Most brands have by now come to the realisation that they need to join the conversation on social media. They can genuinely benefit from all the people out there complaining about what is wrong with their latest purchase or raving about how wonderful their new gadget is. A good way for brands to take advantage of this is by working with influencers. These are people who have a great deal of influence on social media networks due to their high number of followers.
Traditional marketing and advertising is still effective, but newspaper, magazine, TV and radio campaigns are certainly feeling the pressure. Influencer marketing is, unsurprisingly, highly influential. According to Carole Lamarque (Duval Union Consulting), “at the moment, influencer marketing is supplementary brand communication. However, businesses should really try to make better use of this innovative style of marketing. Otherwise they may miss the boat – especially since influencer marketing is becoming such a crucial part of every marketing strategy”. Lamarque is co-founder of Duval Union Consulting, a partnership between DearMedia (digital transformation) and Youmen (innovative marketing), and author of new book ‘Influencers’, in which she explains how businesses can put these strategies into practise.
The best way to achieve really good communication is by using opinion leaders to spread your message.
“Influencer marketing is definitely more than just hype”, says Steve Muylle, Professor of Marketing and Digital Strategy at Vlerick Business School. “Ever since the middle of the last century there has been a theory that the best way to achieve really good communication is by using opinion leaders to spread your message. That’s pretty much the same as what is happening now, though of course nowadays we use digital media. We now have the option to make use of marketing strategies to send out this kind of word-of-mouth advertising. Bloggers and fashionistas get the message out to their followers. This can be extremely effective, as their followers are a very receptive audience.
According to Carole Lamarque, Influencer marketing is growing fast. “Campaigns are becoming more professional, more believable and more quantifiable”, she says. “However, there are the inevitable teething problems, which need to be addressed. There are some influencers out there who are only interested in getting free products and a good income. These people risk damaging their own credibility as well as that of the entire campaign. To avoid this, influencer marketing will need to be more carefully and thus more effectively used in the coming years.”
Advertising agencies are jumping on the bandwagon too. Leuven-based agency Primetime is the first communications agency in Belgium to have a separate influencer marketing department. This is a logical step to take, according to director Katrien Houtmeyers. “We could no longer ignore the impact and success of influencer marketing in other countries. Vlogs and social media are becoming more significant and some customers are looking for new ways to make use of them. One of our international clients asked us for a list of Belgian influencers, and that set the ball rolling.”
It takes time to build a really good relationship.
“It’s not about starting a relationship with social media”, says Carole Lamarque. “It’s about real people. I always compare influencers to a sales team – they need guidance. It takes time to build a really good relationship with them. And the communication cannot be a one-way street; in order to succeed, there must be a sharing of knowledge.”
How can this be achieved? First you need to identify around twenty suitable influencers on social media. Then you need to decide on the most efficient strategy for approaching your target market. If you put an ad in a newspaper, everybody knows straight away that it is an advertisement. This is not the case with influencer marketing. “In my book I explain that influencers are a bit like matches; they have the power to start a forest fire. The public have no idea how the fire was started. We just see the blaze, not the person who started it”, explains Lamarque. It is important to decide what sort of information to release, when to release it, and what type of influencer to use. “That is what my book is all about”, says Lamarque. “Well-matched influencer marketing hits the mark more often than traditional forms of advertising, as well as being of higher quality. Traditional advertising tends to be a little bit like trying to shoot a canon at a mosquito.”
Source: Trends, 2/03/2017, by Dimitri Dewever