Up until a couple of years ago, I wasn’t too convinced of the arising job title of “Social Media Influencer,” namely individuals with thousands (and possibly millions) of followers on Instagram, Snapchat, and/or Twitter who take to the digital channels to rave about their latest faves. Coming from the traditional 4/7Ps’ marketing mindset, grounded in endless nights of studying the foundations and dynamics of marketing, I had a good excuse. But, alas, the world is changing around me, and I had to adapt my perceptions accordingly. After all, these individuals worked diligently to continuously post on their social media platform(s) topics of interest to them, built a database of followers, and people who trusted their input. There are also those that created businesses out of their social media activities.
Which brought me to the next line of thought: should we consider Social Media Influencers a must for the success of the business? After all, their endorsement of a product/service causes the ripple effect of their thousands (if not millions) of followers to follow suit. Problem is, these Influencers typically get paid for their endorsements, to the point where you would not be able to tell the difference between the times this publicity is money-bought or self-driven.
Okay, it appears like I am attacking the integrity of the Influencers, but truth be said, would you be willing to place the reputation of your business into the Influencer’s (paid) hands? Also, aside from the financial aspect, you would also need to consider the best fit for your brand. Most “Influencers” specialize in a field, e.g. beauty, nutrition, micro & small business empowerment, etc., yet still some exist simply as a sounding board for all businesses. So how do you select your best representation: specialization, age, nationality, personal style, number of followers? Are they the ambassador you would like associated with your brand? How can you verify that you would indeed be reaching your target segment(s) within the followers’ pool? What if they don’t project your brand the way you had intended? What if their publicized views on some issues negatively impacts your brand and its association to the specific Influencer? Or, does the end justify the means, i.e. would the increase in sales/client figures be justifiable? So what would happen if the Influencer decided they are not into your product/service anymore and the love affair ends? Or had a “bad” experience as they were not treated like royalty by your people?
On the other end of the spectrum, and provided all goes well with the endorsement, take into consideration the rise in the Influencers’ power as promotion platforms, and assume they would indeed deliver as per your expectations. You would still need to be honest about whether your business is indeed ready for the spotlight the Influencers will shine. Do you have enough products in stock in anticipation of sales surge? Is your staff capable/empowered enough to deal with the increased number of inquiries? Will you be maintaining the relationship with the Influencer, or would this be another ad-hoc activity carried out by your business with no specific target in mind but rather for the “show” effect?
Bottomline here is:
Build a brand worth embracing, ground the business with core values and consistent delivery, integrate your brand message consistently across the various communication platforms, stand out with impeccable products/services, and thus every employee, supplier, and client you get would become your Brand