More followers does not equate to better results

The influencer marketing scene has exploded over the last few years.  More and more, marketers are turning to these once small screen stars (because they used to be just on your mobile), to help garner traction for their campaigns. Today, large media houses are also bringing them on their traditional platforms such as TV and radio to boost ratings.

Yvette King, host of E! News Asia and style and brand ambassador, who was one of the speakers at the Content 360 conference said that when the whole social media tide kicked off, a lot of brands were caught up in vanity metrics such as numbers of followers.

"But at the end of the day, I don't think it comes down to being just a numbers game. What is the point of a brand aligning with someone who has 500k followers but isn't the target audience," she said. But she added that today there is a lot more great content marketing created in collaboration with influncers.

But while they are no doubt important to modern day marketing, a well researched plan is required when engaging with them, said our speakers.

Miguel Bernas VP of digital marketing at Mediacorp, said as the influencer marketing scene matures, the most important factor is no longer just reach but rather the quality of the audience the influencer has hold over. Equally important are the values and attributes an influencer brings to the brand.

“Ask if the influencer has hold over the audience the brand wants to reach and if the values and attributes they have complements your own brand,” he said. The two need to be complimentary.

Citing the Pepsi debacle with Kendall Jenner, Bernas said:

It was a disaster in many aspects. But my question as a marketer is "What was the whole idea to begin with? And what brand value did Pepsi gain from a celebrity such as Jenner?"

He added that in a country like the USA, where there is currently a political awareness, brands can either be on the right side of history or think of ways to exploit it.

In the case of Pepsi, you can either use real activists that matter, but reach out to a smaller audience. Or you can think: "How do we exploit this trend to sell more soda?" Unfortunately, Pepsi ended up looking like the latter whether they like it or not.

"It would be a very different outcome if Pepsi had used an influencer who was associated with strong causes or representation,” he added.

And of course, when working with influencers, a contingency plan needs to be put in place.

“When things go wrong, there is often a lack of contingency plan. And to be fair, creating  a contingency plan is not easy because there are so many parties involved," he said. More often than not, brand marketers don't even try to get to know the influencer on a personal level before working with them. Rather just leave it up to the agency to forge that working relationship.

Many a times, brand marketers just want to work with who is hot at that moment. But there is a fair bit of homework that needs to be done before deciding to work with an influencer.

Agreeing with him is Fern Cheng, senior marketing manager of Asia ex-China, PR Newswire who said because of the rapid growth of the scene, sometimes brands are not aware who to work with as well.

"Sometimes brands also take shortcuts and just check out what these influencers are talking about on the surface. But they should go deeper and see what their audience profiles are like," she added.

In her world, journalists are the key influencers, and as such, she reiterated size is not the only factor that matters. Sometimes, a smaller number of followers can also mean a more effective reach.

“A lot of the journalists and editors are very active on social media and while size is important, it is not the deciding factor. More followers can also mean a diluted impact of your followers,” she said.  But the entire process of identifying the right audience, can be quite time consuming if done manually, she added. As such, to a certain extent having social listening tools to help you understand the market is also necessary.

Meanwhile, during an earlier discussion, Digimind's customer success director of APAC, Olivier Girard also added that today, there are two ways to analyse information and social listening out there. But before embarking on any journey, the brand needs to clear on its ROIs and objectives before simply tapping into an influencer.