If you've got a product to sell to the public and you're clued up on digital marketing strategies, you'll already be familiar with the popularity of social media influencer marketing.
The process itself is straightforward: take your pick of social media influencer with a decent follower count, ask them to post pictures or videos promoting your product on their accounts in exchange for free products or payment, and hope that the post does a good job of getting your brand out there and, in turn, convert sales.
However, the question still remains to be answered - is influencer marketing on social media really worth it?
We delve into the realm of social media influencers and asses their true value, alongside a few examples of New Zealand social media successes and misses.
The answer to the question of whether your brand should invest in social media influencer marketing is entirely dependent on what your goal is.
The statistics say that, historically, influencer marketing has produced positive results, with 92% of companies who used influencer marketing in 2017 finding it useful. Out of these companies, the key common denominator was that their goals aligned well with what influencer marketing can offer.
When it comes to influencer marketing, no post guarantees long-term, direct, and consistent engagement with your brand. Once potential customers are pushed gently by your chosen influencer towards your brand, there's nothing set in place to nurture their journey and convince them to engage and continue to buy.
Increasingly, companies are choosing to invest their spend into marketing tools such as chat bots, voice assistance, and user experience development. According to McKinsey, “Over the next five years, large companies will invest, on average, hundreds of millions of dollars—and some more than a billion dollars—to transform their business to digital.”
Why? Because a top quality and nurtured customer experience creates loyalty and fosters continuous engagement - and a loyal following means sales.
The bottom line here is: if you're looking for long-term user engagement, your investment might be better placed somewhere other than social media influencers.
On the flip-side, social media influencers definitely hold their weight more and more when it comes to brand awareness and customer acquisition. Influencers act as a brilliant vessel to get your messaging out to an engaged audience you wouldn't otherwise reach.
Organic reach is limited, and if you're looking to quickly get your name out there and convert some customers onto your database, social media influencers are the perfect way to achieve this.
The key to turning likes and comments into actual sales and customer acquisition is to partner with an influencer that really aligns with your brand and messaging. Consumers are akin to the workings of social media and if an endorsement feels forced and disingenuous they wont engage. People prefer recommendations from actual people - so long as it's authentic.
If you need a new influx of customers and to get your brand and messaging in front of a new and relevant audience, influencer marketing is a great use of your marketing budget.
Social influencer marketing has made it's impact here in New Zealand, with a significant number of Kiwi companies looking to invest. When it comes to the success of individual Kiwi campaigns, the proof really is in the pudding.
We've analysed a brilliantly executed influencer partnership, as well as one that missed the mark in order to gain a little bit of insight into what makes paid influencer partnerships tick in our market.
In 2016, Kiwi entrepreneur Iyia Liu launched an influencer partnership with social media heavyweight, Kylie Jenner, selling her beauty trend product, the waist trainer. The post was relatively simple - a picture posted by Kylie Jenner of herself sporting the waist trainer, with a simple caption reading:
"#ad I love sharing my beauty secrets with you guys and this is a favourite! @waisttrainer_nzaus helps to maintain and accentuate my curves and is one of the best quality waist trainers I have used. Visit www.waisttrainer.co.nz and use my code KYLIE for a discount"
- Cost to company: $300,000
- Total likes: 1.5 million
- Revenue earned: $3.5 million in waist trainer sales
It's clear to see in this instance that the return on investment for the young Kiwi entrepreneur certainly paid off, and is a great example of influencer marketing landing well.
So why did this partnership work so well?
When Liu set out to work with Kylie Jenner, a clear goal was established. The scalability of her single, one-time-purchase-necessary waist trainer didn't call for long-term customer nurturing and relationship building, all it needed was a push to the right audience and enough exposure to generate a buzz.
The idea was to generate as much liking and tagging in the comment section as possible to gain the post some traction, and then convert this interest directly into sales. A single, simple, and effective tactic - the perfect social influencer package.
The second element which added to the success of this post was a perfectly aligned brand and audience partnership. Kylie Jenner is a titan in the beauty industry, with predominantly young, female followers with disposable income and interest in personal image.
Essentially, the post sent this message to her 138 million followers: if you want to have curves like I do, buy this product.
The third and final key element that marked the success of this particular post was the use of the promo code 'KYLIE'.
By prompting customers to use the promo code, Liu was able to track the amount of products that were purchased as a direct influence of Kylie Jenner. It's a simple solution that allowed a very clear ROI to be measured - something that a lot of paid partnerships lack.
This partnership between Kylie Jenner and Waist Trainer NZ was the perfect marriage of two brands, and serves as a brilliant example of how companies can effectively leverage social media influence to spur sales.
In 2017, Antarctica New Zealand and The Deep South Challenge partnered with NZ social media influencer, Jamie Curry, to create a series of five short documentary style videos showing Jamie of 'Jamie's World' learning about climate change.
The idea was quite simple - use the social media reach of Jamie to get the message out there and spread awareness about global warming and the ecological struggles in Antarctica.
Unfortunately, the campaign didn't quite achieve what the partners had hoped.
- Average view count per video: 80,000
- Average likes per video: 3,000
- Conversions measured: 0
If you compare these numbers to the likes of Jamie's World's other YouTube videos which, up until the Antarctica series, typically reached view counts between 125,000 and 2.8 million - the series itself was bit of a flop.
Lets unpack why this didn't translate.
This video series didn't really have a clear end goal. The intent was to raise awareness and reach an audience that the scientific institute didn't usually get in front of, however it wasn't a particularly measurable outcome, and the necessary strategy was never in place.
Where many social influencer posts have the goal of converting views into sales, this particular video series didn't have a clear measure of success and its objectives were vague.
The pairing of Antarctica New Zealand, The Deep South Challenge and Jamie's World was one which served to confuse the audience rather than educate it. The mismatching was summarised quite astutely in the YouTube comment section.
In fact, it was so confusing as to why Jamie's World went to Antarctica that the institute itself had to release an article justifying its decision to the public.
From the article, we can glean that Jamie's target audience matched the demographic that they were trying to target, educating young people about how their decisions can impact the environment. However, they seemed to overlook how the video series itself would land in amongst her other content, which varied from "What's in my room" to "My first ball".
The idea was there, but the execution didn't work.
In addition, it's also very difficult to have a successful campaign when there are no real metrics available to measure the success and 'conversions'.
Besides a view count which offered very little insight into the degree of engagement, there was no call to action, promo code, website landing page or alternative way to capture and measure if the demographic the partnership was targeting were in fact converted into caring about the environment.
In a 2019 recent post, Jamie Curry herself addressed the series and its lack of success - however she also noted its importance. Even a campaign with the best of intentions, targeted at a key audience, can be lost in translation if leveraged incorrectly.
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