Influencer marketing is growing at a very fast rate.
CAIRO – 6 March 2018: With the rise of ad blockers, decline in radio and TV viewership, and spikes in billboard prices, influencer marketing (IM) has become the most effective form of advertising.
Having already grown significantly during 2016 and 2017, IM is expected to keep growing during 2018, especially given the constant release of new features in social media platforms.
Even though some experts do not see television dying out in the short run, social media gurus, market researchers, marketing executives and advertising experts interviewed for this piece all agree on one thing: IM is here to stay, and it has taken a significant chunk of the advertising pie.
“Influencer marketing is growing at a very fast rate and there is more money being invested in the sector than ever before. This is because influencer marketing is significantly cheaper than celebrity marketing or renting out a billboard. It is more cost-effective and you [the selling company] get more in return for your money. It can target the intended audience better and quicker and is also more realistic,” explains Aly Osman, co-founder of the marketing firm the influencers.
Sherif El Shafei (L) and Aly Osman (R)
Marketing Manager at the Dubai-based Trafalgar Properties LLC agrees with Osman, “social media makes it very easy and definitely cheaper to connect with your audience.” It has now become essential for any business. She adds, however, that while the reach is wide and so gives it great potential in increasing brand awareness, there is no control over it; which means any reader can criticize, attack or insult the brand if they don’t like it and the digital campaign could dramatically backfire. “Be prepared for disaster if users don’t like your business,” she adds.
However, there seems to be a miscommunication between cost-efficiency and being cheap, FP7/CAI Cairo’s Group Account Director Sondos Effat suggests. Effat explains that despite digital space being cheaper than traditional media platforms like television, the production for social media marketing campaigns can still be very costly. “The production budget depends on the idea, not where it is aired,” she explains, suggesting that production cost is the same, regardless of the platform used, but social media space and time are still cheaper than other media outlets.
Osman’s partner and co-founder of the influencers, Sherif El Shafei explains that influencer marketing uses the influence a person has over a certain community or followers to build awareness regarding a specific brand that fits with this influencer’s lifestyle.
Shafei and Osman’s company is one of the first to have influencers working within the company, making them better equipped to understand the business’ several sides. In fact, both Shafei and Osman are influencers in their own fields, with the former focusing on working out and nutrition tips and programs, and the latter being a motivational speaker. In addition, from being the co-founder of the influencers, Shafei is also the first online trainer in Egypt, providing people across the world with nutrition and workout programs to suit personalized needs.
He is certified and experienced, making him the ideal example for an influencer. Just over a year ago, Shafei also started posting vlogs to educate audiences on gym etiquette; his hashtag called #gym_thoughts has thousands of impressions and posts on it. Likewise, having experienced success at the young age of 24, Osman also gives social media corporate training about influencer marketing online and the future of marketing.
Influencer marketing 101
Shafei and Osman say that influencer marketing is a relatively new marketing tool that relies on the relationship between figures on social media platforms and their followers to influence people into buying a product or raise awareness regarding a product.
Originally, influencers were celebrities who endorsed specific products or services, however, modern-day social media platforms have allowed just about anyone with a following to become an influencer. The main differences between old and new influencers are the amounts of money spent per campaign and the level of collaboration between influencers and the brands—new influencers are far more involved and collaborative with brands.
The new influencers fall under two types: macro-influencers and micro-influencers. While macro-influencers usually have a much larger following than micro-influencers, the latter tends to be more connected to their followers, with most followers feeling a more personal connection toward them, increasing the chance that they will listen to their recommendations.
In an interview with Forbes, Gil Eyal, founder of HYPR, the world’s largest influencer search and discovery directory, said that due to this connection, about 90% of successful influencer marketing is performed by micro-influencers.
“More than 90% of posts are made by influencers with less than 1 million followers. This number was around 60% in the beginning of 2016. . . . In early 2016, a client could be satisfied by two influencers with 2 million followers each.
Now, they want to see 20 to 30 influencers with a smaller following,” he said. This comes as a result of studies showing that the more the personal connection between micro-influencers and their followers, compared to that of macro-influencers and their followers, the greater the return on each dollar spent.
Osman adds that despite popular belief, influencers are not just on social media. “An influencer is someone who positively influences the people around him, whether online or offline. This means that a mother is an influencer, a professor is an influencer and a friend can be an influencer too. An influencer should have a wide knowledge of a topic and have experience in the field in which they aim to influence people,” Osman says. That means that an influencer isn’t necessarily on social media, but is someone who has authority and influence over people, Shafei explains, simply someone people would follow.
Why more brands are turning to influencer marketing
Osman argues that IM is more realistic than using celebrities, giving as an example a failed Kia campaign led by American basketball player Blake Griffin. The campaign backfired as consumers could not relate to Griffin driving a Kia.
Studies have repeatedly supported Osman’s view. According to eMarketer, 59% of consumers say that they do not trust ads, as they feel fake and forced. The report suggested that influencers are seen as more authentic. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) 2016 Internet Advertising Revenue Full-Year Report, 73% of consumers dislike internet pop-ups and 83% would like to be able to block all ads from their phones and tablets. The report also suggested that 34% of respondents said they click on ads by mistake, while only 7% said they find internet ads compelling. This suggests that the age of online ads has long gone; consumers are now looking for recommendations from a friend or someone they can trust.
According a recent study by Jonah Burger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, 82% of consumers are “highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro–influencer.” Thus, the more personal of a relationship the influencer has with their followers, the more likely they are to have influence over them.
Mijatovic suggests that micro-influencers could potentially yield better results and that personalized content is always better. “The beauty of social media marketing is that it is based and is powered by meaningful interaction, which in turn develops trust with your audience. The more you nurture a regular interaction with your followers, the more you’ll create improved and longer-term relationship.” Although that is profitable for any business, Mijatovic adds that a diverse marketing strategy is the best option.
Senior Account Manager at POD Marketing Mostafa Mohie explains that social media influencers opened up a new platform of marketing within marketing’s bigger platform. Each person has their own popularity and their own identity, each person has followers who relate to him, his has made it possible for companies to market their products and services through a new platform, something that they, of course, are excited about.
The ability of these influencers to be an important opinion reference for consumers makes it vital for any company to include them in their marketing strategy. Interestingly, Mohie also stresses the importance of social media groups, like bridal advice groups on Facebook, which have recently been an important factor in raising sales for certain products, adding that recent studies in the Egyptian market prove these groups’ importance in marketing.
Influencer marketing is able to overcome the problem of lacking trust between brands and consumers, as well as people’s dislike of pop-ups. According to Nielsen’s April 2012 Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 internet respondents in 56 countries, 92% of people trust recommendations from others, compared with only 33% who trust ads, suggesting that adverts are no longer influential.
Influencers build their advertising into natural-looking, appealing social media posts, while remaining true to their followers and only choosing brands that fit into their lifestyle. As Rand Fishkin, author and CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, a leader in the field of search engine optimization tools, tweeted ,“best way to sell something—don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”
Influencers are also a good fit with consumers’ changing device use patterns, favoring mobile phones to search for products as opposed to desktops. Desktop search tools generated $17.8 billion in revenues in 2016, down 13% percent compared to 2015, according to Statista. Although the figures for 2017 have not been released yet, a drop is expected. In contrast, there has been an upward surge in mobile search revenue since 2015. According to Statista, from generated in 2017, while 2016 saw $37.57 billion in revenue and 2015 saw $24.31 billion. Mobile search via Google is expected to project $61.26 billion in revenue during 2018.
Social media is also quick. It is easy to adapt to the fast-changing business world. Rana Ghanem, Careem Egypt’s public relations manager, explains that digitalized marketing is at the core of Careem’s business due to the fast-moving nature of the sector. “We have to move very fast and we have to adapt increasingly quickly to people on the street and important events.”
Building on Ghanem’s comments, Mahira Tarek, Marketing Communications Manager at Careem Egypt, explained that to them, social media is building an online community, engaging customers and captains by creating enjoyable content. Tarek gave the example of the recent Cadbury Dairy Milk campaign, known as Aliens campaign, which presented the idea that Cadbury chocolate is so good that aliens are coming all the way to Egypt for it. Careem created content that engaged and entertained the online community positively, added Tarek, it was nice joining a friendly “local social media war.” After all, Tarek said, “Careem likes to be in the know.”
But influencers, in specific, can also be a “walking, talking expression of your brand,” as Ahmed Musban El Shweikh, founder and managing partner of the luxury PR agency Clannish Egypt, puts it. This, he adds, makes it a great support for any word-of-mouth strategy.
Influencers’ favorite social media platform
Social media platforms are being created and updated all the time, with new features being constantly added, says Osman.
Google alone, $49.72 billion in revenue was a game of trends; trends come and go on a daily basis, but as long as people are creative, there will always be a new trend and the platform’s benefits will always keep changing,” Osman says. “The more interactive and original the content, the more people will start to share and comment; they engage more with out-of-the box ideas. Reading text has become boring, so the more interactive and cool the content is, the more likely that people will see and share the content.”
Having said that, not all platforms are created equal; Facebook is becoming more and more polluted, he adds, especially with the new algorithm making it more difficult to see all posts. Adding to this, Mohie suggests that content now needs to be sponsored to reach people. It is no longer a matter of how good a video or specific content is; companies now need to sponsor to ensure that their content reaches more people.
Instagram is micro-influencers’ favorite
Currently, the big players in the social media influencer marketing field are Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, with each used for different purposes.
Snapchat has a smaller audience size, meaning that influencers have a closer relationship with their followers. Since Snapchat stories do not flow from one to another like Instagram ones, views are more intentional and are, therefore, more engaging. The short lifespan of each video, only 24 hours before disappearing off the platform, also means that influencers are more connected with their followers, with many waiting for the former’s daily stories. Although it provides a very limited number of posts, Snapchat is the perfect site for those who create many videos on the go, on a low budget and with a short time investment.
Facebook, the big shark in social media waters, has locked down the biggest share of audience size in the market. Yet, a big audience is only as good as their engagement. Facebook also has the advantage of providing different forms of content dissemination, including photos, videos, written posts, 360 stories and Facebook Live. Facebook is then the perfect site to lead users to another website or online platform. El Shweikh says that Facebook has the most advanced tools compared to other platforms, so for instance, you can book rooms at the Starwood Hotels through Facebook.
YouTube is the leading platform for video marketing. According to eMarketers, users who watch a video of a specific product or brand are 64% more likely to purchase the product online. Given that 92% of mobile phone users share videos with others, YouTube, therefore, is able to allow for a snowballing effect.
Lastly, Instagram is micro-influencers’ favorite, according to a 2016 survey by Bloglovin. By allowing the user to tag people and locations, as well as share pictures and record live videos, it ultimately allows marketing a product to be easier and more interactive. Although no platform is perfect, Instagram’s level of popularity amongst users, coupled with the huge audience and the simple fact that viewing pictures is arguably more fun than reading, has made it an ideal space for influencer marketing.
Taking a closer look at Egypt’s market, Osman and Shafei note that Facebook and Instagram are the two big players in the field, but it all depends on the content, audience type, the content’s lifespan and the experience intended.
With a recent feature added on WhatsApp to include stories, Shafei adds that he believes the platform has failed on that front. “WhatsApp is a platform for messaging people—it is not intended for stories. WhatsApp is not a social media platform; they went outside of their field. I do not open WhatsApp to know what people are doing: This used to be in BBM back then, now there are other platforms. Instead of moving forward, they developed backwards,” he argues.