Picture: 123RF/SKDESIGN
Picture: 123RF/SKDESIGN

We are living in the age of influence. Some of the largest brands doing an equity play in advertising have influencers at the helm, driving their brand messaging over the short or long term.  SA’s pool of celebrity big names, television personalities, musicians and mega-creatives are pulling the big brands.

But are influencers with the largest followings the best route to go?

If you have deep pockets, getting big names to the negotiation table is as simple as naming the number and watching the Insta-stories switch from brand X to brand Y – contract dependent.  Long-term relationships in this space are highly valuable, and can prove a great reach channel for the brand.

However, the big hitters are only an option for a few large brands and there is growing concern about the credibility of influencers with a smorgasbord of loyalties on their posting schedules. There are other ways to skin the social media cat, so the route many brand managers are taking is working with “micro-influencers”.

John Beale. Picture: SUPPLIED
John Beale. Picture: SUPPLIED

Pernod Ricard SA has, for quite some time, seen the value in top-quality smaller networks that are highly engaged. We have the country’s leading brand ambassador team, all with relatively small followings in comparison to the big names. They energetically promote our leading premium spirits brands through their social media networks, engaging consumers in real life and educating them through real-time content that shows high rates of engagement. They also post lifestyle and educational content on their social media channels to grow their reach.

In every way, the large-scale influencers (1-million-plus followers) have high reach but engagement rates that are in line with or well below the average 1%-3% you see on branded accounts. Online reputation management tools that map networks of influencers show that large-scale influencers don’t necessarily provide the long-term reach, but drive massive peaks in conversation that drop off quite quickly as the next conversation topic takes over.

In comparison, medium-micro influencers show consistently higher engagement rates on average.   They also have more meaningful conversation, as responses can be better managed on a smaller scale.

The trend for more authenticity and more “real me” in the Insta-fake world means micro-influencers that curate content showing transparency and relevance to their real lives deliver higher-quality engagement.  This translates, in my opinion, to higher-quality connections in the influencer-brand-consumer triangle.

The big take-out

It’s the age of influence and only those who can legitimately harness that influence will win the hearts and minds of consumers. 

The tough job for marketers, should they want to focus on micro-influencers, will be to push their agencies to really go out and hunt for those influencers who match their brand credentials, who aren’t multi-brand advocates and who provide reach outside of the obvious space, Instagram.  YouTube-, vlog- and podcast-driven influencers are on the rise, and well-established influencers in this space are there, ready to work with brands.

For their part, influencers need to be open to engaging with brands beyond pure monetary transactions.  Look at building relationships, with longer-term rewards.  And focus on showing return on the brands’ investment through key performance indicators such as coupon code redemption, engagement, click-through rates or reach rewards.

John Beale is the head of communications at Pernod Ricard SA