Influencers are popping up left and right nowadays. The barrier to being an influencer is really low. You just need a phone and internet access. Success is another story but it is not the point of this article.
Another term for influencers is key opinion leader (KOL). Influencers are content creators that have a following that they are able to induce action. It usually includes a purchase of a product or service. These influences can be individuals, a group or even an entire team behind a lifestyle brand or website.
80% of marketing professionals say that influencer marketing is effective and 89% of them say that it is as effective or more effective as other forms of marketing. Zoomers, the youngest consumer group and the indicator of future consumption trends, trust influencers. They are the first group that trusts influencers more than forums.
Influencers can either have hundreds or millions of followers and still fit in the current marketing landscape. In this article, we will look at the reasons why influencers are so powerful.
If you are sick of ads, you probably have some form of ad blocker installed. 41.3% of internet users in Singapore make use of ad blockers to block most ads. The common ads that we can block are display or banner ads, YouTube ads, search engine ads and social media ads. Advertisers won’t be able to reach this group of users via these categories of ads. This is where influencers come in.
Advertisers can directly reach an audience via influencers without the risk of an ad blocker blocking the ad. It is also possible that when most ads are already blocked, you will not expect ads to appear, especially in an ad format that is less obvious.
Content First, Ad Second
Besides being not detected as an ad by an ad blocker, influencer content can look more like an organic post instead of an ad. Consumers are now more aware of ads direct from brands and will pull up their “defences” once they smell an ad. Ads that are intrusive or too frequent might even backfire on the company where some consumers will actively avoid their products.
Skilful influencers are able to package the ad with content. The content should be entertaining enough to cover the “stink” of an ad. They will focus on content and try to fit in the ad naturally so that it looks less forced.
An organic ad looks less commercialized and is more acceptable to the consumer. Therefore the ad has a higher chance of inducing the consumer to perform an action (visit/follow brand social media or website, make a purchase etc) after viewing the ad. I feel that consumers generally view posts from influencers as non-ads, compared to traditional video or banner ads.
It can also work the other way, depending on the style of the influencer. Some influencers even exaggerate their emotions during the ad and outright thank the advertiser for sponsoring the segment, which becomes entertainment by itself.
There are also consumers who watch live streams as entertainment. There are live streams that can range from entertainment-based (e.g. gaming, cooking) to fully commercial (e.g. auctions, selling) and everything in between. The commercial live streams will include some form of entertainment to entertain the audience. A good example would be Wang Lei with his famous seafood sales.
Imagine watching the shopping channel for leisure. No matter how high your “defences” are, you will succumb to the sales pitch and make a purchase one day.
Effective Targeting Based On Niche
Depending on the company, they can also find an influencer that has a specific niche and style that fits their customer persona. The ad published will be in the same category as the usual content created by the influencer. The followers of an influencer follow them because they like their content and trust their “expertise” in their niche. If a company wants to sell fitness products, it will look for a fitness influencer. These ads will be better accepted by the consumer as there is a higher chance that the product will be something that they are interested in.
Lack Of Time And Energy
We only have 24 hours a day and we don’t have time and energy to research every product that we want to buy. After working 40 or more hours a week, the time outside work is dedicated to rest and leisure. We do not want to spend precious time and effort outside work to compare products.
These influencers are the go-to place for information for their own niches like fitness, lifestyle and tech. It is easier to rely on someone else to do the research for us. If you trust the influencer, you will place weight on their recommendations and depend on them to fulfil a portion of your purchase deliberations. These influencers are the go-to place for information for their own niches like fitness, lifestyle and tech.
Some content creators can even come up with a list for you to choose from. Examples would include a top 10 ranking for ramen or buffets, the best tablets below S$500 or even the Michelin guide.
The Michelin guide is a FREE curated list of the top restaurants which basically acts as an ad for the F&B industry of that location. Our very own Singapore Tourism Board has worked with the tire company to bring the food guide to Singapore which can boost both local and tourist spending at the locations listed.
Some consumers treat influencers’ content as entertainment, which provides an additional vector of attack, on top of the “research vector”, to influence purchase decisions.
Influencers can have a sticky audience that will support them as they want to continue seeing content from the influencers. These influencers have audiences that watch their content and participate in the community regularly. Some influencers also interact frequently with their audience, building a strong relationship. The audience will buy the products advertised by their favourite content creators to show their support. Instead of just advertising generic products, there can also be collaborations between influencers and corporations to develop a personalized product. These campaigns can be very successful. The BTS X McDonald’s meal helped increase global sales by 41% in Q2 2021.
The purchases will not only directly benefit the influencer at the moment, but will also show current and future advertisers that the content creator is an effective influencer, bringing more opportunities in the future.
Compared to traditional advertising and other forms of digital ads, influencer marketing can more cost-effective. There are higher conversion rates and the targeting of the ads can be highly accurate. Depending on the company’s budget and strategy, they can choose from influencers with a variety of followings.
They can be classified as the following.
|Influencer Type||Followings (Cheap To Expensive)|
|Nano-influencer||1k – 10k|
|Micro-influencer||10k – 50k|
|Mid-influencer||50k – 500k|
|Macro-influencer||500k – 1m|
A start-up with a limited budget can choose to engage with multiple nano-influencers to help get their brand out there. Small and new influencers might be willing to share their product for free if they just send them some free merch to review or test out. These new influencers will be willing to do these marketing campaigns for free or very low cost as it can help them gain legitimacy when other corporations look at their profile plus they also get the product for free.
There are also paid tools to check if there are overlaps between different influencers so that a company can reach a wider audience, without wasting marketing dollars on the same person.
How To Spot Ads Posted By Influencers?
Although there are guidelines by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore, there is no strict enforcement of declaring their posts as ads unless there are complaints. Personally, sponsored posts look very obvious and I can identify them from a mile away. Here are two hints that a piece of content might be an ad.
A responsible influencer should tag and highlight that the content is sponsored. Sometimes these content creators only highlight that it is an ad at the end of the article. This will make you finish consuming the content without treating it as an ad. If you don’t have “ad spider senses” when there isn’t a clear declaration, you might even treat an ad as an organic truthful recommendation by the creator.
The copywriting can be less natural and it can sometimes have an artificially excited tone. The tone will be different from their usual content. Every line will be curated to highlight the product’s features and benefits. No matter how natural it can be, you should hopefully be able to sense that it is a sales pitch. There can also be hashtags and promo codes to help the company track the results of the campaign. Finally, there will also be a call-to-action like following a page or buying a product.
Staged Product Placement
The influencer will attempt to make it look natural while incorporating the brand and product in the content created. Things rarely happen by accident and if an influencer decides to post a certain piece of content, you can be pretty sure that it is on purpose. Being an influencer is their job and they know what works and don’t. Every piece of content is curated and even a “simple selfie” without commercial intent can take multiple shots to get the perfect angle before they get posted. If the product cannot be seen clearly, it will be less effective and the advertiser will not be happy.
Coupled with the copywriting, promo codes and affiliate links, you can be sure that it is an ad.
Warning For Businesses
Not all influencers are as effective as you think. Being an influencer is such a potentially well-paying gig that some people are willing to “cheat” to help them get to a successful level. They will fake it, till they make it. Here are some warnings for businesses planning to look to utilize influencer marketing.
Fake Followers And Engagement
Followers can not only be bought but also be artificially pumped up by holding contests and giveaways. When an influencer performs a giveaway, criteria can include following the page, commenting and sharing the post. This can spike their following but these followers are only one-off and they are only here for the contest. These followers usually do not unfollow after that.
A good way to check would be to check the engagement rate. A good engagement rate [(likes+comments)/follower count] is about 2 – 3%. A company should also check for follower spikes and check the reason why.
The bad news is that engagement can also be faked. Check for filler comments by bots and fake accounts that have no meaning or are just filled with emojis. These comments can be made by real people but it is highly unlikely plus these commenters are less engaged with the post, which is less useful to the business.
There are groups of influencers, usually small ones, that help boost up each other. These influencer pods help like and comment on each other’s posts to increase engagement and to help in the discovery algorithm. They communicate via private chats and closed groups. Once they post a piece of content, they notify the pod to let everyone in the group engage with their post. This is really hard to spot as influencers can also naturally comment on other influencers’ posts.
Fake Sponsored Content
Influencers can also build legitimacy by creating fake sponsored content. They can show other corporations that they are capable of coming up with sponsored content and that they have experience working with a real brand. It is hard to verify the legitimacy unless you know someone from the company or can spot inconsistencies in the content.
Warning For Individuals
So after you know how strong influencer marketing is, you should take the necessary steps to protect your wallet.
You should always try to buy based on rational thought and based on your needs and wants. Don’t make a purchase with the sole purpose of supporting your favourite content creator. Treat it as a bonus that you are also supporting the content creator and not treat it as the sole purpose of buying something. They obviously know how powerful their influence is. They have all the statistics on how well their posts are doing, commercial or not.
You can treat them as entertainment but they are not your friends. They value their own self-interests over you. It is true that some influencers have your interests at heart and only share products that are useful for their audience.
This provides a win-win-win situation where the consumer, influencer and advertiser win. However, it can be hard to differentiate the good ones from the bad. Protect yourself and don’t trust and idolize influencers blindly.
Influencer marketing is no different from an ad you see on tv, they are still ads. Is it a true recommendation or are they just paid to do so?
Influencers have a tight following that trusts them. They are highly effective in inducing an action out of their followers. No matter how organic influencer marketing is, they are still ads. It can be easy to spot an ad by influencers if you know what to look out for. Being an influencer is potentially very profitable and some of them fake it till they make it. Always make a decision based on your wants and needs, not the influencer’s.
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