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It is known that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forms of persuasion available. That form of word-of-mouth can be accessed by brands in scale through social media influencers.

Undoubtedly, social media is the right place for brands to know its customers and to send better messages to consumers. However, we don't really know the perfect formula to win customers in social media. According to a WeAreSocial & HootSuite study in early 2017, there are staggering 2.7 billion active users in social media. Better off, people spend their time on social media like never before. Surprisingly, Malaysia is sitting in the top 10 of average number of hours spend in social media each day.

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Social media attracts more and more brands to jump in and advertise, hoping for a good marketing ROI. Some social media ads work. However, the same cannot be said for most brands. The cause might be rooted from the nature of social media itself. Social media is meant for online interactions, sharing of people’s story, for people to connect with each other.

So, how could a brand possibly resonate within social media? One way is to surrender its power to the masses and to play their game. Remember the ‘Age of Social Collective’ in the previous article? Now we are going to look into this further. Take a seat, deep breaths. This article will show you how brands should collaborate with social media influencers.

What is a social media influencer?

The idea of social media influencers is similar to the concept of celebrity endorsement. Social media influencers are those who have the ability to influence and manipulate the thoughts, behaviours and actions of their audiences, using social media as their medium. For example, the winner of the recent Influence Asia, Luqman Podolski, currently has more than 1 million followers on Instagram. This has allowed him to collaborate with big brands, such as Perodua.

Why are social media influencers so appealing?

Despite the huge spending, marketers find the investment in 'buzzer' worth the price. MediaKix finds over 80% of marketers in 2016 find that the usage of social media influencers are effective.

It is known that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forms of persuasion available. In fact, one report from McKinsey in 2010 shows that word-of-mouth influences up to 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. In the social media landscape, the word-of-mouth influence extends beyond friends and family, to social media influencers.

That form of word-of-mouth can be accessed by brands in scale through social media influencers. The rise of these so-called ‘mega-influencers’ can now top the reach of traditional media. YouTubers such as Michael from ‘VSauce’, PewDiePie and Malaysia’s Joanna Soh are creators of video content that have been watched by hundreds of million viewers. Some social media influencers also may often surpass the fame of certain Hollywood celebrities. In 2015, Variety used Q scores, which have been used by Hollywood for more than 50 years, to measure the popularity of YouTubers. Surprisingly, 8 out of the top 10 scores in the world came from YouTubers.

Much more personalised content from individuals that shares similar values with their audience works really well. Often, the influencer starts out selling products or services due to their popularity. The product or service offered is usually an extension of their attitudes and personality. From this point onwards, it is clear that the product or service offered by the influencer will hit the right market, because the product or service is offered to the same persona as the influencer.

Malaysians! Do you know this guy?

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One good example is the famous Malaysian ‘Instagrammer’, Wak Doyok, who built his popularity from the ground up by sharing his passion in fashion. Wak Doyok stands out from the others because of two things: (1) His daringness to be well-dressed up despite of the Malaysian weather, (2) His signature facial hair. This in turn, excites the Malaysian male audience to learn how to properly style themselves like a gentleman. In his Instagram account @wakdoyok, Wak Doyok also possess a humourous attitude, entertaining more than 1.6 million Instagram followers. Because of his facial hair and the fame behind it, many ask for his ‘secret’. To which, Wak Doyok has launched a beard & moustache growing product called ‘Krim Jambang Wak Doyok’. Not only has the product hit the Malaysian market rapidly, but the Indonesian market as well. From there onwards, he began to introduce other multiple products that shares his gentleman values, including hair-gels (pomade), face washes and even a barbershop.

Interest in social media influencers or the influencer marketing is growing exponentially from 2013 to 2016. Data from MediaKix showed that the interest in influencer marketing has risen since 2013, 90 times higher than the previous data. Pew Research Center also stated that the global digital advertising spending is expected to be at a whopping USD$100 billion by 2020, a big number for brands to spend in the digital realm, right?

Interestingly enough, marketers find the investment worth the price, despite the huge spending. Another data from MediaKix in 2016 showed that over 80% of marketers find that the usage of social media influencers are effective. To which 60% of them are willing to stretch their budget for social media influencers.

Before you begin starting on your first marketing campaign with the aid of social media influencers, there are three things that you need to know:

1. Core Components in Influencing

The objective of working with social media influencers is to influence the targeted audiences to acknowledge, consider and purchase your product or service. Therefore, it is essential to identify the three components in influencing. Hootsuite describes the three Rs in influence, to which Warc Best Practice also describes them as the 3 core components. The two descriptions share similar explanations, they are:

  1. Relevance/Authority
    Does the target influencer share similar content of your brand’s values to the similar target audience with your business? In which areas does the influencer expertise in?

  2. Reach
    How big of a following does the influencer have? Would it bring value to your business?

  3. Resonance/Accessibility
    What is the engagement level of the influencer? In order to successfully deliver content to the targeted market through the influencer, does the influencer have a strong sense of engagement? Do they try to personally relate with their audience?

2. Acknowledging the Law of Inverse Reach and Accessibility

Social media influencers are meant to deliver content in a much more engaging way, as they represent ‘the voice of the people’. Influencers grow bigger when they share similar attitudes and opinions as their followers. A notion of “they’re just like me” creates a strong tie between the influencers and their followers. Now however, as influencers become more and more well known, a price has to be paid. Warc Best Practice found that as an influencer’s following grows exponentially, many of them are finding it harder to engage with their audience, becoming ‘less and less accessible’ to their followers. Thus reducing the influence itself, turning social media influencers into ‘just’ another celebrity.

Therefore, from this findings, it is said that ‘micro-influencers’ are much more preferable. Rather than those with enormous amounts of followers. The term ‘micro-influencer’ was coined by Markerly. Markerly found that the sweet spot in achieving maximum engagement for each post will be the best for those with followers ranging from the numbers around 10,000 to 100,000 on their social media accounts. This finding was backed up by another research from Livity, which also found that micro-influencers are able to have a much greater impact on attitudinal and behavioural changes of their audiences. Thus making micro-influencers a much better way to provide you with broader and better engagement with an audience.

3. Know Your Personas

Once again, the most important thing in advertising is to deliver the most relevant content to the right target audiences in the right channels. Your customer persona will greatly guide you to do just that. And in your campaign with social media influencer, there’s nothing more important than delivering the right content. Identify which persona you would like to develop, from your customer persona data, and start building up from there. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge who and what you are working with in order to produce a successful campaign.