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In-depth: Influencer marketing — doing it right

Influencers are Indian marketers and brands’ new digital friends but one should know how and when they should be used. Here are a few tips marketers should definitely follow to be on the right track

Not long ago, Indian tennis player Sania Mirza had tweeted praise for the OnePlus 3T phone and had to repeal it because the tweet was ironically sent from her iPhone app. But by that time a lot of people noticed it and got their dose of fun for the day. This particular tweet was a mistake that happens when marketers are not cautious of the pros and cons of using the right kind of influencer.

While this could be a mistake on her social media team’s part, it is not the first instance that such an incident has happened. Influential marketing goes wrong when brand managers and marketers end up choosing a less authentic influencer for the brand and sometimes by repeating the influencer.

Rajiv Dingra

More buzz-worthy than a hive of bees, this valuable strategy entered India in and around 2010-2011. Rajiv Dingra, CEO and Founder, WATConsult, said, “Influencer marketing started with Twitter. Although there were blogs at that time and people used to pay bloggers to write about them, it was at a very nascent stage. Then came Snapchat and Instagram. People started publishing blogs in a more serious manner. Today you would find various grades of influencer marketing.”

Now, the term is applied in a 360 degree campaign by the brands. There are brands that have applied it well while there are also a few that are burning more bridges than the ones they are trying to build. Then there are also many who are doing it without really understanding it.

Kalyan Kumar

Kalyan Kumar runs an influencer marketing and digital content strategy agency, Social Catalyzers, based in Gurgaon. He defines influencer marketing as the ability to reach out to a certain number of people and the ability to credibly communicate to them. Therefore the two aspects are credibility and reach. He said that the most popular platform on which the influencer marketing was really built on was Twitter.

To start off with, the term is defined as “The strategy of establishing relationships with influential people who can amplify and expand visibility for your brand’s products and services.” A Nielsen report shows that 84 per cent of worldwide consumers will take action based on the reviews and recommendations of trusted sources above all other forms of advertising.

Dingra said, “Influencer marketing is very powerful if done right and that’s true for any channel of media marketing. Done right is a complicated answer and based on the permutation and combination, who is the audience, what’s the creative, thought and hook and how well it is executed.”

Choosing the right influencer
Selecting the right kind of influencer is a lengthy process and marketers spend around a month or so in researching about the one they want to use. Brands invest from Rs 10,000-Rs 25 lakh on influencers. Selecting an influencer can be a very manual process. You have to define the boundaries of who you want to identify as an influencer.

Muddassar Memon, AVP, Creative and Social, iProspect India, said, “When we do influencer marketing, it is a well thought through process of selecting the influencer. It is important and better if we choose an influencer who is related to the category. Therefore, if somebody has a technology background, it is better if that person only does influencer marketing in that field.”

While Dingra said, “Plan should be very detail-oriented. What you are doing for whom you are doing, make sure to have unique content for each and every influencer. Influencers probably need to briefed about their role in the campaign, influencers should be given the freedom to add their own level of information and not just be pre-created content alone.”

Depth versus width
Everyone can be an influencer. A person need not have 10 million followers on a social media page because one could influence just the 300 people in his circle in a more influential manner. It is more about how many people one is able to influence and help achieve the marketing objective of the marketer. If the marketer just wants reach, then he can choose somebody who has a higher following on social media. If a marketer wants depth and change in consumer behaviour too, then can choose somebody who has a lesser following but can impact a lot of people in his community itself.

Kumar said, “A celebrity could get you reach, but the ability to get depth is a question mark. Influencer marketing works well to get the depth. According to the objective, decide what kind of influencers you want to get. One can choose among high reach influencers, medium reach and more depth influencers and low reach, high depth influencers.”

A lot of digital experts believe that anything that fetches money to Indians become a profession. Therefore, there are so many people who have taken up influencer marketing as a profession and are promoting brands left, right and centre, which also reduces the credibility. While in the West, it is more professional and influencers are very cautious of choosing the right and few brands to talk about.

Kumar elaborated, “There is a category of influencers that exist in India who will talk about anything as long as they get their share of money versus certain countries like the US. In the US, influencer marketing is really big. It is used very well by brands and these people have a mentality that they would only speak about certain brands in their own way. They have more depth as compared to width.”

How important is it for brands?
Marketers have begun to understand the tremendous potential of social media celebrities and mavens towards generating positive word of mouth for their brands. Consumers are constantly exposed to content and it is not enough for brands to just push out a marketing campaign.

Lluis Ruiz Ribot

Lluis Ruiz Ribot, CMO, KFC India, shares that influential marketing fetches him immediate results and impact on sales. Not just short-term, but long-term results on how you want to build your brands. He said, “Brands leverage the personalities of the influencers and these influencers give a much more authentic and a fresh take on the brand. We have been incorporating Mallika Dua and Baba Sehgal as influencers. Dua has her own way of saying things and fits well with the brand. She would say things in her own way as the brand wants to be more approachable, authentic and relatable.”

Nomit Joshi

Emphasising the need to use influencers to promote the brand, Nomit Joshi, Director Marketing at Gionee India, said, “With the phone in hand and data coming into it, you spend more time on your phone than watching TV. 90 per cent of the people will go through one or two of their social media handles every day. In this environment, there are ways to reach out to the maximum people. One way is that you advertise, the other way is to make somebody talk about your brand that is followed by various people.”
He said that Gionee uses influencers to amplify its campaigns but doesn’t use it at the core and spends really less on it. “Influencer marketing has picked up. Brands are seeing it and there are impressions, reach and traffic which these influencers get,” added Joshi.

Influencer marketing = Credible marketing
An important aspect of influencer marketing is that it provides a certain amount of credibility to the brands and thereby makes it easier for customers to trust it. Therefore, it is important to choose individuals who already have a strong personal brand which can then be aligned with the products of the company. Teaming up with just the right influencer means that it is a person with an already established voice. The credibility of influencer marketing lies in the fact that instead of the brand being just a billboard, it develops a community of loyal customers. The internet is a place full of noise and opportunities and the difficulty lies in differentiating the opportunities from the clutter.

Kumar said, “A very famous celebrity who has a lot of following will get you reach but not credibility. For example, Hema Malini selling Kent RO water purifier. It works for big brands as they want the reach, although Hema Malini barely relates to the category of water purifiers.”

How to tackle the credibility issue?
The best way a brand can use an influencer if it wants its content to trend is to use an influencer that has lot of reach. The moment the content is trending, it can bring on board another influencer who is known for its depth and has lesser reach. The brands need to keep churning their influencers. You use them, come back again, don’t use them again for your next five campaigns because even their followers would know.

Kumar further explained, “You break down like this. The brand should use category C influencers because they get the content to trend. Then the brand should get certain category B influencers who don’t do influential marketing for a lot of brands at one time and have more credibility because they only talk about certain things. I call it as the creamy layer. So, use the pawns and the army to get noticed. Then when you are getting noticed (by using category C influencers), just before that make sure that your creamy layer of tweets and conversations are held by the people who are believable (category B).”
If one wants to build the brand’s love then one has to go another level deeper, by getting an influencer do content for it. A lot of food bloggers, food influencers are used by food brands to create some content using their product. In such a case, one has to be a bit unofficial about its brand because the influencer is not the brand ambassador. Its word is only influential if the brand allows it to say about the brand it wants to.”

Intelligent consumer can no more be fooled
A lot of marketers make a mistake by doing a long-term association with an influencer. If an influencer starts talking about your brand every day, his followers will think he has been sold. His followers will stop believing his reviews until he talks about five other brands as well.

“People have started taking influencer marketing in a light manner because they have also started knowing that people are getting paid to do that and that reduce the impact. Even if I am an influencer and I tell that this product is good, you will first research about the product and then buy it,” said a senior digital marketing professional.

Kumar said, “The frequency of posts by an influencer should be low. If you are working with other brands as well, you can’t be tweeting about 30 brands at the breadth within one day.”

Influencers are the content creators
Gone are the days of crafting creative ideas around your marketing objectives. Today we are marketing to consumers on their terms and we must think creatively keeping them in focus. The most experienced and trusted influencers are champions of this. They know how and what to write in the content. In fact, the best ones are highly selective of the brands with which they partner.

Gopa Kumar

Gopa Kumar, Vice-President, Isobar India, said, “Influencers these days are talking about multiple brands. For their followers to actually differentiate information, a plain text from them becomes a challenge. More creative the post, higher chances of it getting noticed.”

Kumar explained that even if you are a big brand don’t put the brand first but the idea in your communication. There are also a few exceptions like if there is a sale on Amazon or Flipkart, you could say Flipkart sale or Amazon sale.

Dingra added, “Influencer marketing plan should be very detail oriented. What you are doing and for whom you are doing, make sure to have unique content for each and very influencer. Influencers probably need to be briefed about their role in the campaign and the freedom to add their own level of information and not just pre-created content alone.”

Measuring ROI on influencer marketing is difficult
Is influencer marketing that powerful to gain more customers simply by using the help of bloggers and celebrities outreach who have a number of followers on certain social media platform? When it comes to influencer marketing, brands have been speculating for a long time regarding the return of investment. This question seems to haunt a large number of brands.

Gopa Kumar said, “It is very difficult for us to do any mapping apart from word of mouth, engagement, the virality of it. Internationally, companies are doing artificial intelligence marketing with the influencers. In the west, measurement of influencer marketing is becoming more scientific, but in India, it will take time.”

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