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The truth behind influencer marketing

Although Kuwait has developed a reasonably large number of influencers and social celebrities over the last few years given the size of the country, influencers have been around since the early 2000s, mainly in the form of blogs which were the earliest and most primitive forms of social media. While a lot of them were forced to either shut down or transition from a blog to a more sophisticated, inclusive and engagement-friendly version of it i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. aka social media, some like 248am have managed to stay alive, stay relevant and reinvent themselves with sound content strategies to retain the interest of their followers.

It was only in the last five years that we have seen a dramatic boom in the amount of Instagram and YouTube celebrities who tout products and services on their feeds while they showcase their daily lives, visually documented for posterity on their channels. After they first started out, when these guys told you that the new coffee shop that opened down the street served the best flat white coffee, you believed them. It was a simpler time back then it was more about letting people know about the best and the worst places to eat, shop and hang out.

These guys didn’t have any ulterior motive other than help the community and maybe somewhere down the line, make a few extra bucks for their trouble. The problem started when a certain set of people gained overnight popularity on their Instagram and YouTube feeds and started making quick cash for recommendations and endorsements.

While they made a big dent in the advertising industry in the earlier years, lately users have started doubting their intentions and their sincerity. The question is: Would you pay big money to someone to talk about your products and services and “influence” people to buy them? While I am personally not a big fan of influencers, I have to admit that there is some value to it if done the right way and I speak from personal experience. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Make sure your chosen one identifies with your brand based on their history and lifestyle.

It is imperative that your influencer should embody your brand in some way that is believable to your users as well as theirs. At the end of the day, your followers should believe that the influencer you’ve chosen really uses your product. This works the other way round as well; the influencers’ followers should believe in that as well. If there is even a slight disconnect here, not only will the campaign fall to pieces but the credibility of both parties will suffer.

Instead of looking for pure vanity metrics, try to look for tangible conversations that can help generate some buzz for your brand.

At the start of the Influencer marketing era, everyone was obsessed with numbers without any justification. So if an influencer charged you an amount, he or she was going to post something about your product on their feed and try to endorse your brand to their followers. While this tactic worked in the beginning, it has become increasingly difficult to generate interest for brands purely based on likes and comments. As users have got smarter, they want to not only see usability but some kind of interaction between the brand’s and the influencer’s account where there can be an exchange of traffic. So in addition to building a strong association, you also end up getting new followers that identify with your brand and may one day become your customers.

Use Influencers as a tactic to compliment your marketing strategy; do not use it as the only strategy

Many brands make the mistake of only using influencers to market their products and services and totally ignore other channels. While this may work in the short term, it will definitely end up hurting the brand in the long run. The key is to use influencers in conjunction with your existing marketing touch-points to accentuate the advantages and benefits of your product in a relateable way. At the end, influencers are not an instant solution to your marketing strategy. You may see a quick spike in sales for the day or week but this is not the metric to judge the success of a campaign as it is not sustainable in the long run. The right way is to use it is in conjunction with a high level of creativity and relevance to your target audience on a regular basis with a focus in mind; that is when it will truly start to show results.

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