With the rise of social networks we have seen the emergence of a new breed of celebrity – the ‘Instafamous’. Where once movie stars, pop stars or ‘super models’ were idolised and seen as aspirational, now social media influencers are working their way to the fore. Generation Z live and breathe technology using Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter to ‘connect’ with their idols instead of turning to glossy magazines, TV, concerts and catwalks to get a glimpse of how the other half live. Social has made ‘traditional’ idols more accessible and opened the doors for new ‘online influencers’ such as bloggers, fashionistas, fitness trainers and more who now boast thousands and millions of ‘followers’.
As such, brands are increasingly implementing influencer marketing strategies as part of their communications plans, however there’s more to it than looking at ‘vanity metrics’. When creating social campaigns to promote a business, product or service, it can be easy to ‘piggyback’ on activities rolled out by people claiming a large follower base. It goes without saying that working with celebrities and influencers on social media can give a brand or product a great deal of reach due to the huge number of followers that certain individuals might have, however, overall reach is irrelevant to a campaign if no one it reaches is paying attention or want to buy your product or service. When looking at suitable influencers to engage with on a social media campaign, paying attention to what really matters – the quality and relevance of the following, and the engagement the influencer has proven to generate – is therefore essential.
Quality vs Quantity
When choosing influencers to work with, it is important to consider whether their followers are genuine. It is far more beneficial to use an influencer with less followers, but who has an active and relevant audience that engages with their content, rather than an influencer with double the followers who only generates likes and generic comments through bots and fake accounts. Plus you can buy thousands of followers for a couple of $$$ so some due diligence before engaging with a so-called influencer is important. Accounts with more followers will probably return higher reach and impression statistics (meaning more people have seen your message – the vanity metrics we mentioned earlier) but these are not valuable when it comes to connecting with an audience, or encouraging individuals to communicate with your brand or product – although they have seen it, they have not engaged with it.
Types of engagement
There are four key types of engagement with social posts, and some are more valuable than others:
When a member of your target audience reacts to a social post through a like or a favourite, it is them simply acknowledging that they have seen it and might agree with whatever the post includes. This is the easiest type of engagement to get as it requires very little effort, and does not require a social media user to make any real connection to a brand whatsoever. The aim for a brand would be to push this recognition at least one step further into ‘alliance’.
Where a social media user openly connects themselves to you. This can be through a comment, a tag or a reply. This type of engagement is far more valuable than the recognition engagement, as this is a real response that somebody has taken time to construct and post in relation to your brand or account, not simply a double tap or thumbs up as they scroll through the infinite timeline that is social media today.
The most valuable when it comes to social engagement. This is where somebody views your content and wants to share or retweet it to their follower base. This is a huge nod to a successful campaign, as this action shows that the social media user is willing to share your message to their own audience that they have no doubt worked very hard to build.
The ultimate goal for a business using social media. This is where a user performs an action beyond simply engaging with your social media campaign by clicking a link through to your website, or following a similar call to action. This can result in them buying something, downloading something or reading something – whatever the original goal for the campaign was.
How to generate valuable engagement
If a campaign’s success is based on reach and likes, then putting a product on a celebrity Instagram account will no doubt achieve it. However, reaching huge amounts of people who may or may not be interested in your products or services can be very expensive and extremely wasteful. You could be paying thousands of pounds to get thousands of likes on a picture through a celebrity, but this may generate no connection or action from your target market. Essentially plonking a product on a celebrity social media account as a ‘one off’ is expensive. Although it may be quick to secure ‘likes’ and impressions if it ultimately doesn’t engage an audience then what is the point? Scott Disick’s post about the ‘BOOTEA’ drink is a prime example of how easily celebrities can get likes on a product as this post achieved nearly 5,000 likes, even though the caption went very wrong. This just proves that this kind of post is unlikely to connect and incite action amongst a particular demographic, so although it was likely to be expensive and did generate lots of recognition engagement, it is unlikely to progress to users buying the product.
In order to generate quality engagement a company must therefore develop relationships with influencers and celebrities with a genuine following, and work only with those who believe in what their brand stands for. Consistently striving to develop ongoing and authentic storytelling partnerships that communicate your message, and make your target audience feel something. By doing this, their community of followers is much more likely to respond to posts via stronger methods of engagement, and not simply ‘like’ posts because a celebrity put it there. Achieved successfully, your target demographic will pay attention to what your brand and brand ambassadors are saying and are therefore much more likely to commit to higher forms of engagement – and ultimately create a much more meaningful connection with your brand.