“Around 40 percent of respondents said they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine or YouTube.”
Who are social media influencers?
We previously introduced the topic of influencer marketing, what it is and why you should get on it. We described a social media influencer as a popular person with a sizeable following that they connect to on a range of platforms while promoting their own work on channels that best suit their followers. An influencer is a self-built star, using social channels as opposed to a celebrity who has been built up by traditional channels.
It is fair to say that 2017 was the year of influencer marketing. Brands used influencers in hoards to help sell their products and services to engaged audiences.
Social media influencer marketing is not a trend we expect to stop soon. It is expected to continue to be a driving force for brands looking to grow their audience and improve sales through social media in 2018.
The question is, what can you do to get the most out of influencers?
Why use influencers?
Consumers trust recommendations from a third-party more often than a brand itself. In Africa, the message and messenger are as important as the medium. According to Nielsen, despite growing media exposure- a myriad of TV and radio channels, print, digital, outdoor and mobile mediums – word-of-mouth communication is extremely powerful when integrated into marketing and media campaigns. But it needs to be adapted to the consumer segments to be most effective.
More so than anything else, social media influencers are great at speaking to their core demographic. For some marketers, there has been a significant success with the adoption of influencers over traditional marketing techniques. One area you can see this happening is with visual media.
The popularity of Instagram and Facebook Video has marketers looking for more opportunities for social media video. A report from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index claims online video traffic will account for 80% of all web traffic by 2019.
Distinguishing features of a social media influencer
Having deeply understood who social media influencers are, it is equally important to understand features that make these, and not any other common man, fit for the title and our attention too. Social media influencers;
Possess a trait that we admire.
This is most basic. The position of influencing could only be impactful and effective if there is a trait we admire in these people. We must be able to identify that which appeals to us in them better than in most people, that is, what is outstanding in them. For example, Nicki Minaj has an outstanding body figure beside her voice and rapping talent. The sight of her is what most ladies, and even gentlemen, would call perfect. It is what sends chills within most people. They desire that they or those close to them would possess this body figure. It is not a wonder if we learned that a design of clothing she wears becomes popular. The ladies will feel good in such a clothing while boyfriends and husbands will relate with the sense of beauty as a result of the clothing.
Are active in social media.
This is also part of the description from their title. Social media influencers ought to be consistent in the several social media platforms. For example, they frequently post items on Facebook, Twitter, update status in Instagram and even have information about their private lives available for the audience, such as in platforms like Google. This active participation keeps their audience updated as well as keeping the contact close. This consequently results in easier influence to the audience.
Have expertise in their field.
Social media influencers should invest lots of resources to maintain or improve themselves in that field. Consequently, the world at large distinguishes them among others with similar skills and abilities, and this makes them credible than the others in terms of expertise.
They can be easily trusted as sources of information in their fields of expertise. For example, it would be better and more productive if Christiano Ronaldo, a known footballer, is featured in an advertisement for a soft drink or energizer, than if Neyo- a known musician does it. The former is closely related to an energizer than the latter.
Has persuasive powers.
This refers to the ability of the social media influencer to effectively inform the decision of their audience and hence wave them towards the desired product. It is not enough to only be popular and informed. The skill and ability to convince a person or persons in favor of a product is especially important. It is what defines influence.
Are trustworthy truthful.
They are expected and believed to be truthful to their audience, in the sense that whatever information they give is true and proven. Trust in the influencer keeps the audience dependent on the influencer. This dependence keeps the contacts, and the contacts in return have the confidence to influence yet others. The relationship ends up to be a big family, to the advantage of the product the audience is interested in. It is as simple as telling what you can account for. Have you ever been lied to? Have you ever used a product whose side effects you were not notified about beforehand?
This is the competence to pass a message across. Knowledge is important but the social media influencer needs to transfer it to their audience. That is the position of language and communication skills. The choice of words the influencer may use determine how productive they will be at the end of it all. Everyone desires information in a language that appeals to them. An erring language may distort the message. Closely related, it is important that the influencer understands the type of language of the audience. It would be inappropriate to speak a language that the audience does not understand. For example, the influencer will speak English when addressing an English-speaking audience. This makes communication effective.
Finding and building relationships
Influence and relationship are interactive in nature, they rely on the other for effectiveness. Social media influencers are required to find and build relationships with other people, be it their audience or the producers of the product in question. However, the most important relationship here is that between the influencer and their audience. This relationship ought to be one of mutual respect and trust, with honesty and credibility. The audience ought to have a positive attitude towards the social media influencer. The audience should also trust the influencer as a source of information. On that note, it is important to go through stages of building this healthy relationship where the social media influencer becomes the credible source of information.
Finding and building relationships involves the following;
a) Create a contact platform.
This refers to the means of contact between the social media influencer and the targeted audience. These include Facebook posts, tweets on Twitter, posts on Instagram, blogs and YouTube Vlogs.
b) Reach out.
Relationships are built upon contacts. After having the platform ready, an influencer will need to have the targeted audience. Audience varies depending on the nature of products. Some are feminine, masculine, sports-oriented, fashion and design, health and hygiene, among others. You will, therefore, require initiating the relationship. The most primary means are by inviting contacts to your page. This helps to reach out to the world through the people within your reach, such as close friends and family, who then bring along their friends. This enlarges your reach.
c) Be consistent.
For emphasis, the influencer is an important source of information on the product they are pushing. Having noted that, it is critical that the influencer keeps their audience updated. Keep posting information, comment on a product and give their views on advertisements. For example, when a known footballer advertises for Panadol (a pain reliever), that in itself is a persuasion enough. Anytime you have pains, you will be informed of the effectiveness of the pill. Consistency consequently results in commitment.
d) Uphold quality.
This refers to the level of relevance of the item that a social media influencers posts on their wall. Who wants to read a post that does not interest them or that which does not appeal to them. Any information should have been tested and proved. It should be reliable. The influencer ought to have researched about the product so that they are able to answer any question that an audience may have about the product. The information also should be updated. That keeps the audience positively addicted to looking out to your posts and suggestions for products.
e) Encourage feedback.
This creates a sense of freedom of expression and a sense of belonging, which is paramount to a healthy relationship. Through feedback, the audience is able to air their views and even give opinions on the product in question. The social media influencer gets to learn what their audience thinks and hence, make necessary changes or steps to improve their service. This enhances a mutually beneficial relationship because both sides benefit.
f) Be flexible
This implies that you, as the social media influencer, ought to be ready for a change when need be. Nothing is permanent. Things are in a flux, and so is the world. This change requires that both the influencer and the audience be on the lookout so that they can easily adjust where required. The marketing world has also shifted to social media, therefore, the audience and even the influencer ought to give in to change which will keep them updated and conversant with the changing world.
Importance of relationships
Now that we know about how relationships are formed and maintained it is still important to briefly share the importance of these relationships. Why are relationships necessary? Who benefits from these engagements? Several parties benefit from the relationship between the social media influencer and the audience. The influencer provides trustworthy, credible and committed service, hence their audience gets the information they desire. As the audience gives their feedback, the influencer also learns from those comments and is able to plan for future relations as well as making any necessary changes. This implies that the influencer would not succeed without the audience, and the audience would not get satisfactory information and guidance that they require. It is therefore correct if we said that both parties benefit mutually.
Social media influencers hence play an important and informative role to their audience, who are the targeted buyer of products. A relationship between the influencer and audience is achieved through various platforms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram. This information that the influencer provides should be truthful and consistent. It should satisfy the desire of the audience for guidance in making a decision or achieving something they desire, which is achieved through information from the influencer via social media.