Dubai: Got yourself a few followers for all of your social media comments and thoughts? And do you get a fair share of “Like” and “LOL” for what you have to say? Good, then you are half-way there to being an influencer.
Depending on how clearly your “voice” is being heard, that spells big bucks.
Social media influencers are dominating the digital chatter in the region, earning themselves swathes of followers and the attention of marketers wanting to tie up. Be it in fashion trend-spotting, make-up do-overs, cuisine suggestions, and even instant commentary on society and the happening places in towns, influencers are always free with their opinions.
And what they say and do can cost marketers a hefty bill. As part of the launch for a new retail destination, an influencer was commanding a cool $7,000 (Dh25,711) plus for a week’s worth of effort. That included putting up posts of the location and its features on, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. And she would also need to “advertise” a special hashtag during the campaign.
Local and regional influencers with dedicated following even have their rate cards for brands to see what they are paying for. There are separate fees for photos and videos, and differing rates based on whether the video post is for 15 seconds, 30 seconds or one minute. An influencer at the top of his or her game can command $4,500 or $5,000 for those 15 or 30 seconds of effort and some.
In paying them, marketers believe that a good word from influencers can filter down to their army of followers. By extension, this will create enough favourable vibes for the brand from the followers.
So, are influencers here to stay? Or do they come with a “use-by” date as fads generally tend to be?
“Marketers have this tendency to rush behind novel things in the fear of losing out,” said Satish Mayya, CEO of BPG Maxus, the media buying firm. “The idea is to recognise the purpose of each channel in the path to purchase. For instance, quick awareness for a new brand launch can be more effectively orchestrated by traditional media ... but an influencer can do wonders to ignite the brand dialogue. We have seen a spurt of brands using influencers lately.”
But in any such trend, there is a flip side to the argument too. It is a moot point whether all of the followers will take in the brand messages being pushed by influencers. Moreover, if influencers are paid to put in a good word for the brand, objectivity is unlikely to inform their opinions. For $5,000, they are not about to write a review that gives an honest opinion, warts and all. Cashing in is the only detail they will want to work with.
When they do, chances are they will start losing out on the trust factor with their followers,
There is also the novelty wearing off. Today’s top-dog influencer may be usurped by someone else who is more photogenic or has better street-smarts. On social media, users are not exactly known for their fidelity to any one trend.
In such situations, brands need to be fleet of mind and strategy in how well they can utilise influencers. And be just as quick in realising when they have outlived their utility.
“Of late, we have experienced influencer impact coming under scrutiny as consumers realised the commercialisation of their opinion,” said Mayya. “This could be detrimental to this model as consumers are actually looking for third-party unbiased opinion. If they don’t get it from influencers, they will go back to the traditional sources.”
This is why Imad Lahad, Senior director and global Co-lead for the Digital Practice at the communications consultancy Apco Worldwide, says a scientific approach should govern which influencer to choose and when.
“Influencers chosen for engagement should be relevant, should care about content and collaboration, and should be selective in who they represent,” said Lahad. “Effective collaborations can be built on the principles of shared values and shared interests.
“Where content drives relevant conversations and brands fit into the broader narrative of what the influencer’s platform stands for. Without this synergy, the influencer’s audience is unlikely to follow the brand.”
For brands, the way influencers use visual imagery on their social media platforms is what counts. There is also the immediacy of what they post reaching their audiences.
When this is done seamlessly, “The element of instant gratification or tangible impact gets equated with RoI (return on investment),” said Lahad. “Influencers or bloggers can instantly impact followership or ratings on online platforms such as Zomato. However, sustaining the long-term impact of this growth rests on the ability to engage in a valuable manner.”
But can there ever be a longer term in the space social media occupies? Impact may well be measured between the time something is posted on Snapchat and its disappearance. Or with Instagram, it could be the time between two posts.
Influencers will realise soon enough whether they have a role tomorrow. Or whether the clock on their 15 seconds of fame is ticking ...
But Maurice Hamilton, CEO of The SMC Group, is emphatic that influencers will be around awhile. “As long as social media is in place, digital influencers will have a role in engaging the consumer,” said Hamilton, whose firm specialises in entertainment and brand partnerships and worked for the likes of The Coca Cola Company, Gucci, Unilever and Nike.
“An influencer typically speaks directly to a specific audience. As long as the consumer is genuinely engaged with that influencer, their recommendations — if presented in the right way — can be very powerful. The world of social media is all about numbers (likes, followers etc) and driving traffic, which is instantly noticed if an influencer does the job properly.”