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Tue 20 Nov 2018 09:59 AM

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Influencers are here to stay...

Two weeks ago, Anil Bhoyrul questioned the role of influencers in today's market - and suggested the world would be better off without them. ITP Live Director Alia Fawad explains why she thinks Bhoyrul got it all wrong.

Influencers are here to stay...
Agencies measure the success of a marketing campaigns based on their objectives and different metrics that can range from reach, engagement, influencer media value and other measurable results.

I am always surprised at traditional media journalists who take digs at digital content creators.

Also known as “influencers” and “creators”, these online publishers have been disruptive, innovative and daring, while amassing millions of followers on multiple social media channels and platforms. 

They get more eyeballs on their content and higher rates of engagement from their audiences, which has resulted in a rift between themselves and media professionals.

Most conversations revolve around snide remarks about ‘fake’ followers and lack of transparency, followed by comments on credibility. In some cases, this is a fair discussion. But more often than not, these conversations are downright petty and often lacking in fact.

Visually-inspiring content

In the last few years, I have met some amazing influencers who work very hard at running their own businesses as well. They tirelessly create and edit videos, curate visually-inspiring content, know exactly what their audiences like and dislike, while defining their personal style and DNA. It’s very impressive. They are a passionate bunch, whether they are gamers, beauty enthusiasts or selling real estate.

How is it their fault if their content is more relevant, appealing and resonates with hundreds and millions of people?

What journalists have to understand is that the audience, with majority of active social media users being millennials (born between 1982–2004) and part of Generation Z (born between 1995-2012), has changed – and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

Content consumers - whether they’re readers, viewers or listeners - are more inclined to take a note from their peers and tune-in to real-time info (like the luxury brand promotion my colleague Anil Bhoyrul witnessed during a trip to Nurai Island!), than wait for the information. Add an injection of personality to it, and you have a successful influencer who can spark a conversation with thousands of people in seconds.

PR value

As of June 2018, Instagram had over 1 billion monthly users and around 500 million daily active users. The 'like' button – a feature where users can share their appreciation for a post - is tapped almost 4.2 billion times every day. That image, video or 'story' (content that disappears from a social media platform after twenty-four hours) – even on a boat in 50 degrees July heat in Dubai – will reach millions of people in real-time and therefore is worth a lot in PR value.

Smartphones are taking over traditional televisions, when it comes to time spent on a device. If you do the math, you will understand why influencers are key to brand promotion.

I agree that there are some rotten eggs who pay for fake followers, take short-cuts and don’t boast any genuine influence, but this happens in every industry. But just because these fraudsters exist doesn’t mean that influencer marketing industry should be condemned as a whole.

Social media platforms are not going away any time soon. They have, in fact, thrived due to the content creators. Facebook just launched a video monetisation tool or creators (in an effort to compete with YouTube and revive its questionable future with Gen-Zers), giving them more incentives to create short form video content while earning money.

If this catches on, it will give rise to more creators who will become influencers on this medium.

As they entertain and educate their audience, brands will find ways to integrate their content through creative collaborations. That’s just the new reality that we have to accept and celebrate!

Measuring success

Influencers – and yes I would still like to call them by this name – are truly moving the needle for brands.

Agencies measure the success of a marketing campaigns based on their objectives and different metrics that can range from reach, engagement, influencer media value and other measurable results.

The direct impact influencers have on e-commerce, for example, has given rise to so many affiliate programmes that generate huge revenues for these e-retailers. If that’s not impressive, than what is?

The right influencers matched to the right brand do bring great results.

But I don’t agree with my colleague, Anil Bhoyrul, on the decline of ‘influencing’ on Instagram. We are living in an era where we consume bite-sized bits of information, curated with amazing visuals and engaging call-to-actions.

Imagine a world without social media influencers

Is the multi-billion-dollar marketer's dream a castle built on sand?

Both millennials and Gen Zers are using hashtags as a search tool for travel, food, fashion, gaming – almost everything. I do believe that Instagram will continue to be a popular platform until another alternative comes along.

I do agree and predict that micro-influencers, who by default have higher engagement with their audience, will collaborate with brands a lot more in the coming year.

L’Oreal in the UK, as an example, has been an early adapter working with micro-influencers since 2016. This strategy worked very successfully for the brand.

The authenticity of micro-influencers is undeniable and I expect we’ll see more brands working with a large number of micro-influencers in the coming months.

On the other hand, macro-influencers (some of whom have reached celebrity status in some cases) will be seen to continue to collaborate for long-term association and as brand ambassadors, while gracing magazine covers.

It’s a free, boundary-less world on social media and we will continue to see more and more creators on various platforms. Whether you like it or not, big or small, you better get used to influencers.

Response from Anil Bhoyrul

Nice column Alia. Shame you didn’t do it two weeks ago when the first piece came out. I guess the social media world is more 7/11 than 24/7. But let’s talk facts.

Do you accept the findings of a recent study by anti-fraud company Sway Ops, which were that that a single day’s worth of posts tagged #sponsored or #ad on Instagram actually contained 50 percent of fake engagements? Out of 118,007 comments, only 20,942 were NOT made by so called “Bot followers”.

Assuming you are not disputing the credibility of the survey, surely the industry cannot dismiss the fake followers issue as a “snide remark”? I would argue this is endemic through a large swathe of the industry, even within many of the “celebrity” influencers we both know. And until the industry faces up to this fact, and deals with it, it will not progress.

I can tell you exactly how many people read my column two weeks ago, how long for and which country they live in.  And I can’t make this number better to make me feel good, because it’s available on Google Analytics for everyone to see.

Believe me, I have written stories before that I thought were amazing and they were read by ten people. I had to accept that and deal with it – because digital journalism (even from what you describe as traditional media journalists) is fully transparent. Can you say the same about influencers?