The consumer decision making process – Part 2

This is part 2 of the “consumer decision making process”

To review:

The consumer decision making process are the various stages a consumer goes through before they actually purchase a product, and includes: Need Recognition, Research, Evaluation / Comparison, Purchase and finally post purchase evaluation. The time between initial research and purchase is referred to as lead time. The lead time can vary between products and industries based on the cost, importance, emotional involvement of the product.

In the first part, I covered: Need Recognition and Product Research; which you can read about here: The consumer decision making process – Part 1

Evaluation / Comparison
In this stage, the consumer has now narrowed his options down to two or three brands and has to make a decision to purchase from one of these. Decision can not only be influenced by internal factors, but external factors as well, such as reviews and recommendations especially from friends. Facebook encourages people to check-in and leave reviews of different products or brands that you have experience with. Other industries  have other larger review sites such as Zomato for F&B or Trip Advisor for hospitality. These reviews can be shared onto Facebook to promote ‘good vibes’ of your brand. For others who are more price sensitive, it is at this stage that offers can be used to encourage purchase. Facebook provides an ‘offer’ ad type with a ‘buy now’ button which can be used to advertise an offer. In my experience however, a click to website ad type also works very well with offers as it is less direct and encourages people to find out more about the offer first rather than encouraging them to buy directly.
If you have your potential consumer’s email addresses, then a Facebook re-targeting campaign can be done to promote the offer to only those who were interested previously and visited the website. While an offer can be promoted to everyone, by being selective the conversion rate can be potentially higher.

Example – Emirates provides an offer with its Skywards points to encourage people to redeem and book – Now you need only half the usual number of Skywards Miles to make your next great escape. 

 

Purchase
Finally the customer is ready to purchase the product. This can be done on the website on in-store depending on the set up. Social Media can play a part of the purchase process in a few ways. The content to be posted in this stage is quite similar to Evaluation. This can be offers but with an added incentive such as a social media discount, or creating FOMO, or by re-targeting offers to previously interested customers.

 

Post- purchase Evaluation
Just because the customer has purchased the product that does not mean the process has concluded. In fact post-purchase is one of the most crucial stages as it determines whether your customer would be a one-off or a loyal one. While other factors such as brand, or product quality can have an impact, the company also has a role to play. Once the purchase is done, the company can follow up with them to check on customer satisfaction, they can actively encourage people to leave reviews on Facebook and to rate their product. While this can be a risk, in case of a bad product review, it does open an opportunity to engage the customer in solving their problems, get product feedback, replace the item if needed and get a positive review. In fact many people turn to social media to vent and voice their complaints if they are not satisfied. They might not always do this on the brand’s page, therefore it important to invest in a social media monitoring service which can pick up brand mentions from across any social channel giving the company an opportunity to engage and satisfy any unhappy customers, or find satisfied customers whom they can convert into potential brand ambassadors. Because of the dependency to use social media for customer service, brands must ensure they have adequate staff to reply to any complaints, or have a dedicated social channel purely for customer service. Well defined response times should be in place and monitored. Facebook now offers the ability to advertise and interested persons can reach out via Facebook messenger with any queries, if this is the case brands must be able to reply either in real time, or within 24 to 48 hours depending on the urgency and lead time of the product. Facebook provides analytics on response time, the number of messages received and the time taken to respond. All these can be used as KPI’s for customer service. If a customer is happy with their overall experience, they can be converted into loyal customers, which in essence means that, the next time they might want to pick up a similar product either they will stick to their chosen brand or skip the first two stages and go directly to evaluation and purchase, thus reducing the lead time and the time and investment required to convert a customer.

Example – If you see any Emirates Facebook post, their comments are filled with a combination of customer complaints as well as positive stories, yet they make sure that every comment is liked or responded to in a professional and orderly manner.

 

Once you have a better understanding of the purchase funnel, the next question is how would you determine on which stage your customer base is on. There is no clear cut answer to this question as the stages are not as clearly defined. People can move up and down the stages as they get more information or are targeted by more ads. Some industries tend to have distinct purchase periods, such as hospitality has a peak in winter and low in summer; others are consumed so often and quickly that they don’t have defined purchase periods. The more information you have the easier it is:

1) Sales data – look at previous sales data to determine peak purchase periods

2) CRM – your CRM will host customer purchase history, frequency of purchase, repeat purchases etc. all of which can be used to determine any trends

3) Google search – search trends can be used as an indicator of when interest in certain products starts to pick up. It is necessary to first conduct keyword research to fond the keywords associated to your product / brand, which can then be monitored.

4) PPC – If you are running PPC campaigns it can also be a very good source of information to map out your lead time. The keywords used in PPC tend to be across the entire funnel, from generic (which is at need recognition) to keywords associated with offers and sales (evaluation) to brand specific offers (purchase intention). The number of impressions of these keywords determined the frequency of the searches, so by therefore monitoring impressions over time, a time graph can be used to determine when customers go through the different stages.

It is important to keep in mind that the above is only an indication and would not guarantee that these are definitive stages.

The decision making process is an essential part of any marketing activity and is absolutely the most basic and one of the fundamental places to start when investing in a marketing plan and / or a social media strategy.

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The consumer decision making process – Part 1

Someone once told me that social media is a branding tool and not a performance based one, this comment got me thinking; how many people do not include social media as part of their performance marketing strategy and advertising? or how many run social media campaigns as purely brand or strictly promotional campaigns? (i.e only promote offers) if so, they are missing on a few steps in the marketing funnel or consumer decision making process.

This maybe be old school marketing, or marketing 101, but the consumer decision making process are the various stages a consumer goes through before they actually purchase a product, and includes: Need Recognition, Research, Evaluation / Comparison, Purchase and finally post purchase evaluation. The time between initial research and purchase is referred to as lead time. The lead time can vary between products and industries based on the cost, importance, emotional involvement of the product. For e.g. a simple example would be as follows:

Short lead time – Grocery Shopping: there is a need for new grocery items such as bread, you would go to a supermarket, research multiple options (white, brown, wholewheat etc.), evaluate the brands and finally purchase; all within a very short span of time. If you are happy with previous selections then you would pick up the same one you usually do, that is called loyalty which is a product of consumer satisfaction.

Long Lead Time – Buying a car: When you decide to purchase a car, while the need may be transportation, other factors to consider would be size, style, budget, car loan, model, brand, insurance, servicing etc. the number of factors is a lot more and the amount of research and evaluation needed is a lot more considerable, as the investment is also a lot more significant (than bread), therefore the lead time itself would also be a lot longer.

Therefore if you are using social media only for branding (need recognition & research), and for offers (evaluation and / or purchase) you are missing on a few more steps.

Now let’s see how social media can be used throughout the decision making process. As an example I would like to use Facebook. Why Facebook? Well, besides being one of the largest and most well used social networks, I am a huge fan of its targeting options and pixel for analytics. Facebook campaigns tend to have a good success rate, but this is dependent on the targeting, budget and overall creative used.
Note: As instagram is also owned by Facebook, it will be included in this article.

So here’s how Facebook can be used on every stage of the consumer decision making process:

Need Recognition
This is the first step where the consumer realizes they have a need, which a product can satisfy. The need can be anywhere from basic, to psychological, or even self actualization (using a bit of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), so the industry your business is in would be to satisfy one of these needs.
Social Media’s has a very good ability of creating a need for an item which people did not know they wanted. This is based on the ability to develop FOMO (Fear of Missing out) in the minds of the consumer.  Facebook does this by showing you what pages your friends are interested in, what have they liked, commented or shared, which events they are attending, check ins and encouraging tagging for better reach. Marketers have been capitalizing on FOMO for a very long time, by encouraging people to “book first” or ‘be the first … to wear or own an item (for the trend setters)’, or ‘limited items / seats available’ etc.
Need recognition can be created by a company by posting pictures of their most popular or wanted products, or by showcasing how their product can solve a problem through a video and then promoting this video to your target audience, or by running / promoting competitions which encourage you to tag friends you would want to take with you. Good imagery and /or video combined with effective language can be used to develop a need.

Example – Emirates creates a need or inspires you to travel by showing stunning pictures of the various destinations they fly to – Hello Copenhagen

Research
Now that there is a need, the consumer will then start to research the multiple options and brands that available to satisfy that need, as per their requirements. The amount of time spent on this stage would be dependent upon how involved they are with the item. Social media can be used at this stage to highlight aspects of your product which you believe your consumer would use when decision making. This can be either its price, features, or any other factors that the consumer would evaluate. This content can be presented in multiple ways but not limited to: videos, interviews, infographics, trivia etc.
Social Media can be used to highlight all of the above either through organic posts or advertising. All posts should have links back to the website and actively encourage people to click and visit. By visiting they get to learn more about your brand and your company offering. They can be enticed to either subscribe or sign up, in order to capture their email address which can then be used in Facebook re-marketing. A click to website post type can be used to promote a product with ‘Find out more’ to encourage click throughs. A carousel ad type can also be used if there are multiple products or multiple features.

Example: Emirates showcases their award winning entertainment system which can be a factor for long haul flights – Thank you for choosing us as the “Best Entertainment” at the 2017 APEX Passenger Choice awards.

 

 

To be continued……

 

What is a social media strategy?

Strategy is a word which is thrown around a lot but what does it mean, especially in the context of social media.

Social Media Strategy is a combination of two factors:

  1. Understanding the functionality and how to use various social channels
  2. Knowing how to effectively use these channels to reach business objectives

Learning about social media channels and how to use them comes with time. There are plenty of free guides and tools available online which can teach any interested user in how to set up and use each social channel. Devotion of time and practice are essential to attain the goal of mastery for every social channel, however functionality is an evolving field, with new features being tested and released all the time changing the capabilities of the channel. However what does not change is the primary way in which people use these channels and that forms the basis of strategy.

Before you get started, it is important to keep in mind that your strategy is to fulfill a certain objective. So any action you do on social media would be towards fulfilling this. Therefore define the objective and the KPI’s that will be used to measure its success.

E.g. Build brand awareness by achieving 20% growth in social media followers by December 2017.

In this example, the business objective is ‘brand awareness’, social media is a tool to achieve this by increasing follower growth.

Firstly rather than jumping on social media because every one does so, it is important to find out which channels your customers use. You go to where your customers are, not the other way around. This is determined by age, gender, interests and country of your customers. Some channels are more popular in certain countries than others and have more of a bias towards certain genders and age groups than others.

Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough, is the importance of well planned content. Once you have your channels and they are all set up, the next step is knowing what to post. For some channels more than others, Facebook & Instagram, it is very important to be active and post on a regular basis, which can by anywhere from multiple times a day to a minimum of 2-3 a week. There is no magic number, but you would need to monitor engagement levels of posts to determine if multiple postings maybe doing more harm than good, after all no one wants spam, but having frequent content is also important as it not only increases brand visibility but gives your fans an opportunity to stay up to date and engage. This being said, it is not a good idea to post for the sake of posting. If content quality is poor then fans will automatically stay away. Good quality content is integral for engagement, and good engagement determines whether future posts will be shown on followers timelines and the frequency of which is will be displayed. Therefore it is always a good idea to have a content plan. Content ideas can be obtained from multiple sources:

  1. Your website – website analytics can reveal a lot of information about who your audience is and what kind of content they like. This can be gained by reviewing which pages are most visited, and the length of time spent on them.
  2. Your competitors – Follow your competitors and see what they post. Track how well audience engage with their posts which will give you an idea of what kind of content and style to tailor your content towards
  3. Trial – Lastly it is always a combination of trial and error. People change so your content will have to change adapting to their changing interests. Also you will not be able to please everyone all the time. Try targeting your content where possible, if you can’t then monitor how people respond to the content you post, which content they like and who likes it. This will give you an idea on how to tailor future content calendars.

Other content tactics which can be used include: using influencers, UGC, competitions, paid advertising, page boosts etc. All these are smaller tactics within your larger social strategy.

Thirdly, and lastly it is important to keep in mind that your strategy is constantly involving. Therefore you will have to make changes as you get to know your customers better, discover new customers or as overall business climate and objectives change. Being responsive is the key to any good strategy.

 

 

Marketing: In-house vs Outsourcing? Finding the Balance

When it comes to marketing does it make sense to have in-house talent or would it be better to outsource to a specialized agency?

Most companies fall somewhere in the middle of this broad spectrum, where in-house marketing strategy is supported by agency execution, of course this also depends on the type of marketing activity which is being performed.

Most Brand marketing, is usually done in-house, where agencies are used to support specific tasks such as creative concepts and execution for a marketing campaign. Campaigns can be short or long term, with multiple agencies working on a similar project.

For Digital marketing, decisions have to be made on an activity level as different channels need varying levels of expertise. The decision is also dependent on the number of projects or brands that need to be worked on. Digital Marketing channels include:

  • Social Media
    This is the most common and ‘go to’ channel for digital needs, however there are a lot of factors to consider before deciding to outsource. Firstly social media takes a lot of time to manage, develop and engage. Many businesses choose to employ a dedicated executive to handle social media accounts especially if there are multiple channels, multiple brands, or the company is involved in a lot of events and live activations. Having an in-house resource means they are more familiar with the brand, the target market and language style to ensure a seamless experiences across other advertising channels. However outsourcing to an agency has its own merits. Agencies have more experience but care has to be taken they don’t do similar work with competitors, agencies also charge by the number of channels they need to manage, how often they post and the number of events they are expected to cover. Also social posting needs someone who can create a brand story, and most agencies are not well connected to the brand or to the target market to understand their needs and what they respond do. Of course this is not to say that agencies cannot do a good job, they can as long as there is a good understanding. So this decision needs to be made on a business level and looking at the cost / benefits of either option. If the business has the resource then social is an activity which should be kept in house and close to the brand.
  • Paid Media
    This activity refers to digital advertising across multiple channels such as social, Google Adwords, Display etc. Media buying is usually an agency led activity. There are a few businesses who do it in-house, but this is dependent on the the number of products or the overall size of the business. If it is a small company with one or two products it is relatively easy to manage this activity in house either by a marketing exec or direct by business owner; however if this is on a larger scale, then it is more profitable to outsource this to an agency. Most agencies work on operating margins, therefore while they conduct media buying they can work across multiple accounts to get better deals. Advertising optimization is also a time consuming and specialized activity which requires professionals with experience or managing campaigns can be an expensive affair. They are also more in tune with the different ad formats available and which would best for the media activity. But most agencies usually charge either a minimum spend or % of overall media spend which may work out better depending on the number of campaigns that are being run. Possibly one solution to this is to let agencies manage the media buying and optimizing while having in house expertise to manage the campaign strategy, channel selection and overall plan.
  • Organic Search
    A highly specialized and often technical activity, organic search is a long term investment and requires a high level of expertise and connections with media and bloggers for link building, and an understanding of website architecture to review technical SEO. Most businesses outsource this to agencies, who work on a retainer basis and conduct a set amount of optimization activity per month. However it is strongly recommended to have in-house SEO expertise who can set SEO strategy according to overall business strategy, cater to business objectives and review agency activity.

There is no easy decision when it comes to in-house vs. outsourcing of marketing activity, the best option is to review the below factors before making a decisions:

  1. Size of Business / Level of Activity
  2. Cost & Marketing Budgets
  3. Digital Expertise required

While there is no ‘one’ overall solution digital marketing requires a combination of in-house brand management and digital know how combined with the execution expertise, industry experience and media buying power of agencies. Usually a merger of experts from both sides of the business proves to be overall beneficial for the business; it’s all about finding the right balance.

So, how does it work in your company?

 

 

The Re-purposing of UGC

One of the buzzwords that you usually hear a lot especially within social media circles is the acronym ‘UGC’. Most marketers would be quite aware of UGC but I still find that most people don’t really know what to do with it, or how to maximize it. So the below is a little bit to help you out.

What is UGC?

UGC stands for User Generated Content, which basically refers to any content put out there on the vast internet about you and your brand. It can range from tweets to Instagram posts, reviews, or even a mention on a blog. UGC is basically as the name says content produced by the users or aspirational users of the brand, in any stage of the consumption process – dreaming, using, or reviewing.

Where do we get it?

UGC can be obtained from several sources:

  • Social Media – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
  • Blogs
  • Review Sites – Trip Advisor, Zomato, Yelp etc.
  • Reviews – Google & Facebook reviews
  • Emails
  • Surveys & Feedback cards
  • And even if you think outside the box good old traditional offline sources such as handwritten notes

Out of all these sources, UGC is still most commonly associated with Social Media and especially Instagram. As all good content marketers know visual content works much better than text only and is more engaging and effective. Therefore having a large amount of visual content is useful but is it is also the most difficult to obtain, hence a large bank of visual UGC content is always beneficial.

Why is UGC good?

UGC is great for several reasons:

  1. Endorsement – Isn’t it always better having normal regular customers say how great your product is than you doing it?
  2. Credibility – It adds credibility to your brand when your customers say your product does actually what is supposed to do.
  3. Feedback – It is a great source of feedback on how your customers liked the product, if there were any problems, and how it can be improved.
  4. Market Research – By following who is talking about your brand, you can find new uses for your product or even find new markets you were not aware of.
  5. Brand Popularity – By tracking how often your product is mentioned you can get a better idea of how popular your product is and this can be tracked against competitors as well.
  6. New Content – UGC is a great source of new content. Brands invest a lot of time, effort and even money to generate new content which is not always feasible in the long run, therefore UGC is a good alternative source of content which is also free.
  7. Better Engagement – Showcasing real world uses and interactions leads to better engagement from other customers and aspirational users.

 

What do we do with it?

UGC acts as a good source of new content. Rather than a brand always talking about their products, it is always good to post about how users are consuming or interacting with the brand. The content is real than produced and inspires and motivates other consumers leading to better engagement when posted across social channels. The content can be shared or re-posted from their original sources as well as it can be re-purposed for other channels.

Examples include: Creating a video of Instagram posts which can be promoted on Facebook (with permissions of course); Showing Trip Advisor reviews on offer content to encourage positive sentiment; etc.

By showcasing good reviews and good feedback, consumption of the product can also increase which is beneficial for the brand in the long run.

How can you get more?

So if UGC is so great, how can marketers produce more? There are a couple of ways to do that:

  1. Competitions – This is the easiest and most efficient way of generating content. Competitions can be run across social channels where users can be asked to submit visual entries (either images or videos) of people interacting with the brand. The winner can receive complimentary samples, access etc as dependent on the product, but for a relatively small cost a large amount of content can be generated which can be used at a later stage.
  2. Asking Questions / Submissions – Sometimes if you have a strong or loyal brand following, a competition is not necessary, users would be more than happy to tell or show you how they use your product by just asking them. Your customers like to feel appreciated and that their feedback and opinions matter, so they would be happy to share with you their love and admiration for the brand.
  3. Complimentary Trials – If the product is relatively new or you don’t have a large following then you can offer complimentary trials to future users to encourage the generation of more UGC and to gain feedback. This can help promote the product especially when they see others using it.
  4. Events & Activations – Hosting or creating events which is open to the people is another great way of having people directly interact with the brand. When they see an activation taking place or are at the event, most people will generally share their experiences on social media. This combined with a competition makes it more effective.
  5. PR & Media – Having a strong PR strategy is also beneficial to the brand. Through it, greater brand awareness can be achieved via media mentions, blog postings, and social media coverage through press teams and bloggers. Each of these mentions can be connected to a potential story and therefore greater UGC.
  6. Influencers – As highlighted in my previous post ‘Battle of the Influencers‘ influencers are a great way to increasing brand awareness as they act as brand ambassadors. Most influencers will generate a minimum number of posts as part of their agreement which is guaranteed UGC. This content will also be of high quality and will have greater engagement, especially if the the influencer is well known, resulting in greater popularity of the brand.
  7. Media Monitoring – This is the most basic and essential step every marketer must do, that is to set up a media monitoring service which picks up any mention of the brand online. You can choose to monitor on social channels or on media, blogs etc. of course it is better to have both. By having media monitoring in place mentions of the brand can be picked up from the most least expected sources. While most companies have a budget associated for this service which can be used for specialized software the other option for firms with limited budget is to invest in setting up Google Alerts which still does quite a good job.

So overall UGC is a great asset to have and can be quite successful with minimal effort and time.

Do you have any other tips or stories to share?

 

 

Social Media – PR or Marketing?

Social Media has traditionally been the forte of a digital marketer, but lately there is a growing trend of this channel being handled by the PR department instead of marketing. Social Media in essence is a digital communication tool and is one of the most important channels in the arsenal of a digital marketer. It is used for most marketing objectives, from brand awareness to advertising and sales and forms a big part of a consumer’s attribution journey while driving traffic to the website, but it is also a communication tool which is usually handled by PR. So while both have very good reasons how would a company decide what their direction should be?

First let’s have a look on how PR has changed of recent:
Public Relations has always been viewed in two extremes, a lot of ‘media relations’ and socializing with the other extreme of lots of writing of press releases and their distribution. But in the last few years PR has changed quite drastically and has earned its place at the digital table. About a few years ago, as more people turned to online sources and social media as a source for their news (if it’s not on Twitter it didn’t happen), PR professionals realized that a press release just wont cut it any more. Even if there’s huge brand power behind it, in today’s overly cluttered world of content creation traditional media sources were just not effective in distributing news and building relations. So PR has had to adapt and change and like marketing has shifted to digital to stay relevant. So let’s look at these changes and why as digital marketers we should pay attention to them.

The death of the press release.
No one reads press releases any more. Yes it’s still done because its a corporate statement and needs to be sent to media and published online, but the bottom line is no one reads them. PR has had to change their strategy by changing the way they create and distribute content. Instead of releases they started focusing on stories (sound familiar?) which was then distributed on social media channels by marketing. Content for these stories was usually sourced from consumer & employee experiences and their reviews (UGC). PR started relying more on social media for their content as well as for distribution which meant working closely with marketing. To do this they also had to adapt their overall tone of voice from corporate to social. Tone of voice and language is usually set by Brand marketing which is a big change for PR and to measure the success of PR activities, most have subscribed to a media monitoring service which picks up brand mentions online & offline on media channels. But as more stories are being published on social, traditional media monitoring is only half the story. Any good social media marketer would also have a social media monitoring service set up which can be shared with PR. So you would have two teams trying to come up with original story content to share, relying on similar sources and doubling the expense on monitoring services.

Bloggers & Influencers – the new media
Besides relying on traditional media sources such as magazines and newspapers, PR have turned to sourcing bloggers and social media influencers to also promote the brand. At various media events nearly 25% to even 50% of attendees are prominent bloggers and influencers who are encouraged to actively tweet, instagram and create live content while hastagging and tagging the brand channels.  This comes at a cost where PR can no longer control the actual content, the style in which it is written and the exact terminology but this is how social media works where content is not scripted but natural. Through this PR usually contribute and support overall digital marketing growth and engagement. This has also resulted in a shift in PR audience from media to actual consumers. Usually PR undergo training on how to talk to media. They also train other employees and colleagues on do’s and don’ts and how to speak to media and answer questions. But as marketers we deal directly with end consumers and we never receive such training, which is unusual as consumers are the final decision makers and therefore anyone dealing with them should be taught how, just as anyone in customer service undergoes a certain level of training as well. Instead many social media channels are handled by junior staff or outsourced to agencies who are not familiar with the brand and overall style which is not ideal to overall brand management.

So in the end between PR & Marketing who should actually manage social media?
The answer is both. PR have the experience, the knowhow and the ability to write and create content. They are trained on how to talk to consumers and media and spend considerable time sourcing and dealing with bloggers and influencers. They should be responsible for content creation and community management, but of course with support from marketing. Based on events, offers and overall end goals, marketing can suggest and recommend content and broad topics which PR can then use and work towards. But it will still be the responsibility of marketing to manage KPI’s, drive traffic and fulfill digital marketing strategy. It would be marketing who would advertise on social media and plan campaigns, suggest which posts would be promoted and the targeting of these.

So in conclusion PR & Marketing would handle different aspects of social media and would have to work together to fulfill overall business objectives.

How does it work in your company?

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?