Battle of the Influencers

For people living in Dubai, they are no strangers to ‘social influencers’. In fact Dubai for being quite small probably has one of the highest number of influencers in the region which includes everything from fashion, fitness, lifestyle, health, style, make-up etc. In fact the number of influencers in the market is growing so rapidly that as a marketer it is quite hard to keep up. Nearly every other day on Instagram I discover a few more influencers while also being recommended other ‘similar’ profiles to follow. This does not make it an easy decision process when trying to source and identify the best influencers to work with especially since ‘influencer marketing’ is on the rise. So how do we identify the best or rather most suitable influencers to work with?

Firstly, who is really an influencer?
This can be quite tricky to establish. Previously, to be someone you had to have a certain level of credibility. This involved either a degree of education, work experience, references and social stature. However today an influencer is anyone who is popular or has achieved celebrity status, the Kardashians being such an example. But to come closer to home, while most influencers are indeed quite popular or active on the social scene, there are other people who showcase their interests which they are genuinely passionate about. They are influencers in their own right as they produce good quality content and attract people who are quite passionate about the topic as well. So find influencers who are passionate about the industry your brand is in. Influencers such as these care about their brand and reputation within their industry, their followers grow slowly but consistently. These kind of followers are more likely to stay for the long term than un-follow within a few days, the difference is quite noticeable when compared to some instagram accounts where their followers shoot up over night and does not grow consistently but in surges. So it would be a good idea to monitor a few accounts for a short time before approaching them.

This brings me to another point of the number of followers the account has. Today the number of people that follow you can be counted as your social currency. The more followers you have, ergo the more popular you are, and therefore the more you’re worth. But it is important to keep in mind that followers can be bought, and these followers are of value, so while it is important to look at the number of followers it is important to look at the engagement on each post, i.e. the number of  likes or comments. There is no point if the account has hundreds of thousands of followers but only gets a few hundred likes. Therefore good followers + good engagement = good influencer.

Highly popular and sought after influencers usually come with a hefty price tag. They are brand ambassadors and as such have managers and their own agents who negotiate on their behalf. While I understand a need for this (most influencers make a living through their endorsements) it is important to consider firstly your budget and how much you’re willing to pay for an endorsement but also how many brands that influencer endorses and how often. If an influencer promotes multiple brands quite often and for short periods of time, it is quite likely that after you considerably invest for an endorsement they will easily switch over to a competitor or any other brand that is willing to pay more, this does not put out a consistent message to followers. In fact it would be better to find a less popular influencer but with a stronger and more genuine following and have them endorse the brand at a reduced cost or at a similar budget except for a longer duration. on a side note, generally as a rule if an influencer is being paid they need to disclose this as it would be unfair to the consumers. Most regulators such as in the U.S. are citing this as a legal requirement. Google also mandates that bloggers should not be paid for creating backlinks to your site or promoting your product without any disclosure, and clearly influencers asking to be paid is in violation of this considering that social signals are factored and indexed by Google. While this rule is not clearly implemented in the Middle East, it would be interesting to see how long it would take to get here.

Once the negotiations are done and the influencer is to start, it is a good idea to lay out a general agreement of the number of posts to be done, frequency, and a general list of to do’s and don’ts . Along with it, a handy ‘influencer’ guide can be provided which has a background on the brand, hashtags to use, types of posts which can be done and examples of previous influencers (if any) or types of influencer posts you would like to see. This gives the new influencer a background where to start with and an overall style to follow.

So in short the important points to look out when selecting an influencer include:

  • Influencers whose interests match the brand
  • Good content along with genuine follower growth
  • Number of followers vs. Engagement rate
  • Cost vs Quality of influencer
  • Number of endorsements

I also came across this great article on ‘Seven influencer marketing strategies that work‘ by  which is a good read.

Do you have any feedback to share on your experiences with sourcing and managing influencers?