ to the brand TG. Hence, a psychoanalytical research of the influencer, in addition to, a sociological research of his network (or fanbase); is important to predict the success of the campaign. 

Build a ‘combination’: Do not select an influencer just on their following. A good campaign should have an optimal mix of reach and engagement. Hence, it is okay if 20 per cent of influencers drive 80 per cent of the reach; you will be surprised to learn that 80 per cent of the influencers (many with less than 5,000) will deliver significantly higher engagement and often are most instrumental in establishing brand ‘love’ and ‘purchase-intent’. 

Stories, not posts: Do not turn an influencer campaign into a ‘posting’ spree! The true value of the influencer campaign lies in the ‘stories’ they are willing to narrate. Once the right influencer is on-boarded, brand will seamlessly flow in his/ her lifestyle, and naturally reflect the brand characteristics. 

Let’s master one at-a-time: One size does not fit all. Hence, influencer selection, content types and campaign execution varies for each platform. It’s ok to choose one platform and build an engaging influencer programme. 

What is success?: The most important ‘Do’ that we often forget is establishing a metric for success. A well-planned influencer programme should have just two metrics – first, the volume of ‘earned’ media, and secondly, an impact on the net-promoter-score.

Listing the ‘Don’ts’, Parag Bhansali of EveryMedia Technologies stated:

  • Influencer campaigns primarily work to create awareness about your brand, don’t set deliverables based on direct conversions with clients.
  • Don’t expect influencers to be available at an exact time for your campaign to commence, maintain a scope for flexibility.
  • Do not be pushy, in other words, do not follow up with the influencer relentlessly, if the influencer is interested he/ she will revert.
  • Celebrity influencers have a great reach but may not be the perfect fit for your brands.

FoxyMoron’s Kudalkar also cautioned against marketeers enforcing their own ideas into the content created by influencers, thus restricting their creativity. He added, “This often ends up hampering the authenticity of their content. As a result, the audience is unable or unwilling to connect with the content as it appears to be branded and seeded.”

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