The Art of Influence: How to Engage with Social Media Influencers

From niche audiences to fake followers and real engagement, ad man and brand strategist Ambi M.G. Parameswaran breaks down the basics of engaging with social media influencers, in a tête-à-tête with TOSB.

Q. Who would you consider a social media influencer?

A. Definitions vary, but an influencer is someone who has a significant number of followers. Not only is the number [100,000 say] important but it is important to also know the level of engagement the influencer has with their audience. For example, how many of the 100,000 respond to their posts? What do they say? How does the influencer react to them?

Q. Why should brands consider working with them?

A. Not all brands need to chase influencers. And some brands don’t need them. Influencers work best when you want to reach out to a specific audience. For example, when Johnson & Johnson was relaunching their all-natural baby products in the US, they enlisted 100 influencers in the domain of baby care. Similarly, if I am launching a new food range, ingredient or recipe, I would definitely want to engage with food bloggers.

Q. What are the different ways of working with influencers?

A. There are many ways brands work with influencers. First, is to reach out to them and give them a free sample, with no obligation to write about the product. Or may be a free trip to a destination if you are a tourism brand. Many influencers, including yours truly, will happily tweet about the free sample, if it is interesting. The next level is to get them to write about your product, which usually involves some financial engagement. Finally, the influencer could be roped in to be part of events, talks or even appear in advertising in mass media.

Q. What should one research before engaging with influencers?

A. Carry out a thorough analysis of the influencer’s online reputation. You should not sign them on just because they have 100,000 followers. One must get data about the quality of followers, engagement levels etc. Savvy influencers have social marketing agencies working with them who manage the data analytics. In addition to hard data, you need to look at soft data too. For example, does the influencer work with hundreds of brands? And what is the credibility of such an influencer?

Q. How can you measure the success of an influencer campaign?

A. You can measure the effectiveness of the campaign if there is a performance marketing link to the blog post. For example, “this recipe is made with Veeba sauces, you can order Veeba by clicking here!” If the influencer marketing is not for performance but for image building, it is difficult to put down parameters.

Q. Any pitfalls?

A. Some social media influencers have fake followers and hence, one must weed out the legitimate number. Also, be careful of engaging with an influencer who is ready to engage with just any brand.