How looking beyond the obvious when choosing an influencer for your campaign can pay dividends
by Eunice Cheng
It seems like there are countless influencers out there, setting trends and leading discussions on all types of subject matter (seriously, there’s even a YouTube channel with almost 1.8 million followers that’s dedicated to destroying random items with a powerful hydraulic press). In fact, 60% of YouTube subscribers say they would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite YouTube creator over a traditional celebrity, and influencer marketing content delivers 11 times ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
While we all know that influencers are big, just what exactly is an influencer, and how do we choose the right ones to work with to create a unique storyline that isn’t easily replicable by competitors and creates truly impactful campaigns? Let’s start from the beginning.
What is an influencer? Simply put, an influencer is someone (or in some cases, a cat) who can influence decision-making through traditional or social media. Based on how many people they reach and engage with, influencers can roughly be categorized into three groups:
- Mega-Influencers: These are the actors and athletes that many call celebrities. In large countries like the US, they would have over 1 million followers. While they are great for impression and awareness purposes, they usually have low brand relevance and drive little desired actions from the audience, with only around 2%-5% engagement per post.
- Macro-Influencers: These are the bloggers or executives with around 10,000 – 1 million followers. They usually have higher topical relevance with category-specific influence such as gaming or business, driving 5% – 25% engagement per post, with the ability to drive better desired action from the audience.
- Micro-Influencers: These are the everyday consumers that are the most approachable. Despite having only around 500-10,000 followers, they have the highest brand relevance, with the highest ability to drive desired action from the audience. Their high resonance is usually driven by their personal experience with the brand, driving around 25% – 60% engagement per post.
Now, let’s get down to business. How do we choose the right influencers?
In Asia, many brands go after the ‘big fish’ without carefully evaluating their relevance to the product or audience. This is when you see a popular boy band advertising a mysterious green algae powder, where no connection between the influencer and the brand can be observed. Not only does this not help the brand reach the right audience, the random selection doesn’t help you build a campaign that is truly impactful. In short, it’s just money down the drain.
Here are 3 pointers when selecting the right influencers:
- Know thy audience: The worst thing you can do is target everybody. Based on your product and service’s key differentiators, can you pinpoint who your target audience is, who they engage with, what channels they use, or any of their cultural nuances? The more you know about your audience, the more unique of a storyline, message, and campaign you can craft and identify the right influencers.
- Find the unique connection between your brand/product and your influencers: If you were selling cameras, would you simply find the most popular photographer on Instagram and hope it goes viral? This approach makes your product easily replaceable by that of your competitors, and it certainly wouldn’t leave a strong impression of your brand with your target audience.
When I say unique, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every feature of the product has to address the influencer’s pain points, or that your product must offer something no other brands can offer. It simply means there needs to be a unique story angle that connects your brand/product with the influencers, making this influencer program uniquely yours. This is especially important when B2B brands want to engage with influencers, and when the products are not exactly, sexy.
- Strategically plan how you would structure your group of influencers: How would you plan it if you had 10,000 dollars to spend on your influencer program? Do you find five influencers that all charge more or less 2K? Or do you find one mega-influencer, burn all your budget with one tweet and hope it goes viral? While there’s no one-size-fit-all solution, it is important to think strategically about the type and number of influencers you want to work with, and how you want to position and structure them in a way that’s most effective in amplifying your campaign. For example, what would be the difference if you spent 2K on five macro-influencers each to attend a press event, as opposed to 7K on one mega-influencer and 3K on four micro-influencers? The way you structure your army is just as important as selecting the best soldier.
Earlier this year, I planned and executed an influencer program for a hard drive company, with the goal of raising awareness and educating the general public on the importance of data storage. Building on the client’s existing initiative on cultural preservation, we identified an unusual advocate for data storage ― a Taiwanese art conservationist. Our thinking worked as follows: when you consider hard drives, they essentially create a space which can preserve human legacy for all time. Hence, we drew a connection between data storage and art conservation, as both preserve the works of mankind for the future. The art conservationist was especially fitting at the time as there was a rising sentiment for protecting local culture and art in Taiwan. The art conservationist was not only working with us to help promote the brand, but also leveraging our platform to advocate an important message – the importance of an art conservation database for the preservation of art and culture.
This unique connection proved to be effective and impactful. Not only were we able to generate interest among viewers (with Facebook comments such as “we definitely need extra protection using external hard drives for valuable data,” to “databases are especially important for cultural preservation”), we were also able to achieve 450K views and 2.75% click-through rate on Facebook (average click-through rate for post for all industries is 0.9%) in a small island called Taiwan!
We managed to achieve this result not because we had a lot of funding or because we had a sexy product to publicize. On the contrary, our budget was relatively small and data storage isn’t the most pulse-quickening of subjects. But what we did was to think outside of the box to understand the cultural nuances of the audience and draw a distinct connection and storyline between the brand and our influencer that may not at first appear obvious. But now that we own that specific conceptual space, if any competitor agency replicated it for their own hard drive campaign it wouldn’t be data storage – it’d be data theft.