Over the past two decades, social media has become an integral part of people’s lives, and a crucial way for brands to reach new audiences. In the past five years, various brands have collaborated with social media influencers across different channels to generate awareness.
Over that time, influencer marketing is reported to have grown from an ancillary marketing tactic to a $5 billion to $10 billion industry worldwide.
Social media influencers are people who have built a loyal following through online content creation. Companies partner with them to promote brand awareness or conversions among a specific target audience through sponsoring an influencer’s online content, with the goal of endorsing their brand, product or service, and in some cases, to drive purchases.
With over one billion users, Instagram posts rank first among the most impactful channels of marketing, followed by Instagram stories, YouTube videos and Instagram videos, in that order.
With these statistics in mind, influencers have become more pressed to generate content that will set them apart from everyone else. More people are therefore looking to tap the seemingly easy way of making money.
But is it really easy?
Influencers have to do a lot before delivering their content: identify their target audience, keep up with current trends and look for the best possible way to produce the content.
Lifestyle influencer Joy Kendi, in a recent Instagram poll, was rated highly for her marketing skills on her social media platforms.
FRIENDS TURN FOES
With more than 200,000 followers on her social media platforms, Joy promotes beauty, travel, fashion, food and beverage brands.
She is the brand ambassador for Cîroc, a premium French vodka, and is also the face of Hidesign Maasai Collection.
One of Joy’s loyal followers, Miss Monzi, says the influencer has carved out her niche by paying attention to detail and being “relatable.”
“Have you seen Joy’s videos on Instagram? She goes out of her way to create her content,” says Miss Monzi.
But social media influence is fluid. When famous content creators fight, for instance, the winners and losers are dictated by the rise and fall of subscriber counts.
Influencers don't rise to fame in isolation. They develop as celebrities in real time, in front of a growing audience that expects to get to know their personal lives as they watch their make-up tips, for example.
And when famous friends become enemies, a content bonanza follows. As much as the friendships behind the drama might be real, destroying people’s reputations also gets views.
Take comedian Eric Omondi, for instance. He has recently been in the spotlight for his influence marketing for various brands. Some have described his videos as shabby, not humorous at all and sometimes disrespectful.
Some say Eric “tries too hard” to stay relevant.
In a recent promo for a cooking oil company, Eric appears clad in a blue two-piece bathing suit dancing and imitating singer and socialite Akothee.
Within hours of the release of the video, he trended on Twitter, with some tweeters criticising his work and others recognising it as pure genius.
“This lad doesn’t even possess an ounce of humour in him. Even when he dresses like a woman to be funny, he’s mediocre. Food bloggers can create brilliant content for this brand but someone somewhere chooses to spend their marketing ducats like this. Tragic,” said @Trackmann.
Another Twitter user, @_Kasabun, said: “I’m just trying to understand this market strategy. ‘ … so, I saw Eric Omondi on the interwebs dressed as a woman dancing with a litre of cooking oil and I immediately knew that’s the brand I need to purchase.’”
Yet @RonnyRonne tweeted, “Bills need to be paid.”
By the time the dust settled on this one, Eric was back, this time with Jacque Maribe, a journalist battling charges of murder in court, in a promo for travel agency Bonfire Adventures.
Up until the sponsorship, there had been only rumours that the two had a son. This was confirmed when they shared “family” photos while on a trip to Samburu.
But the involvement of the minor left tongues wagging with questions, with some seeing it as an unnecessary exposure of an innocent child in a commercial venture.
Some like Twitter user @itsRapeesmo saw it as brilliant marketing
@itsRapeesmo tweeted: “Nyinyi mnacheza na Eric Omondi (You take Eric Omondi for granted). His Marketing creativity is out of this world. Hii ni strategy tu (this is just a strategy), you people have bitten the bait.” This tweeter believes that the two influencers’ “reunion” was just a marketing gimmick for the brand.
But there are those whose posts are considered impactful.
In August, Kenyan YouTuber couple and influencers Shiko Nguru and Rama Oluoch wowed the internet with a 44-minute video documenting the delivery of their third child, which was done at home without the assistance of a midwife.
Their channel, The Green Calabash, which has about 60,000 subscribers, is a library of the family’s day-to-day video blogs. While this video was not marketing any brand, many viewers described this use of their channel as educational.
In a previous interview with the Nation, Janet Machuka, a media scientist and director with Sparks Corporate Consulting, highlighted three key things required of a modern-day influencer:
The beauty of social influencing is in its flexibility: You can represent as many brands as possible as long as you maintain distinct images for each brand.
Authenticity is key: More than ever before, consumption habits of a product are driven by how authentic it is. It is only through sharing accurate information that you build trust with your audience. No one will trust your brand if they suspect deception. If you wish to establish a lasting brand online, remember, the internet never forgets.
Expertise is indispensable: You must have the proficiency around the product and be credible. The job of an influencer stretches far beyond just having thousands of followers on social media. It is through connecting with the subject that you are able to appeal to your audience. The audience looks up to you to help them understand the functionality of a product.
Influencer marketing according to Big Commerce:
Influencer marketing content delivers 11 times higher return on investment than traditional forms of digital marketing.
Sixty five per cent of influencer marketing budgets, which is nearly two-thirds of marketers, planned to increase their spending in 2019.
Only 39 per cent of marketers planned to grow their influencer marketing budget in 2018.
Seventeen per cent of companies spend over half their marketing budget on influencers.
Eighty-nine per cent say the return on investment from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels.
The most common influencer budget is $1,000 — $10,000 per year, followed by $100,000 — $500,000 per year.