The rise of influencer marketing is leading to more and more marketers embracing influencers as a key element in their marketing program.
- 86% of the US marketers now use ‘Influencer channel’ in their marketing plan
- 48% planned to increase their influencer budget in 2017 (only 4% to decrease)
The influencers themselves come in three tiers as per the size of their popularity.
- Celebrities and top tier influencers
- ‘Power middle’ influencers … typically with 100,000 to 250,000 followers
- Micro influencers… up to several thousand followers
Data available for the USA shows a more intense influence by the micro-influencers. Irrespective of which size you use, in general, a dollar spent on influencer marketing fetched a return of US $ 9.6/- in the first half of 2015, as per Rhythm One benchmarks report in USA. What a dollar could do in influencer marketing would have taken US $ 14.3 in Food products, US $ 12.5 in tourism, US $ 12.2 in personal care, US $ 11 in groceries for equal media impressions.
Social influence can be from friends and neighbours, experts or celebrities. One interesting finding of the survey is the higher credibility of friends and experts (77%) versus celebrities in general (56%).
YouTube rules India
And another interesting finding is the rise of Youtube and Whatsapp in India in the area of influence and advocacy. Youtube (66%), Whatsapp (64%), Facebook (63%), are the top three trusted channel list (figures in the bracket show % respondents giving 8,9 or 10-out-of-10 ratings). Google+ (59%), Twitter (59%) and Instagram (55%) come after that.
With the rise in this last mile influencer, does advertising lose its importance? The study points out that advertising is required, in the first place, to enter into the conversations between the influencer and the buyer. Further, there is a strong agreement in India on ‘brand names and brand reputation matter more these days than ever before’, even among young Indian consumers.
Consumers around the world are enjoying earning respect and admiration by sharing their views about products and services on digital forums. India is in its forefront. The joy of connection, admiration is central to its growth, money comes second.
Brands have been losing trust around the world. Again, India is in the forefront when it comes to holding them to higher standards over time. This search for authenticity is being addressed by information on digital media, catering to consideration, evaluation and even purchase of brands. There has emerged a new community of influencers who offer to provide it and have various sizes of audience that follows them. Data from USA suggests a more intense influence by ‘micro-influencers’ with a modest ‘a few thousand’ following.
Among the influencers, Indians attach a high and equal credibility to experts and their ‘friends and relatives’. Interestingly, celebrities come after the two.
If the influencers have to be included in marketing, it becomes imperative to equip them in the right way. The study belies the conventional belief of ‘wackiness’ being that right way. It points to the need of authentic information made interesting in presentation. The neighborhood influencers have been doing it cost effectively with sheer sincerity and a fresh approach. The marketing community may have something to learn, there.
Trust has become a central issue. Yet, most brands do not measure it regularly or adequately. Beyond measurement, it needs a central consideration in marketing plans thus elevating importance of initiatives that cater to it. They could be about authenticity and information made interesting, about becoming a good social citizen as a brand or many such ways.
Overall, the study has brought out how passionate and keen Indian consumers are in seeking, using and sharing information about brands and categories. In fact, they are the most passionate in this respect, within the world that we studied. It is certainly something the Indian marketers need to take cognisance of.
(Tomorrow: Interview with Terry Peigh)