How to have a real influence using influencers

The brand-influencer relationship can be a win-win situation for both parties. But there are always dangers – especially when influencers go off script – and leave brands subject to a public backlash, particularly online and on social media.

However, influencers are becoming more of a necessity rather than an option when it comes to reaching out to consumers – especially in the fast-moving consumer goods sector. According to Lee Lim Meng, marketing director at L’Oréal Malaysia, influencers help bring a sense of relevance to the target audience.  They allow customers or potential customers to get to know the product from a relatable source which is more natural and authentic.

“It can be similar to hearing about a product from a friend or someone you look up to, rather than a brand that wants to sell you something. Influencers also have more credibility and provide a type of social validation,” Lee says. Some influencers gain their fame through excelling in their craft such as beauty, cars or food. This allows their followers to look to them for advice when it comes to such categories.

Through this trust, brands can reach out to influencers to educate and inform the consumer about a product. “This way, using influencers to provide more information about products and how to use them will make fans and potential customers more likely to take note and follow suit,” Lee adds.

Influencers are also important during the point when purchase decisions are made as their reviews and product features will come in handy when fans and potential customers are deciding whether or not to buy the product. It builds the adequate resources for interested potential customers to make informed decisions.

A+M also spoke to Rachel Cheong, marketing director of HIC Juice, who has worked with influencers in Singapore ranging from local celebrities to social influencers in the lifestyle genre, such as Tay Kewei, Tan Kheng Hua, Jianhao Tan and Melissa Koh.

Work with your agency and be on the lookout

There are several factors when it comes to selecting the right influencer for your brand. According to Lee, aside from reach, engagement, quality of content and brand fit should come out on top.

“We don’t want someone who isn’t a fan of the brand to be promoting the brand – today consumers quickly see through a non-authentic endorsement,” Lee says.

She adds that L’Oréal’s agency Lion & Lion also helps with identifying and assessing potential influencers – avoiding myths such as following the “only ‘high reach’ influencer” trap – and connecting with influencers and managing relationships on behalf of the brand.

Similarly, for HIC Juice, content mix and synergy between the influencer’s lifestyle and what its brand stands for is important as an influencer’s content needs to sustain the interest of the target audience.

Lee adds her team always has its agency do its due diligence in advance of engaging a potential influencer. This includes looking over the influencer’s historical posts, news, and feedback from their audience and the wide social web.

“Normally, when we first work with influencers we look to review any paid work (such as a video) before engaging, as well as actively encouraging them to work closely with our digital agency,” Lee says. Having a contingency plan For Cheong, it is important to adhere to the same high levels of customer service when working with influencers, as well as customers, when it comes to managing potential flak or a backlash.

“Customers are able to leverage on the reach and connectivity of social media to amplify any negative experience with the brand,” Cheong says, adding it would default to the crisis management strategy it has in place for all customers.

Similarly, L’Oréal’s Lee says the brand actively listens for unusually high mentions that would indicate a great success or something it needs to be aware of. Together with Lion & Lion, it has developed several contingency plans in an event that an influencer does something the brand does not want to be associated with.

How brands can measure the effectiveness of influencers

Some short-term measures a brand can undertake, according to L’Oréal’s Lee, can be the use of social listening tools such as Talkwalker and Unmetric to track classic social metrics such as mentions, engagement and reach. Using tracking codes in links are also useful in understanding any referral impact back to the brand’s web assets.

“This helps us to understand whether consumers later completed a goal we associate with the objective, such as visiting one of our own websites or signing up for one of our newsletters,” Lee says.

Over a longer perspective, L’Oréal also benchmarks its ROI on whether sponsored mentions drive buzz.

Although buzz is a less direct indication of success, Lee adds it helps the team learn and gain insights on what works and what doesn’t for the brand. For brands such as HIC Juice, reach, inbound traffic, post-engagement as well as a lift in sales, helps determine whether or not an influencer is indeed “influential”.

Make brand ambassadorship a long-term goal

While long-term brand ambassadorships are not in the pipeline for HIC Juice, building brand advocacy is a big deal for L’Oréal. “Influencer outreach is not a one-off activity; it is a long-term commitment to building a relationship as well as nurturing a wider, brand community on the web,” Lee says.

Agreeing with Lee is Aldrina Thirunagaran, assistant vice-president of digital marketing at OCBC Bank, who shares the recent success the bank had with its influencer partnerships with local celebrities Pornsak and Michelle Chong.

“Being in the business of building relationships with consumers, it is equally important brands build relationships with influencers as well, as it is really a partnership,” she says. She adds Chong and Pornsak have gone on to speak for the brand at various events and on social media.

That type of earned media to her is the most valuable because that is where OCBC Bank is getting advocates for its brand.

Read the full article in the August digital issue of A+M.