Finding the influencer for your brand

I was recently conducting a workshop on digital marketing and while we were just at Instagram 101, some of the first few questions that I was asked were –

How to earn money from my Instagram page?

How to make brands pay me?

We have heard brands pay thousands of rupees for just one Insta post, how do we get such deals?

I want to be an influencer, as social media influencers make lots of money by just posting a photo or writing few lines.

This from an audience who was just starting with Instagram and other social channels!

Quick money attracts anyone and the idea of being paid thousands for just writing few lines on Insta or blog sounds very lucrative but in reality, it’s far from true. 

Influencer marketing like any other channel of marketing requires some serious time and effort and unless you build your reach, credibility, and authority, there is no way you can establish yourself as a marketing channel. 

To add to that, in this age of content clutter and media overload, it’s extremely difficult to cut through the noise and stand out in the crowd. I am no influencer on Instagram or elsewhere, so I don’t think I can give sure shot insights on how to be an influencer but I have been on the other side of the table for almost 15 years now – hiring endorsers, brand advocates, and influencers for all the brands that I have worked with till now. So, I can definitely give some insight on what all I look for when I engage with influencers for my brands.

1. Relevance: For me, this is one of the top criteria while engaging with an influencer. There are enough debates around reach vs relevance but in my personal experience, the subject matter credibility and relevance of influencer’s target audience matter a lot. Think of a juice brand being promoted by a food blogger or fitness expert vs. a travel blogger? Juice is a category that has a possibility of being consumed by almost any kind of audience but as a follower, your perception towards receiving a recommendation for a juice brand by a fitness expert will be different than from a travel blogger.  

2. Reach: Of course reach is very important, no marketing channel can survive without sufficient reach but reach doesn’t mean only a very high number of followers. Reach is also a lot about engagement and interactions per post. For e.g., I definitely do a quick check on the quality of interactions on influencer’s last ten sponsored posts as one of the parameters to evaluate the effectiveness of the promoted content by the influencer. 

3. Persona: Your brand has a persona and it’s extremely important to find influencers whose personas resonate with your brand. From the tone of voice to the type of content – it helps if influencers persona is aligned with the brand. While this sounds very simple but in reality, it’s quite a task to find the right fit. For a long time, I have been working for a photography brand. Now photography is a category, where almost anyone and everyone thinks he/she is an influencer. In this age of easy access to high-end cameras and millions of editing apps, it actually takes a few seconds to create gorgeous photos for your Insta feed. But I have observed it many times that just the ability to click perfect shots or having a large number of followers doesn’t necessarily translate to being an effective influencer for a photography brand. Sometimes the tonality doesn’t suit our brand and sometimes the quality of content. Finally, this is also a marketing channel and like any other marketing initiative, it’s important to have consistent brand persona while engaging with influencers too.

4. Content: The ability of influencer to create unique and authentic content is something very, very important for me. Influencer marketing is not only about promoting brand content as it is, but it’s a lot about engaging users with original content that’s relevant for brands as well as interesting for the audience. The more genuine the content would be with Influencer’s natural tone of voice, the more audience will trust. Influencer’s ability to create interesting content is a huge value ad to brand’s social media repository of user-generated content. There are many examples to highlight the same but one of the recent brands that I noticed doing it efficiently is Epigamia Yogurt. Many food bloggers participated in this campaign and they created beautiful Yogurt Art using Epigamia products and posted it on Instagram with hashtag #yogArt . Not only followers like me came to know of all the new flavors of Epigamia but we also got to know of many interesting ways this yogurt can be used in our day to day meals. And the best that I observed as a marketer was the gorgeous Insta feed of Epigamia – full of super creative user-generated photos using Epigamia products that would have otherwise taken huge time and investment for the brand to create! I know there are many brands who have created success stories like Epigamia but we also know of cases, like that of a recent mobile launch in India where almost all endorsers, celebrities, and influencers posted the same type of content on their social feed including the one where the influencer was praising the picture quality of this android phone but the picture was posted from an iOS :-). 

5. Connect: The term “influencer” by definition is a person who has the ability to influence the behavior or opinions of others and it can only happen if the influencer shares a certain kind of relationship and connect with his / her audience. It’s important to evaluate the return visitors, comments, and quality of interaction between the influencers with their followers. And as far as authentic connect is concerned, there is no way one can do it through any shortcut, it has to be human and it has to be personal.

These are just some of the parameters that I take into consideration. I am sure others have some more parameters as well. In nutshell, it takes a whole lot of effort to be an influencer with credibility after whom brands run with a fat cheque. At least I haven’t met any real-life influencer yet who became an overnight success through quick hacks or digital bot programs :-).

Image from Pinterest

The persuasive power of visual storytelling

Visual storytelling works — from brands to babies. It has always worked for almost any kind of audience since ages but in this age of digital excess, it’s working like never before. Having spent good number of years in photography and digital industry, I can safely say that from communicating to comprehending, visuals have now become the prime language for many.

My personal litmus test for the power of visual storytelling? My 5 year old :-). 3 scenarios that are regular in my household-

I narrate a story to him;

I narrate a story to him and show him the pictures;

I narrate a story to him, show him the pictures and then let him play with his book asking to observe the pictures for few seconds;

Without fail, connect as well as recall of the stories are highest in the third scenario.

Ah that’s why I say, no one can teach you management or consumer behavior lessons better than children, I think most of the parents out here will agree to this 🙂.

Still need some attestations on the power of visuals?Read More

If Instagram would have been a place

Image Credit: https://unsplash.com/@aows

Just because it’s easy, let’s do it and just because it’s cheap, let’s plaster all over the media. We have seen this happening earlier with other digital channels and we can see this happening now with Instagram too. It’s quick to start and pause, so why to spend time in planning or thinking? When I see these poorly shot or awfully cropped pictures in a sponsored post, I cringe. When I see the messages so long that you need to zoom or a sponsored posts that only speak of X% discounts, I wonder why? I understand the general impulse of — “Instagram is popular, let’s do a campaign there”, but considering it’s a sponsored post and that too with such high frequency, I am assuming there is money being spent with some business objectives in mind. Then, why not spend some time in understanding the platform and engaging with your audience accordingly?Read More

Social Media ‘Experts’! Really?

I had thought to write a post on this earlier too but for some or other reason never wrote one. But my last few interactions at different occasions made me think about this term Social Media “Experts” yet again. “Experts” and that too with 6-7 years of experience in Social Media! Like really? Every time I hear this term, I feel exactly same as when I hear about being Startup “Gurus” from the mouths of those who have never run or worked in a startup even once.

Was interacting with this one such so-called expert who is supposedly consulting many startups on marketing and social media strategies. Well, in the name of expertise all that he had to offer was ideas to increase “likes” on Facebook pages. To add to that, one of his ‘killer’ strategies for low cost marketing was make ‘viral’ films for clients. If I have to quote verbatim – “we make viral films for clients which will increase their fans on their Facebook pages”. Felt like telling – dude, being an expert the least you could have done is avoided using jargons like “make viral films”. I have no idea what does that really mean? I think you can only make films and expect it to go viral, how exactly can you “make a viral film” directly? Needless to mention that at least I have not come across any of the viral films made by them naturally on my FB or Twitter timeline.

Attended a small meet on flexi-working culture in India last weekend, intro round of marketing professionals and here it was – 7 out of 10 participants were “Social Media Experts”! Did a quick check, one of them was somewhat active on twitter, two had less than 200 followers and remaining four were not even present on twitter. While interacting with them, realized that either they never felt the need to join Twitter or they joined but didn’t find it to be interesting enough to pursue. Yes, they all knew Facebook and Twitter but that was all about it! Few likes on whatever and few tweets on whatever gave them sufficient confidence to call themselves as “Social Media Experts”.

In yet another incident, a close acquaintance who has joined a luxury travel company in India in a senior position needed some inputs on his products and marketing. I got to analyze the product and past campaigns of the company and to my utmost surprise the company whose founders are based of India had actually spent lakhs and lakhs of rupees in online campaigns every month. The campaign was run by some digital marketing expert and in the name of online campaign, all that he did was Google SEM. In that too, client has been charged on cost per lead basis with an explanation that Google charges it like that and with rates as high as… well no idea for reference point as in my experience I have never heard of such high lead rates ever! Don’t even want to go into details of campaign management rather mismanagement, as I think it has the potential to become an independent case study on what not to do in SEM campaigns. To just give you a sneak peak – neither the campaign was configured anywhere in analytics nor the campaign code was enabled on landing or any other page for tracking! And this was of course done by yet another “expert”, yes his Linkedin profile does contain the word expert prominently :-).

Not that the misuse of this term is anything new to us but I think with each passing day, there is a noticeable growth in the number of these so called experts around us. Having managed social media accounts for companies where I have worked and few other brands, I think I can share at least my views on evaluating any candidate for social media management in general. Well this post is long enough for now, I will be back with my thoughts in a subsequent post soon.

Facebook URLs – Good for personal branding

Which one sounds better? http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/profile.php?id=123456&ref=profile (dummy id) or http://www.facebook.com/kanupriyasindhu? Clearly 2nd one, isn’t it?

With 3 million URLs in first 14 hours itself, Facebook’s launch of its username URL is definitely outdated news now. I was also one of those who decided to grab my username URL immediately but before I got my personal one I actually decided to create it for the brand I work for. Now there are many pages for this brand already on Facebook, one created officially by me earlier, some created by employees, some by fans of this service & some by dissatisfied customers, so this immediate rush to grab the official URL was definitely to ensure that the organization only gets the actual name before anybody else. And now that I’ve got it, I think I definitely like this feature. Here are some of the reasons why I think it’s a cool feature esp. from branding perspective:

  • It’s a good feature for individual branding. We use our social media URLs on different communication platforms & a URL like http://www.facebook.com/company (dummy id) is easier to promote as compared to http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1122334455 (dummy id)
  • A branded URL will definitely help in climbing the ladder up in SEO. Just google your name / username & you can see the result.
  • A formal URL will now finally help in distinguishing an official page with others.  Earlier distinctions used to be just on the basis of some profile id numbers and there was hardly any individuality in those URLs.

Considering their huge popularity, it was one of the must-have functionalities which Facebook was lacking behind as compared to say a linkedin or twitter. Though late in its launch but still it’s a welcome change from Facebook. In case you’ve not set your username URL till now, go & grab one here.