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Essays

Almost famous

MEC’s Shareen Attavar talks fans, followers and the growth of influencer marketing.

Shareen

In the social realm I consider myself to be a closet introvert, which is why I am intrigued by the ability of influencers to not only connect with so many ‘friends’ (fans and followers) but more significantly their innate capability to be a catalyst of virality. Their following is built on a foundation of trust – they are opinionated and it counts, literally. But more on that later.

Everybody everywhere seems to be in a rush. All while being exposed to countless advertising messages. And to top it off they are switching between their computer screens, cell phones, newspapers, magazines tablets, televisions and whatever else catches their attention for the little time they seem to have. It appears everyone suffers from media attention defecit hyperactivity disorder. Multitasking has made consumers’ fleeting attention span even harder to catch. While consumers are developing a blind spot for ads, marketers struggle to be of relevance.

People only engage with a brand when they perceive some value in return, which is why a brand’s ability to consistently provide and curate relevant content is of growing necessity. Creation of quality content is only step one. The distribution of
content is of equal, if not more, importance.

A paid push through the regular popular channels always helps in generating mass reach. But the conversation has to be advanced and for that we have to call in the ‘experts’ – influencers.

With the advent of the social revolution, the paradigm of power is shifting from the hands of the brand to the consumer’s fingertips. With customers increasingly turning to their peers to make informed purchase decisions, as a consequence the potential power of influencers also increases. A Nielsen study substantiates this, citing how ‘‘84 per cent of worldwide consumers will take action based on the reviews and recommendations of trusted sources above all forms of advertising’’. Influencer outreach unlocks a world of opportunities for brands, allowing them to directly connect with their audience and amplifying their message.

Their public appeal could be attributed to the notion of influencers being relatable. They are just normal everyday people. They are one of us or, better still, we could be one of them. Celebrity ambassadors would help generate mass reach. Although to initiate a more organic dialogue with consumers, brands believe that influencer marketing is the next big thing.

Now that we have established the importance of influencers, how do we identify and leverage them?

The key is to avoid placing the entire emphasis on just the numbers. The number of followers is irrelevant if: 1) Their field of expertise has no connection to your brand; 2) The engagement with their fans is low, which signifies a weak relationship.

Malcolm Gladwell summarises this in his book The Tipping Point with a simple formula: influence = audience reached (#followers) x brand affinity (expertise and credibility) x strength of the relationship with followers.

Paid tools like Littlebird or Followerwonk could assist with identifying and engaging with influencers. Or there is the more common route of connecting with boutique management agencies like Bukash Brothers, which is managed by the popular influencer Anas Bukash.

A simple yet effective example of influencer amplification was implemented during the teaser phase of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, managed by MEC. Curiosity stirred as a camouflaged car – escorted by Dubai Police – cruised around iconic locations popular with the core local audience. The only clue was the ‘#intrigued’ painted on the sides. Multiple influencers ‘spotted’ the car and Instagrammed pictures and videos with tailor-made hashtags. The campaign successfully activated buzz around the launch with 36 per cent of interactions being organic and over 112,000 likes.

The involvement of influencers with brands can also be much more extensive, as in the case of Michelle Phan. Starting off as a beauty blogger, Phan only made her first video tutorial after a reader requested a demonstration. Phan quickly became one of the most prominent beauty vloggers on YouTube and currently has more than 7.9 million subscribers. L’Oréal tapped into the opportunity, launching a make-up line co-designed and named after Phan in 2013.

Influencers are essentially content developers and the best way to leverage the partnership is to give them the freedom to exhibit their style and display their personality quirks instead of following stringent brand guidelines and the obvious name-dropping. Collaborative content is a great way to achieve the brand’s objectives while celebrating an influencer’s passion. Maggi diaries documented four women’s cultural and culinary journey across the region through a series of webisodes on YouTube. With 11 million views, the channel was the second fastest growing channel in the Middle East. The market share of Maggi also increased by 7 per cent. But the achievement lays in the conversations that Maggi diaries incited as innumerable women were inspired to add value to their current lives and now are emotionally inclined towards the brand.

It’s always all about the money and as marketers we know it all too well – ‘What is the budget?’

The rates range based on the influencers’ social standing and authority. For the region, it can start as low as $1,500 for a single post from a mid-level influencer. Content creator Jerome Jar – also known as the French guy, who has more than a million followers across each of his social platforms including Vine, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat – reportedly gets paid $30,000 for a single branded post (Source: NewsCred).

Like I said, an influencer’s opinion counts and I wouldn’t mind counting all that money, which is nudging me to step out of my socially-awkward closet. Besides, I’ve always wanted a walk-in wardrobe.

(Shareen Attavar is business unit director at MEC MENA)

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