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Influencers: Superheroes or Supervillains?

The IMM Graduate School | Super heroes in combat FB webScrolling through my Instagram timeline I came across yet another self-proclaimed influencer flogging what seemed to be the millionth product in as many days. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and instead of being influenced in a positive way and loving the product, I was annoyed… not only with the person who posted it, but also with the brand.

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there and because of this the word ‘influencer’ has gotten a bad rep in recent years.

Influencer marketing is still quite a new concept in South Africa, and it makes sense that we’ve been learning through trial and error. However, we’ve already learnt big lessons and we see many brands implementing remarkable influencer campaigns, but there are just as many who are still struggling to get it right.

Think strategy

A lot of influencer campaigns fall flat for one main reason. Brands skip an extremely important step when considering influencer campaigns – strategy. Everyone is implementing some sort of influencer tactic but haven’t given much thought as to what success looks like for campaigns.

With a lack of strategy, influencers can either be superheroes or supervillains for your brand. Strategy can be the difference between annoying your target market and them having negative feelings towards your products and services; or being top of mind when they are making purchasing decisions and having warm, fuzzy feelings when thinking about your brand.

One of the mistakes we observe is that there seems to be one list of influencers that is shared between brands and agencies, as we see the same influencers being used time and time again by various brands.

When this happens, the influencer and their content loses its authenticity, rendering them ineffective. It’s as easy as expanding the list of influencers that brands use, including the types, making sure they align with brand values and are best suited to reach objectives and target markets to get around this.

The vetting of influencers is also paramount to ensure that they do not engage in activities or behaviour that can harm the reputation of the brand. Equally important is to audit influencer followings and engagements to check for fake or bought followers and fake engagements… aka using social media pods and the like. Don’t fret, there are companies out there that specialise in doing just that, trust the professionals to get this right for you.

On the flip side, it’s also in the interest of influencers to be discerning about which brands they work with, in order to not be overused or switching between competitors too quickly, which can lead to brands not wanting to work with them; and ultimately getting a reputation for being a blegger*.

Being authentic to their own brands and their currency is the reason people follow them and value their opinions and recommendations. Once influencers work with anyone and everyone, their influence will drop as they are no longer viewed as unbiased and authentic.

When brands take a step back and identify the basics, like what they want to achieve and who they want to speak to through influencers, the next step is to match the type of influencers that should be utilised.

Each category of influencers excels in achieving different objectives. Whether you decide on nano, micro, macro or mega influencers, make sure that they are best positioned to influence the target market in the desired way. 

*A blegger is an influencer who works with any brand without making sure the brand aligns with their values and audience. Bleggers are also known to push different brands within short lag times between each other and thus causes fatigue in their audiences.